Civil engineer Ralph Tyler broke new ground in Ohio

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Cleveland Service Director Ralph C. Tyler sits next to a highway project.
Distinguished alumnus Ralph C. Tyler was Cleveland's director of public services from 1968-1975. [credit: Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library]

Distinguished alumnus Ralph C. Tyler was Ohio’s first licensed Black civil engineer and described as a “pioneer in areas where Black engineers had never been employed,” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering from The Ohio State University in 1948.

Throughout his more than 50-year civil engineering career, Tyler helped design roads, bridges and water systems. As a chief design engineer and chief project engineer for the state, he was instrumental in interstate construction projects throughout northeast Ohio. Tyler later founded a successful engineering and architectural consulting firm that employed nearly 100 people.

Also a gifted athlete, Tyler distinguished himself at Ohio State as a member of the 1942 Big Ten Championship track team, captained the team in 1944 and was the NCAA long jump champion that same year. He was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.

Following graduation, Tyler rose in the Ohio Department of Highways to become the assistant to the state highway director in 1966. He was named Director of Public Services for Cleveland in 1968, overseeing five service commissioners, a staff of 2,000 and a budget of approximately $28 million. He continued in the role until 1975 when he became chief engineer for architectural firm Madison International.

In 1977, Tyler was named deputy engineer for Cuyahoga County where he supervised a large bridge program and served as affirmative action and equal opportunity employment officer. In 1979, he established Ralph Tyler Companies in Cleveland. The firm grew to 95 employees and purchased the 12th-Chester Building in 1997.

Tyler was a member of local, state and national sections of the Society of Professional Engineers and was registered in several states. He was also a professional surveyor. Tyler served on the state board of the American Public Works Association, on the engineering college advisory boards at Ohio State and Cleveland State University, and was a member and former trustee of the Ohio State Alumni Association.

A WWII veteran, Tyler joined the Army and served as a master sergeant in Asia. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of The Ohio State University College of Engineering in 1981 and received the Civil Engineering Alumni Award in 1997. Tyler died in Cleveland in 1998 at age 76.

In 2007, family, friends and the employees of the Ralph Tyler Companies established The Ralph C. Tyler Memorial Engineering Scholarship Fund in his memory to support students from backgrounds similar to Tyler’s.

Category: Alumni