NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Pavlides Retires After 53-Year NIH Career

Engineer John Pavlides
Engineer John Pavlides

On Aug. 31, John Pavlides retired as senior structural engineer in the Technical Support Branch of the Office of Research Facilities’ Division of Technical Resources. He had worked at NIH since 1965.

“I have greatly enjoyed my engineering career at NIH,” said Pavlides. “The work is challenging, the leadership outstanding. My coworkers are a joy to work with.”

Pavlides reviewed construction projects at intramural research facilities on the main campus, Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. Since 2006, his Excel log indicates he interacted on/reviewed more than 5,800 projects.

The Washington, D.C., native graduated from the University of Maryland in 1957. Soon after, he was commissioned ensign in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps. While in the Navy, Pavlides administered construction projects in Charleston, S.C., and on an island 300 miles off the coast of Brazil.

After an honorable discharge, he took a position at John G. Loehler and Associates, an architecture/engineering firm located in Kensington. In that position, he designed levels of the central tower and flying buttresses for the Washington National Cathedral.

Then he learned that NIH was recruiting and applied and got a job in 1965 as a structural engineer. A year later, Pavlides headed the Engineering Design Branch’s development, estimating and specifications section. In that role, he directed research for flooring and wall finish materials for animal facilities and set NIH standards for metal partitions and for laboratory shelving.

In 1998, he was part of a group that received the NIH Director’s Award for development of national guidelines for biomedical lab facilities. The guidelines have evolved into national and international standards.

On Aug. 23, 2011, a rare earthquake shook NIH’s campus. Pavlides consulted with his colleagues immediately after feeling the tremors. He first went to the parking garage beneath the Clinical Center to inspect columns for damage. Inspections continued across campus for garages and buildings. Luckily, all buildings remained structurally sound.

Pavlides recalls that he met then-NIH director Dr. Bernadine Healy at her departure reception to thank employees. He told her, “It’s good we have never met.” When she asked why, he responded, “I am a structural engineer.

“NIH is a friendly place to be,” Pavlides concluded. “I have a lot of respect for all our people, and appreciate that they informed us, for review, about any item that appeared to them to be a structural safety issue.”

In retirement, he plans to move to Williamsburg, Va., with his wife of 56 years, Connie, who was a Public Health Service officer in the Clinical Center’s nursing department.

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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