Elise Ibendahl (’97)
“One thing that I always think of when people ask me about how I balance being an engineer and a musician is how my piano teacher, Dr. Brian Ray, would marvel at the concrete residue in my fingernails the semester I had piano lessons after my concrete lab class. That pretty much sums it up, I was able to do all the things I love to do at CBU — be involved, make friends, be a nerd, and make music. I cherish so many things from CBU, and so often I experience something now and love the memories that surface to the top from my time at CBU.”
Elise Boczek Ibendahl was active in many facets of CBU campus life as a student, from Zeta Tau Alpha sorority to the Student Government Association, from the CBU Chorale and CB Singers to the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, from Peer Counselor to Campus Ministry. She served as Recruitment Chair for ZTA and Scholastics Chairman, during which time the CBU chapter was recognized for having the highest GPA. She served on the Executive Board of the SGA and as a Senator, as well as in all the Programming Council’s top offices. As a pianist and organist, she accompanied the CBU Chorale and CB Singers all four years, sang in the choirs, and acted as liturgical choir director and musician for Campus Ministry at Sunday Masses in Stritch Chapel.
Elisa was also a great student academically, named to CBU Dean’s List every semester and to the National Dean’s List every year, a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, and named to Who’s Who Among American College Students. She graduated magna cum laude with a BS in Civil Engineering (with a minor in Music Performance) in 1997.
After graduation, Elise relocated to St. Louis to join her high school sweetheart, Stephen Ibendahl — whom she dated long-distance while she was at CBU and he was at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She soon went to work as a project engineer for the St. Louis office of CH2M, an engineering firm that provided consulting, design, construction, and operations services for corporations and governments worldwide — and married Stephen. He was beginning his career as a landscape architect.
In 2017, CH2M was acquired by the Jacobs Engineering Group, where Elise now holds the Global Technology Lead for Flood Modeling and Planning position, serving on the company’s global water resources technical leadership team and providing technical leadership to over 600 engineers and scientists around the world. Her projects in recent years have been located throughout the United States and in international locations, including Japan, Canada, Austria, Turkey, Africa, and Germany. I love getting to know colleagues and clients around the globe and innovating with my coworkers from a technical perspective.
Elise has remained an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) throughout her career, serving the Saint Louis Section in numerous leadership positions, including Director of Technical Development, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President-Elect, and President. She also served as Region 7 Governor for ASCE. She has served on the ASCE Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Currently, she serves on Members of Society Advancing an Inclusive Culture (MOSAIC), which provides ASCE with leadership in all matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the civil engineering community.
She has also served on the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Foundation Board as a Trustee and on the Scholarship Committee, overseeing the ASFPM Future Leaders Scholarship for undergraduate students studying in areas such as engineering, planning, and biological, earth, and social sciences, interested in a career field related to reducing the risk and impacts of floods on people and communities. Also, on the academic side, Elise has served on the St. Louis University Civil Engineering Department Industry Advisory Board, which included supporting the reopening of SLU’s Civil Engineering Department and ABET accreditation efforts, and on the Washington University EECE Undergraduate External Advisory Committee.
She has been professionally recognized by ASCE several times, with the Outstanding Younger Member Award in 2008 and the Professional Recognition Award in 2020. She was named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2020. She was also honored with the Private Sector Achievement Award by the St. Louis Section of the Society of Women Engineers.
Elise is a very active member of the St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, serving as part of the Youth Ministry Leadership Team and as a Youth Music Ministry Leader, working with the church’s youth on multiple service projects each month, including St. Joseph’s Housing Initiative and St. John’s Peace Meal, and taking part in faith formation activities. She also served as FIRST Lego League Coordinator/Coach at St. Margaret of Scotland School, starting the program to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills.
Being passionate about the disproportionate impacts of urban flooding on disadvantaged communities, Elise builds awareness of the topic by presenting it to various audiences at conferences and other venues. One recent presentation was taking part in a webinar with the St. Louis University Water Institute titled “Social Justice Aspects of Flood Protection.” She also volunteered as a water quality monitoring volunteer for the World Water Monitoring Challenge, taking groups of youth out to various bodies of water around St. Louis to test the water quality and learn about water resources.
Elise is also still making music as a member of the St. Margaret of Scotland Parish Choir, singing alto and playing piano and organ. She is entering her 25th year singing with the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, an all-professional acapella choir that has recorded over 10 CDs and sings challenging music and new commissions — including singing backup for Barry Manilow! She has also sung at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as part of the Archdiocesan Choir and Cathedral Choir. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of the Youth Sing Praise Foundation, which reaches vocally and theatrically talented teens through a Christian music theater experience.
Elise and Stephen still make their home in St. Louis and have raised three children — Keaton, their oldest daughter, is a student at the University of Oregon, while younger daughter Regan and son Chapin attend Catholic high schools.
It is crystal clear what a strong foundation my professors laid for me across the board and how they always entertained thinking ahead to what could be possible. They instilled a love of my profession that I carry with me to this day. They stressed the importance of knowing the basics while looking ahead to what is possible. For example, Dr. Malasari knew t wanted to do something in the environmental engineering area with my degree, so he let me mix concrete with crumb rubber to look into recycled materials for a structural engineering lab project. I think about that often when I am mentoring junior engineers or leading an innovation group at my company to look for what is possible.