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Deborah M. Sawyer

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Information about Deborah M. Sawyer

Profile image of Deborah M. Sawyer

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Environmental Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Lavender
Favorite Food:
Fajitas
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Greece
Favorite Quote:
Don't Let Other People's Perceptions Of You Become Reality.

Birthplace

Born:
5/11/1956
Birth Location:
Columbus, Ohio

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Environmental Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Lavender
Favorite Food:
Fajitas
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Greece
Favorite Quote:
Don't Let Other People's Perceptions Of You Become Reality.

Birthplace

Born:
5/11/1956
Birth Location:
Columbus
See how Deborah M. Sawyer is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Environmental scientist and civil engineer Deborah Mabel Sawyer was born May 11, 1956, in Columbus, Ohio. Sawyer received her B.A. degree in political science from Emory University and her M.S. degree in petroleum microbiology from Eastern New Mexico University.

Sawyer began her career as an environmental scientist for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. From 1986 to 1989, Sawyer worked as an environmental scientist for the Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Division of The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in Columbus, Ohio. Sawyer also entered the private sector in 1986 where she worked as an associate and Midwest operations manager for the URS Corporation in Columbus. Sawyer then became senior vice president, board member & operations manager for the Solid, Toxic, and Hazardous Waste Management Division of Beling Consultants, Inc., in Moline, Illinois, from 1988 through 1990. Sawyer briefly served as the operations manager for the Toxic and Hazardous Waste Management Division of Environmental S/E, Inc. in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Sawyer then founded her own company, Environmental Design International (EDI), in 1991. The firm had 100 employees, three offices in Illinois and one in Ohio, and an annual revenue of nearly $10 million. EDI provided direction to project managers for solid, toxic, hazardous, and industrial waste, and industrial hygiene projects. Her company held some eighty state and local certifications in seven Midwest states and several federal departments. EDI’s client base included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Chicago Public Schools among others. From 2006 through 2007, EDI worked on Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction Project through a $70 million contract for construction inspection.

Sawyer belonged to the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois and the Consulting Engineers Council of Illinois. Sawyer was a member of many boards of directors and was honored with numerous awards. She received the U.S. Small Business Administration's Minority Small Business Person of the Year Award at the district, regional and national levels in 1994. Governor George Ryan appointed Sawyer to the Illinois Institute for Entrepreneurship Education in 2001. She also joined the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ board of directors in 2005.

Sawyer passed away on August 8, 2016.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Deborah Sawyer's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Deborah Sawyer lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Deborah Sawyer describes her maternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her mother, Betty Pride Sawyer
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Deborah Sawyer describes her paternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her father, William Sawyer and how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her parents' personalities and whom she takes after
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Deborah Sawyer describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Columbus, Ohio
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Deborah Sawyer describes her grade school years
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the role of church in her upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Deborah Sawyer describes her experience at the Columbus School for Girls
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Deborah Sawyer describes her experience on St. Simons Island as a high school student
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Deborah Sawyer remembers her travels to France as a high school student
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the demographics of the Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, Ohio when she was a student
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Deborah Sawyer talks about public housing in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Deborah Sawyer describes her experiences of racial discrimination at the Columbus School for Girls
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Deborah Sawyer remembers influential teachers from the Columbus School for Girls
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her extracurricular activities at the Columbus School for Girls
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Deborah Sawyer describes her decision to attend Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Deborah Sawyer describes her experience at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Deborah Sawyer describes Atlanta, Georgia during the 1970s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Deborah Sawyer remembers getting waitlisted for medical school and enrolling at Ohio State University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Deborah Sawyer describes her graduate studies at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Deborah Sawyer talks about hazardous waste disasters
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her work as a graduate student researcher and her thesis project
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Deborah Sawyer describes her work with URS Corporation and Beling Engineering Consultants
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the dearth of African Americans in engineering and the sciences
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Deborah Sawyer shares a memorable experience from her tenure at URS Corporation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her experiences of racial discrimination in the industry
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Deborah Sawyer talks about why she left Beling Engineering Consultants
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the beginning of her business, Environmental Design International
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Deborah Sawyer describes the challenges she encountered financing her business, Environmental Design International
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her first big project at Environmental Design International
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the Dan Ryan Expressway project
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction Project and construction materials
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Deborah Sawyer talks about an air monitoring project on the Dan Ryan Expressway
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the permeable pavement parking lot at White Sox Park
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Deborah Sawyer describes one of her favorite projects
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Deborah Sawyer talks about the future of Environmental Design International
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Deborah Sawyer describes what she would do differently in her career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Deborah Sawyer reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Deborah Sawyer talks about obstacles she faced as a black businesswoman in the construction industry
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Deborah Sawyer describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Deborah Sawyer talks about her family
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Deborah Sawyer talks about how she would like to be remembered