Renaissance Man: Celebrating Rick Oehmcke’s Career and Retirement

Renaissance Man: Celebrating Rick Oehmcke’s Career and Retirement
Rick Oehmke Structural Engineer

by Valerie Hendel

February 25, 2019 | Seattle, WA  |  Rick Oehmcke has been a foundational part of PCS Structural Solutions’ evolution since his arrival in 1987. On February 25, 2019, he will retire from a 38-year structural engineering career.


When asked to describe Rick in three words, friends and coworkers placed innovator firmly at the top of the list. Rick was a Building Information Modeling (BIM) evangelist from the start. Colleagues describe his uncanny ability to read the horizon. “He latched on to Revit—he was adamant it was the future,” says Doug Goodwin, principal at PCS Structural Solutions. “Others were going to MicroStation.”


“MicroStation—what’s that?” I asked.


“Exactly,” says Doug.


I ask Rick about his knack for future-telling and about how he talked the firm into buying into the costly new Revit software at a time when it was unknown. Rick demurs. “It could have gone the other way. When 3-D modeling was in its infancy, I knew it could help clients. Revit just fit our needs.”


Rick is the person who is out front with customers and tuned in to what they need. When asked about his favorite project, he zeroes in on the people.  “Aviation High School in Highline [School District – in Burien, Washington] is my favorite, because it brings kids from all over who are fascinated with science.”


“Do you remember the moment when you decided to become an engineer?”


“I was an Airforce brat, so we lived all over. When we moved to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, my Dad was a radar navigator on B-52s. But my dad was an artist too and taught me how to draw. Dad met a young navigator who was an architect-engineer and asked if I could meet him. I saw his renderings, and I was mesmerized. All of these drawings … When our family ended up in California, that was it.  I went to Cal Poly.”


Doug has been working with Rick for a long time. He met Rick in 1993 when Doug first started with PCS. “Funny, we haven’t really worked on any projects together, but we’re bouncing ideas off of each other every day.” 


I wonder about Doug’s thoughts with the news of Rick’s retirement. “What will be different when Rick leaves?” I ask him.


“Ugh … We eat lunch three times a week. Oh man.” It hangs there, and he has no words. 


Sometimes no words are the exact right thing. Loyal friend, co-worker, and innovative artist-engineer, Rick plans to take on a bucket list of historic travel destinations. And then there’s restoring the old Chevy truck patiently waiting in his garage and “the endless honey-do’s from damned Pinterest.”


As for the advice I ask him to give engineers today, he says, “At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and the creative process—it’s what makes it memorable.”


No words can adequately convey the deep-felt thanks from Rick’s coworkers and clients. His work has left a legacy and his friendships a lifetime of memories.