Fort Worth District inducts 61st Distinguished Civilian Employee

The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District's Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice's daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22

The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District’s Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice’s daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22. USACE Photo by Randy Cephus)

Fort Worth District retirees and employees past and present, gathered at the organization’s annual retiree luncheon and Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Induction Ceremony April 22, to recognize Project Manager Gene Rice posthumously as the 61st inductee into the Gallery.

Rice began his career of 31 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982 in the District’s Planning Division, where he served as a planner and technical manager for flood control projects. During his tenure in the Planning Division, he received his Professional Engineer certification and completed the Planning Associates Program.

In 1997, Rice moved to Programs and Project Management Division to put his abilities to use as a project manager on the Upper Trinity River Basin studies. Working on the Upper Trinity River projects for more than 15 years, Rice became the face of the Corps as he interacted with the public at meetings with representatives of the local sponsors and cities, and in presentations to members of Congress.

The Houston native and father of two received major accolades for his contributions of the Dallas Floodway Extension Engineering Design Study and Upper Trinity River Feasibility Study. At the time, the study was the largest cost shared feasibility study undertaken by the Corps of Engineers since implementation 50/50 cost sharing provisions.

Those contributions led to him being referred to the affectionate nickname “Mr. Trinity.” Rice’s knowledge of the Civil Works processes and public involvement quickly earned him the reputation as an expert and the “go to” person to get guidance on how to overcome project challenges.

“Gene Rice was an example of what we hope to develop all project managers in to being – a technically competent engineer that could bring the technical side of Civil Works projects into focus for the staff, our partnering stakeholders and the public. He fully understood all aspects of the Civil Works Program, from planning to schedule and budget development. He possessed superior people skills that helped to meld high performing project delivery teams,” said Robert P. Morris, Jr., chief, Programs and Project Management Division and Rice’s award nominator.

From 1997 to 1998, Rice was instrumental in preparing District leadership for Senior Review Group meetings on three major focus projects, the Fort Worth Sumps, Dallas Floodway Extension and Johnson Creek. He also worked with District Hydrology and Hydraulics experts to revise the Upper Trinity River Basin floodplain maps. Under Rice’s leadership, three follow-on feasibility studies totaling over $4.6 million were negotiated that helped shape the future of flood protection in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, Texas.

One notable accomplishment was when he personally briefed the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, John Woodley and HQ USACE staff in 2004 on the DFE as they prepared to nominate the project for inclusion in the President’s Budget.

Unlike many project managers, Rice worked projects through all study phases and saw them through construction. The Texas A&M University graduate worked hard throughout his career to advance complex projects and implement public involvement into study programs, while also mentoring his colleagues on all facets of the Civil Works Program. The outcome of Rice’s hard work, positive spirit and strong leadership skills resulted in District teams coming together in delivering successful projects to the community of North Texas.

While accepting the Distinguished Civilian Employee award on her father’s behalf, Rice’s oldest daughter Caitlin said, “Growing up we heard a lot about the Corps of Engineers and that if it rained, it was good thing. You all became a part of our family. Our Dad enjoyed working for the Corps of Engineers and loved what he did. We are truly honored that he was recognized for this award.”

In his last months with the Corps, Rice’s health was failing and his colleagues supported him by assisting him with physical tasks. This assistance was graciously provided by many of the project managers and program analysts that he had mentored over the years. It also allowed him to continue to give back to the community and keep his mind focused on where he could still contribute to the people of North Central Texas.

“I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Gene, but I was told that he was one of the preeminent project managers in the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program. His expertise and knowledge of the Civil Works processes and his unselfish nature won the respect of his colleagues throughout his career. Gene left a lasting impression on the District and this was evident by all who attended the induction ceremony, knowing that he is fully deserving of this recognition,” said Col. Calvin C. Hudson II, commander, Fort Worth District.

About Edward Rivera