Harry E. Bovay, Jr., age 96, president of Mid-South Telecommunications Company, Inc., passed away on Tuesday, the 24th of May 2011.
Harry was born on the 4th of September 1914, in Big Rapids, Michigan, the second of four children to the late Harry Elmo Bovay and Addibelle Bentley Bovay. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Sue Goldston Bovay; his son, Mark Bovay; and his daughter, Susan Bovay Baker; his brother, George Bovay; and his sisters, Elizabeth Bovay Elliott and Jeanne Bovay Larkin. His earliest years were spent in Stuttgart, Arkansas but his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee when he was thirteen. He entered Cornell University in 1932 and graduated in 1936 as a civil engineer.
Following his graduation he worked a short time for a contractor and then the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mississippi. He spent the next ten years with Humble Oil and Refining Company in Baytown, Texas. In 1946 Harry formed his own professional engineering firm, H. E. Bovay, Jr., Consulting Engineers, which was incorporated and the name changed to Bovay Engineers, Inc. in July, 1962. Harry Bovay served as president of the firm until his retirement in 1984. For nearly 40 years his firm designed projects in the United States as well as 27 foreign countries ranging from airports to power plants to oil refineries to chemical plants to manufacturing facilities, to city planning, including a good many efforts in the planning and design of facilities at Camp Strake, at El Rancho Cima and at Camp Hudson.
His profession has honored him with election to the National Academy of Engineering and the National Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi. He not only was elected president of the local chapter, the State of Texas and the National Society of Professional Engineers, but was also given their award as the Outstanding Engineer in all three organizations. He was also a life member of both the American Society for Civil Engineers and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
He was awarded the prestigious Toulmin Medal by the Society of American Military Engineers and the Newcomen Society of North America honored Bovay Engineers, Inc. and Harry E. Bovay, Jr. at a dinner in 1981. He was a recipient of the George Washington Distinguished Service Award presented by the Paul Carrington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1998. Harry was also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation in 2006. Upon retirement from Bovay Engineers, Harry formed the Mid-South Telecommunica-tions Company, a holding company for rural telephone, cablevision and ancillary service companies, and until a few months ago, still worked at the office a number of hours each day.
He contributed to local civic efforts with the Kiwanis Club of Houston, the Houston Engineering & Scientific Society, the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Retina Research Foundation.
In 1991, Harry formed the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation, which focuses on education and community development in rural areas; college scholarships in rural communities to help high school seniors who have taken a leadership role in community service, educators' grants to teachers from these same areas, enabling them to pursue advanced education degrees and improvements in parks and community centers.
In 1997 he and his wife, Sue, now deceased, funded The Bovay Endowed Chair for the History and Ethics of Professional Engineering at both Texas A&M and Cornell Universities to promote the teaching of engineering ethics. In 2002 he made a gift to the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism at Texas Tech University in its effort to produce a film, "Incident at Morales," depicting a young engineer struggling with critical ethical issues. In 2007 Harry established an Engineering Ethics Endowment at the NAE to provide support for the Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society and especially for the NAE's Online Ethics Center; and a second Endowed Chair for the History and Ethics of Professional Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Beyond engineering ethics efforts, Harry's career with the Boy Scouts has paralleled his career in engineering. He has been involved with Scouting for 84 years, having volunteered at every level from troop leader to national committees. A Scout since age 12, he was a member of the Boy Scout Honor Guard welcoming Charles Lindbergh flying "The Spirit of St. Louis" on his stop in Memphis, Tennessee in October, 1927. Harry firmly believed that the ideals instilled by the Boy Scouts are invaluable in developing strong moral character for America's youth. He has contributed over the years to 10 councils in 3 regions, including the Sam Houston Area Council. He and his wife also provided the lead gift for the 1,100 acre Bovay Scout Ranch near Navasota, Texas and made arrangements for his Foundation to be a significant benefactor to the Scouts served by the Sam Houston Area Council, the Philmont Scout Ranch and the National Council for years to come. He was awarded the Silver Beaver in 1965, the Silver Antelope in 1976 and the Silver Buffalo in 1986 for Distinguished Service to Boyhood. In 1988, he became a Baden-Powell Fellow in honor of his support of the World Scout Foundation.
On a wall in his father's office hung a poem that has been a favorite of Harry's since childhood. The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole was published near the turn of the 20th century, and tells the story of an old man, who, though it will not benefit him personally, takes the time to build a bridge over a stream he has just crossed to benefit an inexperienced youth who follows after him.
Harry's father built bridges across the Mississippi River. Harry E. Bovay, Jr. has spent his life building different kinds of bridges, whether through his engineering practice or his philanthropic endeavors…but all designed to benefit those following after him. He was a true pioneer, always seeking to solve problems, reminding himself and others that an innovative spirit would enable a person to solve a problem if he could define it. Harry was respected and admired by those who knew him and has touched countless lives through his generosity. He always held others as well as himself to the highest ethical standards for the sake of his profession, clients and the communities he served.
Harry is survived by more loving family, friends, staff, caregivers and recipients of his philanthropy than there is room to mention.
Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from six until eight o'clock in the evening on Friday, the 27th of May, in the Library and Grand Foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
His funeral service is to be conducted at two o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 28th of May, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons. Immediately following, all are invited to a reception in the adjacent Grand Foyer. The interment service is to follow the reception, via an escorted cortege, at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions, in Mr. Harry E. Bovay's name, may be directed to the Sam Houston Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, P. O. Box 924528, Houston, TX, 77292-4528.