Notable Norwegians: Leif Svedrup

Photo: Wikimedia Commons Leif Svedrup in Queensland.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Leif Svedrup in Queensland.

David Moe

Leif Sverdrup was born in Norway in 1898. He moved to Minnesota with his family when he was 17 years old. He joined the U. S. Army as a private during World War I, but left the service after the war to attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis. He graduated from Augsburg with a B. A. degree and later received a B. S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota.

Leif returned to the military during World War II and served as a Colonel in the Corps of Engineers. In 1945 he was promoted to Major General and put in charge of the Engineering Construction Command for the Pacific under General Douglas MacArthur. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and General MacArthur called him “the engineer soldier at his best.”

After the war, Leif returned to St. Louis, Missouri, where he and his engineering professor, John Parcel, had started the engineering firm of Sverdrup and Parcel in 1928. At first, they concentrated their efforts on bridge building, but also designed Busch Memorial Stadium, Poplar Street Bridge, Blanchette Bridge, Highway 40 bridges, and the program management of MetroLink’s initial routes.

Leif was also active in the community. He helped bring the black community together, worked hard for the Boy Scouts, and was the first chairman of the Bi-State Development Commission. He died in 1976. In January 1999, his company merged with Jacobs Engineering Group, one of the world’s largest companies in engineering, architecture, and construction.

This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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