Q&A with Alumnus John Olivier ’85
Dec. 9, 2022 - Since earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UCI in 1985, John Olivier has established himself as a prominent and respected advocate of the architectural, engineering and construction industry in Southern California. Olivier is president and CEO of Fuscoe Engineering Inc., a 200-person employee-owned firm that provides civil engineering services for land development and public infrastructure, using eco-adaptive processes. He has worked at Fuscoe Engineering since its founding in 1992. Olivier serves as a hands-on principal-in-charge for numerous projects, providing direct oversight and team leadership. A member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Urban Land Institute, Olivier was inducted into the Samueli School’s 2022 Engineering Hall of Fame.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
I was led to engineering through my love of math and science. Also, my Dad provided Newsweek articles predicting strong job growth for engineers (hint, hint) for my brothers and me. It wasn’t until I took the one-unit Introduction to Engineering course that I learned my future would be in civil engineering.
Why did you choose UCI?
UCI was high on my list due to its strong school of engineering and well-regarded water polo program.
How did you get started at Fuscoe Engineering, Inc., and what are some of the projects you’ve worked on during your time there?
I was fortunate to intern at an Irvine-based land development consulting company. I quickly learned that I liked the combination of civil engineering consulting and private real estate development. It was a nice blend of my technical background with entrepreneurship. After interning, I began work at the predecessor company to Fuscoe Engineering and have been at Fuscoe ever since. My early projects were designing infrastructure for subdivisions but over time my focus became entitlement and final design of urban infill/multifamily apartment projects in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Much of the U.S., and California in particular, seems to be facing an extreme homelessness crisis right now. How can urban civil engineering innovations help overcome this challenge?
Homelessness is at a crisis stage, particularly in Southern California. Fortunately, with the greater awareness that developed during COVID, there are more resources and a willingness to address the lack of housing. I believe civil engineers are well qualified using their problem solving, organizational and management skills to lead or aid in getting more housing built. Also, civil engineering/structural innovations in construction types and techniques can help reduce costs and time.
Do you have any favorite Anteater memories?
A fond memory was finding the perfect empty classroom in the social sciences building to meet with two or three other civil engineering students to work on a complicated assignment/project as a team.
Also, it was a great memory to win the 1982 NCAA Water Polo National Championship. I was fortunate to play all four years and graduate on time.
Were there any special mentors you had during your time at UCI?
Dr. Gary Guymon was influential as a mentor. In addition to being a great dean and lecturer, he took time to develop a connection with the students in the classroom and with the ASCE student chapter.
Tell us about your volunteer activities in support of housing projects, including HomeAid OC.
I’ve been fortunate to serve on the HomeAid Orange County Board for the last six years. My HomeAidOC involvement allows me to utilize my civil engineering skillset to give back to the community. I’ve also been able to take a turn at being a development project manager and direct architects and consultants. HomeAid OC has been evolving their mission to focus on permanent supportive and affordable housing while continuing to support nonprofits and public-private partnerships.
What has been your proudest moment as an engineer?
My proudest moments as a civil engineer include the first intersection I designed (Harvard and Coronado in Irvine), the first project I signed plans for as a registered civil engineer (Loma Linda Apartments) and being included in the UCI Engineering Hall of Fame.
What advice would you give to first-year Anteater engineers?
I’d encourage them to balance their studies with developing friendships and take advantage of one or two extracurricular activities.
– Rachel Karas