In Memoriam – Jim Condon Leaves a Lasting Impression on WEF

February 28, 2018

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James “Jim” Lee Condon (right) received his life member plaque from Paul Bowen, Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) past president. Condon joined WEF in 1976 and received life membership in 2013. Photo courtesy of Daryl Kottwitz.

James “Jim” Lee Condon (right) received his life member plaque from Paul Bowen, Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) past president. Condon joined WEF in 1976 and received a life membership in 2013. Photo courtesy of Daryl Kottwitz.

James “Jim” Lee Condon made a lasting impression on the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) community. The WEF life member, past president of the Nebraska Water Environment Association (WEA), and volunteer devoted to students died Jan. 14 at the age of 70.

“He was the sort that would brighten up the room when he entered, always with a smile and something nice to say … a good spirit and friend,” said Michael Pollen, 1994–1995 WEF president. “We will miss him.”

Condon speaks about the generational gap in engineering firms during a question and answer session at a Nebraska Water Environment Association (WEA) conference. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

Condon speaks about the generational gap in engineering firms during a question-and-answer session at a Nebraska Water Environment Association (WEA) conference. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

Condon recently had celebrated 40 years of working at Olsson Associates (Lincoln, Neb.), where he served as vice president of public relations in the areas of water and wastewater. He graduated from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) with a degree in chemical engineering. In addition to serving in the U.S. Army, he had worked as a review engineer for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality before starting at Olsson Associates.

“He deeply cared about operators, students, and as WEF’s slogan says, water was Jim’s passion,” said Todd Boling, member of WEF’s House of Delegates. “Jim will be deeply missed by all, and he has touched so many lives in this industry.”

Years of participation span many leadership roles

During the 2012 Nebraska WEA annual conference, Condon (front right) inducts Scott Aurit (left) into the organizations Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

During the 2012 Nebraska WEA annual conference, Condon (front right) inducts Scott Aurit (left) into the organizations Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

Condon joined WEF and the Nebraska WEA in 1976. During his many years of membership, Condon actively participated in WEF as

  • vice chair and chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee;
  • member, vice chair, and chair of the Public Communications and Outreach Committee,
  • member of the Nominating Committee;
  • member of the Image Task Force and Sustainable Utility Task Force of the Sustainability Community of Practice;
  • member, vice chair, and chair of the Awards Committee Public Education Awards Subcommittee;
  • subcommittee member as well as event volunteer and judge for the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize; and
  • subcommittee member as well as volunteer and coordinator for the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Condon was a contributing author to WEF’s Operation of Water Resource Recovery Facilities, MOP 11, Seventh Edition. And through his committee work, he contributed to the development of the Aqua Venturer, an interactive CD tracking the history of water issues, as well as several public education videos.

Condon (right) explores the exhibit floor at the 2015 Nebraska WEA annual conference. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

Condon (right) explores the exhibit floor at the 2015 Nebraska WEA annual conference. Photo courtesy of Kottwitz.

“Jim constantly encouraged/mentored other WEF members, including me, to participate in the committees and to volunteer for positions of more responsibility,” said Julianne LaRock, chair of WEF’s Public Communication and Outreach Committee. She recently had nominated Jim for WEF’s Volunteer Service Recognition program. LaRock described Condon as a trusted advisor to many WEF leaders.

As an active member of the Nebraska WEA, Condon was known to recruit members from the Member Association to get involved at the national level. He served as president of the Nebraska WEA in 1991 and received the Nebraska WEA Bedell Award, recognizing his service to the association, in 1995.

“He was there when so many presidents asked him to take on leadership roles and he always said ‘yes,’” said Beth Turner, 1987–1988 WEF president. “As leaders, we could count on Jim to step up and affect change. . . That so many of us knew, respected, and liked Jim is quite a testament to the man he was.”

Devoting time to students and water education

Condon (back row, third from right) stands with other WEF volunteers at the 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spear.

Condon (back row, third from right) stands with other WEF volunteers at the 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spear.

“It’s been a pleasure to call him a friend for more than 20 years,” LaRock said. “He lived life to its fullest and gave his all to the causes he championed. Jim made long-term contributions in multiple areas of WEF. . . including significant leadership, participation, and energy in promoting public education and outreach.”

Condon was a devoted volunteer for the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP). In addition to serving on WEF’s subcommittee for the competition, he participated as a judge at the national competition for 16 years out of its 18-year history. “Jim was the longest-serving SJWP judge,” said Jeanette Brown, 2010–2011 WEF president. “I will miss him terribly.”

Condon (third from right) listens to a student contestant describe her water research as a judge at the 2017 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. Photo courtesy of AOB Photo.

Condon (third from right) listens to a student contestant describe her water research as a judge at the 2017 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. Photo courtesy of AOB Photo.

In addition to reviewing and judging the students’ papers, Condon took time to mentor the competitors as well as other judges, said Mohamed Dahab, 2006–2007 WEF president, who had known Condon for about 30 years throughout his many contributions to the water sector. “He was an exceptional WEF citizen,” Dahab said. “I value Jim’s contributions to [Nebraska] WEA, WEF, and the water sector, most notably in mentoring and helping young professionals grow their careers in the water environment fields.”

Condon also was a committed volunteer for the National Boy Scout Jamboree. He started his involvement with the event as a chair of the event’s subcommittee in 1998 and continued to volunteer onsite for every subsequent Jamboree.

From left, Spear and Condon pose with the Smokey the Bear mascot during the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree. Photo courtesy of Spear.

From left, Spear and Condon pose with the Smokey the Bear mascot during the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree. Photo courtesy of Spear.

Kenneth Spear, a WEF life member, first met Condon while volunteering on different WEF committees. As the local coordinator for the Boy Scout Jamboree, Spear worked with Condon on this 10-plus-day event. “For four Jamborees from 2001 until 2013, Jim stayed for the entire time,” Spear said. “This means living in a tent and eating in the mess hall.” Condon was committed to the event, participating in all the activities alongside the scouts and their leaders in addition to working at the WEF exhibit.

Condon also volunteered extra time and effort to organize a new WEF exhibit when the event moved to a new site in Beckley, W.Va. for 2013. “I depended on Jim for his advice and suggestions,” Spear said. “Jim was a true leader who could always be depended on to help make a project successful.”

Memorial donations can be made to SJWP or the University of Nebraska Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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