Alumnus Builds Purposeful Life on Brick-and-Mortar Foundation

Published 10.24.2014

Architecture & Sustainable Design
Building Construction
Alumni News
Construction & Architecture

Jeff Erdly takes his audience on a journey both personal and professional, from a long line of Pennsylvania farmers to his leadership of a $10 million, 60-employee business.An award-winning alumnus who established a memorial scholarship at Penn College, Erdly urges students to "make the world a better place.""I love bricks" was Erdly's obvious confession, as he employed a familiar prop to discuss "stretchers," "headers," "sliders" and other ways to orient a course of masonry work.The guest speaker talks with Marc E. Bridgens, dean of construction and design technologies (who introduced the afternoon lecture), and Debra M. Miller, the college's director of corporate relations.Erdly's philosophy seamlessly melds his jovial nature with his vocational passion: "Find something you love to do and care about it. You've got to work –  you might as well enjoy it!"Standing in Penn College's 100-year-old Klump Academic Center, which he characterized Thursday as "the ultimate repurposed building," a 1972 alumnus counseled a new generation on how to construct a meaningful life in a mercurial profession. Jeff Erdly, co-founder and CEO of  Masonry Preservation Services, presented “Just Another Brick in the Wall? A Building Science Education – Its Value to Society, and Roadmap to Building Your Career.” During an hour that interwove his expertise in structural deterioration and his insights on workforce credibility, Erdly balanced the longevity of some of the world's most recognizable structures – from the Pantheon of ancient Rome to the state Capitol in Harrisburg to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater – with the ever-shifting world that the college's graduates will inhabit. "This industry changes so fast, at a pace that has never been seen before," the 2004 Distinguished Alumnus Award-winner told students. "All you should know at the end of school is what you don't know." To punctuate his point, Erdly held up a slide rule and evoked the words of a long-ago WACC instructor who not-so-presciently told him, "the computer will never replace a draftsman." Still, he advised construction majors to "respect the craft," reflecting the culture that he strives to honor at his business. He also urged students to "appreciate the moment that you're in" ... and not to be "Wikipedia-smart," but to read everything and anything along their road to lifelong learning. Concluding his talk with a Q&A and a photo of his grandchildren, Erdly saved for last what might be his most crucial nugget: "Have nothing in your life that you don't find to be useful or beautiful." Read more about Erdly and his illustrious career in the Spring 2014 issue of One College Avenue.