SEAS Dean’s Award recipient Jonathan Watts helps students and keeps his father’s vision alive

Jonathan Watts.

Jonathan Watts, this year's recipient of the Dean's Award for Achievement, will receive the award at the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.

by Rebecca Rudell

Published May 17, 2019

Jonathan Watts, vice president at Watts Architecture & Engineering, came to the University at Buffalo as a transfer student in 1996. He left his previous college because he felt that UB offered a more comprehensive engineering education, and went on to earn his BS in industrial engineering in 2000 and a BS in civil engineering in 2003.

“Two of our current staff members were scholarship recipients and are now substantial contributors to our firm. We plan to continue offering the scholarship in both schools, engineering and architecture, because the relationship has been a great partnership between Watts A&E and the university.”
Jonathan Watts, SEAS Dean's Award winner and vice president
Watts Architecture & Engineering

“I think I received a great education at UB,” he says. “I see it all the time in practice – that UB graduates are very well prepared to succeed as engineers and in their careers.”

Like many transfer students, Watts found it a bit challenging to adjust to a new school, which, he explains, is why he became involved with the university – and with helping students – after graduation. A few years ago, he served as the philanthropy chair on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ Young Alumni Board, and today, he is a member of its Dean’s Advisory Council, offering advice on classroom enrichment through experiential learning, the long-term vision for the school and other topics.

He’s also on the board of Buffalo-Area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM), and works with Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) and other student organizations, offering guidance on resume preparation, professional practice, ethical considerations and his thoughts on what life is like “on the other side,” after graduation.

Previously, Watts spent time working in New York City and Washington DC, but returned to Buffalo in 2015 to round out the management team at Watts A & E, the firm his father Edward Watts, Sr. (who passed away in 2013) began in 1986 as an environmental engineering consultancy. Over the years, the firm added additional services, including transportation design; civil and structural engineering; lead, mold and asbestos remediation; and mechanical electrical and plumbing/fire protection design services. Architecture was included as an offering in 2004, when Jonathan’s brother Edward Jr., a licensed architect, returned to Buffalo to head that department. Their corporate headquarters is located in Buffalo, with additional offices in Syracuse and Manhattan.

Watts says his industrial engineering degree helped prepare him for his current role because the undergraduate curriculum exposed him to numerous topics essential to running a dynamic organization.

“The industrial engineering curriculum helped me think big picture and focus on streamlining processes and operations central to a growing business,” says Watts.

As vice president, Watts works with senior management to define the strategic vision for the firm, monitoring key financial metrics and directing the operations of the company to help achieve firm goals.

He and his brother also continue to offer the Watts Scholarship program, which his father began about 15 years ago, to underrepresented minority juniors majoring in civil, environmental, electrical or mechanical engineering. (There is also a Watts Scholarship for architecture students.)

“Two of our current staff members were scholarship recipients and are now substantial contributors to our firm,” he says. “We plan to continue offering the scholarship in both schools, engineering and architecture, because the relationship has been a great partnership between Watts A&E and the university.”

Aside from mentoring students inside and outside of his work life, Watts is currently involved in an exciting project to be built at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park: the African American Veterans Monument. Watts is on the planning committee, helping to raise funds for a monument dedicated to the thousands of African American veterans, past and present, who have served in any of the twelve U.S. military conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. The monument will be the first in the United States that collectively celebrates the contributions of African American veterans.

This year, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is proud to present Watts with its highest honor, the Dean’s Award for Achievement, which is awarded annually to an alum who has made a substantial contribution to the practice of engineering or applied sciences and/or has had an exceptional professional career. He will be an honored speaker at the 2019 undergraduate commencement ceremony, where he will share advice and words of wisdom to students, families and friends.