What’s in a name?
Raymond Lee Dennis was six years old when he announced to his mother that he was not one bit impressed with the first grade. “I’ve already been there for five whole days and they haven’t taught me how to read yet”. Even as a young boy, he was eager to take on challenges and leave his mark on the world. That quality would be one of his most defining characteristics.
Born in 1939 near Wagon Mound, New Mexico, and raised in Springer, Raymond grew up working in the family dairy business. With cows to feed and milk and deliveries to make every morning before school, he learned early and well how to work hard and do whatever was necessary to get the job done. In his senior year of high school he was a delegate to the national FFA convention, joined the Army Reserves, and began participating in a cooperative education program from the state Department of Transportation. This enabled him to work and get on-the-job experience while he attended college at New Mexico State University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1963.
Raymond Lee Dennis when he was in grade school.
Raymond Lee Dennis in front of the family dairy truck.
The next 12 years were spent working for the New Mexico State Highway Department and two small engineering firms. During this period, Raymond and his family moved eight times to various places in the state. He developed a broad understanding of many aspects of engineering and gained valuable experience and relationships. When an opportunity to launch out and start his own business presented itself, he was ready.
“I do not choose to be a common man. I choose to be uncommon if I can.”
So begins a poem that hung in Raymond’s office throughout his 27 years in business, and it proved to be true in his life. Dennis Engineering opened in Socorro, New Mexico in July of 1975. From the very beginning, Raymond decided to focus his attention on serving small towns and municipalities in rural areas. No community or job was too small. He and his staff provided surveying and engineering services throughout the state. He personally traveled an average of 40,000 miles per year as he oversaw every aspect of each project. These included airports, water and wastewater facilities, streets, subdivisions, and all related infrastructure projects.
During these busy years, Raymond was a devoted member of his church, got a pilot’s license, and was active in Rotary International and the Gideons, volunteered on several boards, and chaperoned many high school dances. He served in the New Mexico National Guard/Army Reserves for 30 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He also owned and operated a construction company (CDS, Inc.). His dedication to his business, family, and community was uncommon and continues to this day.
Building a legacy
In 1977, Steve Williams moved to town. He was 19 years old, in need of a job and some direction for his life. He started as a draftsman at Dennis Engineering. Steve committed to learning everything possible and he rose to every challenge. He became a vital part of the business and highly qualified as a surveyor, project inspector, superintendent of CDS, Inc., and he did extensive design work on countless projects. When Raymond relocated the business to Edgewood, NM, in 1994, Steve relocated there as well.
Meanwhile at NMSU…
Tappan Mahoney was earning a degree in civil engineering. He was from the small town of Roy, New Mexico (just 35 miles from Wagon Mound) and had an appreciation for some of the particular needs and challenges faced by people in rural communities. The opportunities and ideals at Dennis Engineering appealed to him. He joined the firm in 1995 and had a few years to get some valuable experience and his P.E. license before Raymond started thinking about retirement.
By this time, Steve and Tappan had developed a strong working relationship based on mutual respect and commitment to excellence. Their combined experience, education, and determination gave them the confidence to buy the business in 2002. They decided to continue to operate under the name Dennis Engineering Company and build on the reputation for integrity and professionalism that Raymond had worked so hard to establish. They have continued to focus their efforts on small towns and municipalities. Together with their outstanding staff, they provide vital and reliable services to communities that have very limited or no staff of their own. From identifying funding to preliminary reports, project design, and construction through close-out, they offer uncommon support every step of the way.