Photo credits: The History Makers
Deborah Mabel Sawyer (pictured) was born on May 11, 1956, in Columbus, Ohio. Her life legacy was earned working as an environmental scientist and civil engineer.
Emory University awarded Sawyer a B.A. in political science and an M.S. in petroleum microbiology, respectively. At the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, she started her work as an environmental scientist. As an environmental scientist in Columbus, Ohio, from 1986 to 1989, Sawyer worked for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Division. In 1986, Sawyer also joined the private sector, working in Columbus, Ohio, for the URS Corporation as an associate and Midwest operations manager.
From 1988 until 1990, Sawyer served as senior vice president, board member, and operations manager for Beling Consultants, Inc.’s Solid, Toxic, and Hazardous Waste Management Division in Moline, Illinois. Sawyer worked for Environmental S/E, Inc.’s Toxic and Hazardous Waste Management Division in Glen Ellyn, Illinois for a short time as the division’s operations manager.
Environmental Design International (EDI) was the result of Sawyer’s own initiative in 1991. An annual income of approximately $10 million was generated by a corporation with 100 workers spread across three locations in Illinois and one in Ohio. Industrial hygiene, as well as toxic, hazardous, and solid waste management projects, received guidance from EDI.
Her organization was licensed in seven Midwest states and many federal agencies. It also had more than 80 state and municipal certificates. US EPA, VA, USACE, and Chicago Public Schools were among EDI’s many clients. EDI also served as a subcontractor for these organizations. EDI performed construction inspection services worth $70 million for the Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction Project in Chicago from 2006 to 2007.
Both the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois and the Consulting Engineers Council of Illinois were members of Sawyer’s organization.
In addition to serving on various boards, Sawyer received numerous accolades. In 1994, Sawyer won the Minority Small Business Person of the Year Award at the district, regional, and national levels from the U.S. Small Business Administration. As a member of the Illinois Institute for Entrepreneurship Education in 2001, she was appointed by Illinois Governor George Ryan. In 2005, she became a board member of the Great Lakes Alliance.
On August 8th, 2016, Sawyer died of ovarian cancer at the age of 60, according to the Chicago Tribune.