Few twins are as close as the Byron twins
Best friends “since the day [they] were born,” Kathleen and
Jacqueline Byron ’92 have shared everything, from a bedroom in
childhood to college degrees and career paths. Both sisters earned
associates degrees from Grays Harbor College and bachelor’s degrees
in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington. Both
graduated magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in civil
engineering from Saint Martin’s University. In their professional
lives, they’ve worked together at Boeing, MC Squared Engineering in
Olympia, and Engineered Software Inc. in Lacey.
These days, they live together in Hoquiam and co-own Byron Engineering. Their
two-woman shop, which they started in January 2007, offers civil engineering
services including wind and seismic design, storm water management, on-site
septic system design, site grading, erosion control, and more. Their office is
in downtown Hoquiam, near the foot of the Simpson Avenue Bridge.
Starting a business during such tough economic times has been difficult;
contract work dropped off significantly at the end of 2008 and the residential
construction, from which they draw much of their work, remains stagnant.
Diversification of services, though, has helped the sisters keep their business
viable. In addition to engineering work, they also provide computer services
such as drafting, website design, and custom programming for Excel applications.
While the past few years have been pretty tough, the sisters wouldn’t trade
what they’re doing now for any other job. “Since we first started our careers,
it’s always been our dream to have our own engineering firm,” says Jacqueline.
Born in Aberdeen and raised in Hoquiam, Jacqueline and Kathleen were the
youngest of eight children. Their father, Robert Byron Jr., was a self-employed
log truck driver most of his life, while their mother, Mary, was a full-time
homemaker until the kids were grown and later went to work as a bookkeeper for
her sons’ trucking business.
When they were young, school administrators intentionally put the girls in
different classes. “Probably the idea was to make us more independent,” says
Jacqueline, “but I think it made us closer.”
The twins didn’t start out wanting to be engineers. Instead, they headed to
Grays Harbor Community College planning to major in pharmacy. “After three
quarters in the chemistry lab, we decided to change our majors to computer
science,” says Kathleen. “At that point, we took our second quarter of calculus
and we Kathleen Byron ’92 Jacqueline Byron ’92 Alumni Profile by Mary Boone FALL
2010 37 loved it. We had a really great instructor for that class, Vincent
Aleksey. He suggested to us that we consider majoring in engineering since we
liked math so much.”
The sisters took his suggestion to heart and changed their majors for the
third and final time. They stayed an extra year at Grays Harbor College to take
sophomore-evel engineering courses and then went on to UW to study mechanical
engineering. Upon graduating, they both went to work for Boeing: Kathleen in the
Commercial Airplane Division’s thrust reverser and cowling group, and Jacqueline
in the Aerospace Division’s inertial upper stage program. The sisters liked
working for Boeing, but they missed life on the Washington coast.
Says Kathleen. “We wanted to move back to Hoquiam and we thought there would
be more employment opportunities for us in the Grays Harbor-Thurston County area
if we had a background in civil engineering.”
The two started attending classes at Saint Martin’s while they were still
working at Boeing. By 1990, they had moved home, to Hoquiam, and were commuting
to Saint Martin’s while maintaining new jobs at MC Squared Engineering Inc. and
later as testing and product support engineers for Engineered Software Inc. “Our
plan was to take evening classes when possible and earn a civil engineering
degree in our spare time,” recalls Kathleen.
Attending UW prior to their time at Saint Martin’s gave the twins a unique
perspective. “At UW, the class sizes were large—sometimes held in an auditorium
– and one-on-one contact with the professors was minimal,” says Jacqueline.
“Saint Martin’s was the complete opposite: smaller class sizes and the
professors were very accessible. We always felt that our professors’ top
priority was teaching.”
“I remember we had some problems with scheduling and Chris Allaire, who was
our advisor, was a great help to us. That was typical of our experience at Saint
Martin’s; the faculty and staff cared about their students were always very
helpful,” remembers Kathleen.
In addition to their engineering lab classes with Bob Kelley, Kathleen and
Jacqueline loved philosophy classes with Father George and religious studies
with Father Kilian. Professors Dintie Mahamah, Chris Allaire, Vince McClure, and
Denny Raush also made lasting impressions. They enjoyed their senior design
class in which they were divided into small “engineering” firms responsible for
planning and designing a campus maintenance facility. And, the concrete canoe
competition at the end of their senior year was a major highlight.
“They’re really quite brilliant,” says Father Paul Weckert, who has
maintained a friendship with the Byrons since meeting them in a philosophy
course at Saint Martin’s. “They’re delightful and magnetic. There’s truly a
positive sense about them.”
When they’re not working, the sisters love to garden, ride bicycles, cook,
and cheer for the Mariners . They’re both Eucharistic ministers at Our Lady of
Good Help Catholic Church, where they also help with gardening around the church
and work on the parish website. The sisters say they often recommend Saint
Martin’s University to students who are considering careers in engineering. Says
Jacqueline, “At Saint Martin’s, students receive an excellent, well-rounded
education and are very well-prepared for their entry into the workforce.”
Engineering has been a rewarding career for Jacqueline and Kathleen Byron.
“It’s hard to think of any aspect of our daily lives that is not touched by
engineers in some way, from the roads we drive on to the appliances we use, and
the buildings we live and work in,” says Jacqueline. “A career in engineering
can provide you with any many opportunities to have a positive impact on