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Levon Hall Nishkian
San Francisco was a city just a few days away from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake when Levon H. Nishkian, PE, re-opened the firm his father, and his grandfather before him, had established. Under the firm name of Nishkian Menninger and with his partner for the endeavors Kevin Menninger (see below), Levon H. Nishkian renewed the firm which has been a success since 1919.
Opening the firm, with the imposing task of measuring up to his grandfather Levon H. Nishkian, whose biographers considered “an outstanding Structural Engineer,” and “one of the greatest Structural Engineers of his time,” was a daunting enough goal. But, add to that the additional measure of his father, Byron L. Nishkian, who was qualified as: “industrious in his work, regardless of hours and conditions, ” and one whose “integrity is unquestionable and that his morals are above reproach.” Such conditions must certainly have affected the drive and initiative to equal and eventually exceed the firm’s founders accomplishments.
Levon graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Arizona in 1974. Although an active sportsman, avid skier and golfer (as his father and grandfather were respectively) he found his chosen field one in which he was quick to learn and in which he is eagerly interested. Immediately upon graduation he joined his Father’s firm, Nishkian Hamill & Associates. His first project was for Schlagg Lock’s office building, a straight-forward project to learn the ropes of the business. He later was significantly involved with the design and development of the Termann School of Engineering Building for Stanford University, a project requiring both problem solving and the proper representation of the field of engineering in the project’s design and implementation. And Levon continued to work, and he worked and he worked.
Levon stayed with the firm when it merged with Martin Engineering to become Martin, Cagley, Nishkian, and became a Vice President and principal owner when his father, Byron, retired in 1981. Levon ran the San Francisco office, managing many significant projects. He also saw the office through an additional merger and name change to Martin, Middlebrook and Nishkian. In 1989 Levon resigned his position, in the current incarnation of his grandfather’s firm to rejuvenate the family established firm as a private enterprise.
Nishkian says he made the change because the Martin firm had grown very large, with offices all over the country and one partner operating out of Los Angeles. “It’s nice to do it on your own,” Nishkian says, hoping to offer a more personalized service with attention to detail than he feels can be provided by a large corporate structure.
What does he do with his spare time? In addition to his lengthy responsibilities as President of the firm, Levon is also on the Board of Directors of Fort Mason, the Council of Directors of the Yosemite Fund, Chairman of the Retirement Fund of the ASCE (following in his grandfather’s tradition). Levon is an active sports and outdoor enthusiast as well.
The firm has moved several times since it first began. The first office under Levon was, fortuitously enough, located in 150 4th Street, the site of his grandfather’s business in the 1930s. The company grew well in its first years and established the reputation for the firm. In 1998 Nishkian and Associates moved to the Nishkian Building at #1 Holland Court as part of their expanding needs, and changed the firm’s name to Nishkian Menninger; in order to more properly reflect Kevin Menninger’s position as Vice President with the firm. Unfortunately for the firm, in 1997, the City of San Francisco took over the area as part of the “eminent domain” campaign for the Moscone Center and the firm had to move again. But, from an historical standpoint, the firm was continuing its association with the founder’s roots and traditions by moving into 510 Howard Street, a building designed by Levon’s grandfather. Continuing in the tradition of the area though; 510 Howard was torn down for the development of “Founder’s Square” and Nishkian’s firm moved again. “The bright spot in the Founders Square move” says Levon, “was that we worked on the engineering for the project.” Since the move from 510 Howard Street to 1095 Folsom Street, Nishkian Menninger has moved a few more times settling at its current location at 600 Harrison Street.
Nishkian Menninger has enjoyed robust growth under Levon Nishkian and Kevin Menninger’s leadership. A walk through downtown San Francisco is difficult to make without passing by building after building whose design, engineering, or structural rehabilitation was the work of the Nishkian firms. Often, it is the more difficult projects that come to their offices, keeping up with the tradition from the grandfather’s time: “the problems that stump most engineers, sooner or later found their way to Nishkian’s office to come out solved.”
The Nishkian Menninger partnership soon expanded to add, to the company roster, the name of Nishkian Dean in 1999 with new partner, Edwin T. Dean. This branch office is located in Portland, Oregon.
In 2002 Levon Nishkian partnered with Ty Monks to open the third office in Bozeman, Montana. The Bozeman office provides services from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwestern region and beyond.
In 2007 the Nishkian Chamberlain office was formed in Los Angeles, California to serve the Southwest region. Craig Chamberlain is Vice President to Levon Nishkian and is the managing partner of the Los Angeles branch office.