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BLOOMINGTON — For 40 years throughout Bloomington-Normal and beyond, Don Adams took other peoples' dreams and helped them to become reality.

"His fingerprints are all over Bloomington-Normal," said colleague Neil Finlen. "I don't think you can drive across town without enjoying something he's responsible for: streets, subdivisions, schools, buildings on the Heartland Community College and Illinois Wesleyan University campuses..."

Adams and Finlen are professional engineers and principals with The Farnsworth Group, a 125-year-old, Bloomington-based engineering, architectural and surveying firm.

Adams, also center manager for Farnsworth's Bloomington and Normal offices and principal for the land development section of the Bloomington office, is retiring Jan. 12 after more than 40 years with Farnsworth.

Adams, 62, of Normal, has been the engineer for numerous major Bloomington-Normal area projects over the years, including the Heartland Community College campus in Normal, projects on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus in Bloomington, Ironwood Subdivision and Golf Course in Normal, and The Den Golf Course and Subdivision in Bloomington.

"I'm only a small part of these projects," Adams said.

"Collaboration is everything," he explained. "It starts with the client who has the vision and ends with the skilled labor. To be a part of that process has been rewarding."

"He's an engineer's engineer," Finlen said of Adams. "He's technically on top of his game and always has been, he is trusted by his clients and admired by his peers."

Adams grew up in a blue collar, South Streator family, graduated from Bradley University with a degree in civil engineering in May 1977 and joined Farnsworth two days later.

He started as a surveyor. Among his early projects was working on the Adelaide Street curve, north from Division Street to the creek in Normal.

Soon, he was working on projects under the supervision of a senior engineer. Eventually, he was managing his own projects.

On the IWU campus, projects he helped to engineer included the Harriett Fuller Rust House, The Ames Library, the Center for Natural Science and Shirk Center.

On the Heartland campus, he did the site design for the original campus and the Workforce Development Center and for phase two, which included The Corn Crib and the Astroth Community Education Center.

"I have had the privilege of working with Don for the last 20 years as the Heartland campus has been planned and constructed," Heartland President Rob Widmer said. "He always provided exceptionally well-designed and functional plans and constantly focused on the best interests of the college... The impact of his professional expertise on the Heartland campus will be long lasting."

Chris Downing, Heartland's foundation executive director, said, "His commitment to the students who pass through the doors and buildings he helped design says so much about him as a person. He wants to see so many local people succeed."

Adams said, "To see it start with a vision and then to see it come out of the ground and then to see the students using that campus — that's really rewarding. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and reminds you why you do what you do."

But Adams said it's time to spend more time with his wife Joan, their three adult children and their families.

"It's time. We've got a good team at Farnsworth," he said of the business that has 450 employees in 20 cities, including 125 employees in Bloomington-Normal. "We're leaving the place in good shape."

"It's been interesting to walk on a corn field, then to walk on it when it's under construction, then to walk on it on the Fourth of July when the neighbors are getting together," Adams said. "Those are good moments."

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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