MUSCATINE — Gregs Thomopulos has spent the last 50 years traveling the world and leading engineering projects in 35 countries for Stanley Consultants; now, he's ready to see the world from a new perspective.
Thomopulos retired last week as chairman of the board. While he spent most of his career circling the globe, Thomopulos said he looks forward to traveling for pleasure during retirement.
"Most of my travels in the past years were related to business," he said. "But the good news is I have many, many friends in many of these countries as a result of working with them."
One place Thomopulos hopes to visit again is Nigeria, where he was born the son of a Greek father and Nigerian mother. Thomopulos said at that time, Stanley Consultants had an office in Nigeria, which encouraged him to study engineering in the United States.
After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1965, 23-year-old Thomopulos joined Stanley Consultants in Muscatine as an engineering intern. He went on to earn his master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and then returned to Muscatine to work full-time.
"So I came back with all my worldly possessions packed in my VW Beetle," Thomopulos said, recalling the summer of 1967.
Thomopulos said he quickly had the urge to return to West Africa, and was able to do so by working at Stanley Consultant's offices in Nigeria and Liberia, where he was a manager for nearly a decade.
Thomopulos returned to Muscatine in the late 1970s, when he took charge of the company's international division, managing projects in more than 35 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. He was elected president of the firm in 1987, and chairman of the board in 2007.
He said of all the infrastructure, energy and environmental projects he has worked on, Thomopulos is proudest of Stanley Consultant's work in Kuwait and Iraq.
Following the Gulf War in 1991, the company worked to assess bomb damage to the Air Force base in Kuwait. The successful project led to the opportunity to lead reconstruction projects for seven years during the Iraq War.
"Our company was always in the forefront of designing facilities and infrastructure that have been damaged because of conflicts in the world," he said. "I'm so very proud of our members who always rose to the challenge of helping our clients in these conditions."
Thomopulos said he has seen many changes over the past half-century, in the engineering industry, and in world relations in general.
"I've been back to Nigeria many times," he said. "But we closed our offices in Nigeria and Liberia because of the economy, and civil wars in those countries, so we have no offices in Africa right now."
Thomopulos said while Stanley Consultants used to rely heavily on work developing coal-powered plants, it now works on more renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind. He also has seen more engineering projects move to public-private partnerships.
But, Thomopulos said one thing has not changed at Stanley Consultants: board members' dedication to their work and company.
"Many, many others in my company have devoted entire careers here," he said. "We have a great company with great people, and that's why we've been able to stay in business over 100 years."
Thomopulos also serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Board of Goodwill Industries of Southeast Iowa, the University of Iowa Foundation Board, the University of Kansas Endowment Association Board and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.
And while Thomopulos looks forward to volunteering more, traveling with his wife and spending time with his grandchildren, he felt happy Monday, on his first official day of retirement, simply sitting at home, drinking his coffee.
Thomopulos will remain on the Stanley Consultants board as chairman emeritus. Gayle Roberts has been named the new chairman of the board.