MCCC Engineers Successful Career
For Thomas Bernhard

9/08


As one of eight siblings, Thomas Bernhard recalls summer days when he and his brothers helped their father with local roofing projects for the Haley Construction Co. Their last job together was, in fact, helping install roof decking on the buildings at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.

"Since I have always been mechanically and mathematically-inclined, the engineering field was a natural fit for me," said Bernhard, assistant county engineer for the Mercer County Division of Engineering, based in Trenton. Starting out as a senior engineering aide, Bernhard has risen steadily through the ranks over the past 37 years. As head of the county's bridge engineering department for the past 15 years, he oversees a 10-person staff that has handled the planning and execution of various bridge projects such as the Quaker Bridge Road/Assunpink Creek, Old Trenton Road/Big Bear Brook and Wall Street/Assunpink Creek in Trenton.

Assistant County Engineer Thomas Bernhard

Bernhard's postsecondary education began in the late '60s. Married with two young sons, the Ewing High School graduate worked in the growing aerospace industry at the time as a detail draftsman for General Electric. Mercer proved both convenient and affordable, allowing him to take civil engineering courses at night while working during the day.

One faculty member in particular, Professor John Santosuosso, stands out for Bernhard. Santosuosso played a pivotal role in the establishment of Mercer's partnership with the Newark College of Engineering, a part of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Through his efforts, Bernhard was able to earn a bachelor's degree in Engineering Technology in 1985 through NJIT, taking all of his courses on Mercer's West Windsor campus. In 1994, Bernhard earned a master's degree in Transportation Engineering through a NJIT/NJDOT partnership.

"It was great that I never had to leave the county to pursue higher education," Bernhard said. "You are never too old to learn; I was 40 when I completed my bachelor's degree and 48 when I obtained my master's degree. I received an outstanding education. I believe that is why I scored number one on each civil service test that I have taken. Mercer started me off in the right direction. It gave me the extra advantage and great opportunities to advance my career."

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