As caretaker of the iconic George Washington Bridge, Andrea Giorgi Bocker ’80 serves as a role model to women entering the civil engineering field.
For Andrea Giorgi Bocker ’80, the apple didn’t fall far from the bridge.
Growing up in the Bronx, she often visited the majestic George Washington Bridge with her father, who managed the bridge at the time, knowing that she wanted to do the same.
“I learned that the way to build something like that was to study civil engineering,” she says. “It became my quest.”
Giorgi Bocker excelled at Cardinal Spellman High School and graduated a year early, just shy one credit.
The College accepted the eager 16-year-old into the Civil Engineering program under the provision that she would complete a freshman year English course during her first semester and earn the missing credit.
Fast-forward 36 years, and Giorgi Bocker has more credits to her name than most.
After graduating from Manhattan, she earned a master’s of engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology and her professional engineering licensure in New York and New Jersey.
Giorgi Bocker currently serves as engineer of construction for the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station, a division of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Under her leadership, a team of skilled engineers repairs and maintains the busiest bridge in the world, serving more than 300,000 drivers a day.
“My worst day in construction was better than my best day anywhere else,” says Giorgi Bocker, who started at the Port Authority out of college as an engineering trainee, then worked in design for nine years, project management for 10, and now construction for 13 years. “Because there’s no way to know what’s going to happen next. There’s always a surprise, good or bad, and always a problem to solve, which is what engineering is all about.”
Having turned 82 years old in October, the George Washington Bridge will soon undergo suspension rope replacements on top of a half-a-billon dollar rehabilitation project, which will include repairs to the 178th and 179th Street bus ramps, the Center Avenue and Lemoine Avenue bridges and the bridge’s lower level.
“I’m wherever I need to be,” she says, explaining that the job often takes her off campus from her Fort Lee, N.J., office to on-site projects and meetings with contractors; or sometimes, 600 feet above the Hudson River on top of the bridge itself — her favorite perspective of the New York-New Jersey landmark.
“Engineers are behind the scenes, creating and keeping so much infrastructure running, but sometimes people only see the barrel out in the lane, stopping them from going where they’re going,” she says.
To keep the dreams of future engineers in motion, Giorgi Bocker has volunteered as a mentor to Manhattan College students for more than 10 years.
She knows firsthand what a challenging road it can be, both in school and having to prove herself in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Manhattan College is family. It’s a Manhattan College engineer who interviewed me and gave me my first chance.
“I think the most important thing was simply knowing that she existed,” says Gerarda Shields ’03, ’04, a former mentee of Giorgi Bocker’s, an associate professor of civil engineering at CUNY and an adjunct at Manhattan College. “Knowing that there was a woman out there who was successful as an engineer and still had a family life, that was important to me and made me want to emulate her.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Giorgi Bocker’s best advice to Manhattan’s aspiring engineers is to remain close to other Jaspers and use those connections.
She tells her students to always believe in themselves and work as hard as possible to achieve the goal in mind, without the possibility of regret.
“Manhattan College is family,” she says. “It’s a Manhattan College engineer who interviewed me and gave me my first chance.”
Perhaps, then, the next caretaker of the iconic landmark will also hail from the Jasper family tree.
“It’s so great as a civil engineer to be a part of the bridge and have a hand in keeping it going in its best condition,” she adds. “And then turning it over to next generation of engineers to continue the legacy.”