It is the first time I put my spiritual and professional story on an interactive website – a little scary! My write-up will not make world history, but I hope it helps some students and friends who ask themselves basic questions like: ‘Why do I live?’ or ‘Is there a God, and if yes, can He guide me?’. I think every student should invest at least 20 hours before graduation to ask himself such basic and often forgotten questions – but where to go?
My non Christian professor of literature in Switzerland used to say: ‘Before graduating you should have read the whole bible – it is a matter of general education’. Famous luminaries have done that. Take my favorite mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal. He lived in France in the 17th century and wrote in his well known ‘Thoughts’ (Les Pensees): ‘In spite of seeing all the miseries that affect us and grab us by the throat, we have an irrepressible instinct which lifts us up’.
Pascal became a follower of Jesus (not a church). By the way, a contemporary social scientist, Os Guiness, calls him the ‘grandfather of the computer’, and in the literature of my engineering field he is mentioned as the ‘inventor of public transportation’, because he started the first for- pay horse drawn carriage in Paris. Or take the English philosopher C.S. Lewis, who started out as an atheist, then became a theist and finally converted to Christianity.
I feel humble and thankful for the rich and still evolving life God has (miraculously) given to my dear wife of 45 years and to me. It started at the age of 15, when I was in a Christian youth camp near Interlaken in Switzerland. There we explored the glaciers and stayed in empty cow stables overnight. One evening, in a simple stable (flashlights only!), a counselor gave a testimony, which deeply moved me. He claimed, that there is a God, who not only created us all, but who also lovingly pursues us. And He can be found, if we search after Him honestly and consistently.
This evening, like Pascal, I decided to start my personal ‘walk with Jesus’. I remember the exact date and the note I wrote into my bible. After this existential experience my outlook on life changed dramatically, and even my grades went up! Summa summarum I can say – more than 50 years later – that God does guide through prayer, reading of the Scripture, mentors and circumstances. I was privileged to have Christian businessmen as mentors in my teen age years, and later when I started my own consulting firm. Today I try to be a mentor myself.
I was born in Berne, Switzerland, where my father was an inspector in the Federal Ministry of Transport. I studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and got my Masters Degree in Civil Engineering at the age of 23. Now I am a licensed civil engineer in all European countries (Euring), in an area covering 500 million people. Later I also got a Masters in Environmental Sciences from the University of Zurich. I believe that a well balanced follower of Jesus should consider issues such as sustainability, climate change, environment and social inequalities in his actions. I am a Fellow in the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).
At the age of 28 I started Planungsbuero Jud AG in Zurich emphasizing transportation. Most of our work was in Switzerland – and still is. But for two years I worked for the United Nations Development Programme in foreign ministries. I produced the first National Transportation Plan for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Master Plan of Transportation for Nicosia, Cyprus – two positive experiences including collaboration with counterparts from many nations, some times under dangerous circumstances. These contacts were often spiritually uplifting, and I saw, that the basic longings of the human heart are the same all over.
Only after our family moved to San Luis Obispo in 1994 did I start teaching at an American University – without giving up consulting completely. I love to teach sustainable mobility and public transportation with exercises in the City and County of San Luis Obispo. I underline to my students the very important connection between transportation and smart land use ‘ in other words, sustainable city planning – as for example brilliantly practiced in Curitiba, Brazil. Click on the below link ‘Best City Planning: Curitiba’, enjoy the excellent 15-minute movie by former Mayor Jaime Lerner and sing the sustainability song with him! In short, two thirds of my career was in consulting and only one third in teaching. More info about my consulting, teaching and preferred type of city planning is found on the links below.
I hope to contribute to a successful professional career of all my students and friends and to their spiritual journey. As it was for me in the stable near the Swiss glaciers: the important choice of life style is yours!
[link=www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jaime_lerner_sings_of_the_city.html]Best City Planning: Curitiba[/link]