Kirk '75 retires after nearly 27 years with Disney

Jerre Kirk(Nov. 29, 2016) After a long and satisfying career, Jerre Kirk ’75 recently retired from Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), The Walt Disney Company’s creative force that imagines, designs and builds all Disney-theme parks, resorts, attractions and cruise ships worldwide.

A graduate of then Southern Technical Institute with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering technology, Kirk enjoyed quite a ride at Disney.

“I started with the company in October of 1989 and was there almost 27 years,” Kirk said. “I counted up the other day that I worked on over 115 different individual projects within gate-level projects.”

Kirk first served as a consultant for Disney, starting in November 1987, working on Typhoon Lagoon water park and expansion of the Hollywood Studios. He was later recruited by and hired full time by WDI, and led construction management teams in the development and delivery of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, among other projects.

“I went on to work on several projects, including two overseas, most recently Shanghai for off-and-on almost seven years,” Kirk said. “I was overseas for almost four years and then there was Hong Kong park from 2002 until 2005.”

When asked how he is now spending his time since retiring in September, Kirk responded, “Being a husband, grandfather and traveler, mostly the first two. We haven’t done a lot of traveling, but we’ve got three grandsons and we spend a lot of time with them.”

Originally from metropolitan Atlanta, Kirk is married with two grown daughters.

Kirk stated that he found his calling while on what is now Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus when he was a young college student.

“I started in architecture school and wanted to be an architect,” Kirk said. “By my sophomore year, I decided that I wasn’t going to be an architect anymore because I didn’t have the skillset to be one. My professors pulled me aside and said, ‘You know, you’re doing great with civil engineering, so you should probably focus on civil engineering.’”

Kirk first earned an associate’s degree in architectural engineering technology in 1973 before receiving his bachelor’s.

As a student, Kirk was inspired by his professors and learned many lessons that guided him throughout his successful career.

“The majority of my time was on a drafting board, for architecture, in my room or studying for electrical, mechanical, civil engineering exams,” Kirk said. “Back then we had slide rules and we weren’t allowed until my junior year to use a calculator.

“The one thing that Southern Tech did for me was thought process, a process that I use today. Training the brain to evaluate and solve problems. I was very lucky back then to have former corps of engineers as professors. These gentlemen who taught me fundamentals of engineering, which I still apply today, gave us rules of thumb that still apply. Things that they did when they were in Vietnam and Korea, building those army bases and air force bases and things, were done with pretty fundamental, sound engineering principles, which is what I took away from Southern Tech more than anything else.”

While keeping plenty busy since his graduation, Kirk stated that he has not been able to make it back to campus much. He was, however, the commencement speaker at Southern Polytechnic State University in December 2008.

Residing in Orlando, Florida, Kirk worked for 41 years, most of that with WDI, after leaving the Marietta campus in the mid-1970s. He continues to give praise for the education he received, which guided him through his four-plus decades of handling major construction projects.

“Again, the one great thing about Southern Tech, at the time, was the fundamentals that I learned,” Kirk concluded. “Like I said, I applied those principles almost every day when I was working in the industry.

“We were required to take four surveying courses, whereas at Georgia Tech they were taking one. That really grounds you with practicality of how you survey and lay out a map.”

During his employment with WDI, Kirk worked on many world-class venues that attract millions of people every year. He credits the education he received decades ago for carrying him through his extraordinary career as a leader in construction management for Disney, the world's second-largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue.     

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