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Acheson, Allen Morrow

Published onJul 30, 2021
Acheson, Allen Morrow

(June 12, 1926 – March 4, 2012)

Quick Facts

Department of Mechanical Engineering Iowa State University, President of Black and Veatch International Company with significant power generation initiatives in Indonesia and Thailand, and the Greater Cairo Wastewater System, Egypt.


Allen Morrow Acheson was born in Tanta, Egypt where his parents, Samuel Irvine Acheson (1894-1952) and Hazel Lenora Welker Acheson (1897-1987), were missionaries for the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA). Samuel was originally from Chicago and Hazel was originally from Pittsburgh, where she had obtained education through the university level. The pair had at least two children, Allen and his younger sister Ruth A. Acheson Spindler (1928-2011), who was a wife and mother, substitute teacher, and later professional librarian in Ohio and Michigan.

Allen Acheson served in the U.S. Navy on two destroyers in the Pacific theater in the Second World War, and his status as a veteran, combined with his shipboard experience, resulted in his decision to pursue an engineering degree at Iowa State University with the assistance of the 1944 G.I. Bill. Acheson graduated from ISU in 1950 and took a job in Carroll, Iowa as a power station superintendent, where he worked until 1956. From 1956-1960, he worked as the Utilities Manager for City Power and Light in Independence, Missouri, and from 1960-1963 he worked for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

In the early 1960s, though at an unclear date, Acheson became president of the Black & Veatch International Company, of which the EGAT was a subsidiary. His obituary states that he held this position for over 30 years, until 1992, during which time he travelled to over 59 countries, where he frequently met with royalty and/or presidency about the impact of his company's engineering projects. Among these projects were notable electrical power generation initiatives in Indonesia and Thailand, as well as the Greater Cairo Wastewater System, Egypt, in the 1980s.

Despite his busy schedule and international success, Acheson remained in touch with his Alma Mater, serving on the Industrial Advisory Board for the ISU Department of Mechanical Engineering from around 1987. He also received numerous awards for his contributions to the field of mechanical engineering and for the international impact of his work, including a Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering from Iowa State in 1976, ISU's Anson Marston Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Engineering Science in 1992, a life fellowship with the American Consulting Engineers Council and a life membership with the American Society of mechanical Engineers, among others.

In his retirement and spare time, Acheson was an active member of the Village Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, an aviation enthusiast and owner of several small planes, a builder of houses, and a wood-worker.

In his personal life, Acheson was married twice, first to Mary Jean Baird (deceased), by whom he had four children (Mary Jean Acheson (nee Baird, deceased), Jennifer Acheson, Atherton, CA; Scott Acheson, Charlotte, NC; and Jon Acheson, Baltimore, MD), and second to Phyllis Acheson (living as of June 2012).

Selected Sources

Allen Morrow Acheson's obituary, published on by the Mt. Moriah Newcomer and Freeman Funeral Home in Kansas City, Missouri and various records pertaining to the Department of Engineering housed at the Special Collections and University Archives of Iowa State University.

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