Marvin M. Specter, P.E., L.S., 1927 – 2019

NAFE Founder, Past President and Executive Director Emeritus

Who was Marvin M. Specter?

Marvin M. Specter was a man of vision. He had the talent of organizing even as a young boy. He organized his friends into a group where he grew up in Baltimore with rules and regulations that he wrote and his friends followed. He told me that he had that knack of organizing as a young boy and that he just continued it in his adult life.

He knew the value of organizations and how to join them and then move into a leading position within. He saw the value of NSPE when surveyors were trying to move into the engineer’s territory by not allowing engineers to survey land and/or highway alignment;  again with the NSPE when landscapers tried to move into the engineering domain by not allowing engineers to landscape even though it is the engineer that calculates the flow of stormwater to control erosion and flooding.

When his practice expanded and he began testifying, he realized the value in learning the pitfalls and traps lawyers set when in court under cross examination, and studied their techniques.

He was President of NSPE in 1982. He was honored to become a licensed Professional Engineer in Ireland at the request of the Irish Government. He was a Fellow in ASCE and NSPE and accolades that I do not even know about.

He formed the NAFE with Paul Pritzker at the suggestion of Joyce Dixon his long-time secretary and later managing partner of his consulting firm. But his brilliance did not stop there. He knew that an organization could not certify itself or its members. With his contacts with other engineering organizations to which he belonged, he formed the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards, (CESB). This was an organization of organizations within the engineering community. Think about that for a moment; an organization of organizations; whose mind could have thought of that concept. It was a stroke of brilliance. A community of engineers that could certify members of other organizations based on rules, experience and bylaws.

The NAFE Journal was his creation because he knew that being considered an expert in the eyes of the court is furthered by writing and publishing a peer reviewed technical paper.

He got into scrapes with other organization as well. There was the ACTAR scrape that generated a white paper which Marvin wrote, that stated a high school education and experience with onsite accident investigation without the background knowledge of physics and science was no substitute for Professional Engineering; then the ASTM scrape when ASTM tried to publish a standard on how to conduct an inspection without the understanding of engineering methods, science and experience. He prevailed in both. Now the NAFE is a key player in the ASTM E58 committee where they meet twice a year at the location of NAFE choosing.  

The NAFE is in its 35th + year and with the devotion of its members will continue. It is the only organization where the members share information and are eager to discuss engineering means and methods freely with other members without oppression. Marvin M. Specter, P.E., L.S., your legend will live on.

Thank you for your insight and creativity and your ability to endeavor to persevere.

Michael Kravitz PE DFE 451F

...and another gem from Marvin...