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February 17, 2021

Black History Month Profile: Lilia Abron

The Fall issue of Engineering Inc. magazine features profiles of eight black-owned member firms. In honor of Black History Month, ACEC is highlighting these profiles. Click here to read the complete article.

Lilia Abron

Lilia Abron has been shattering glass ceilings for most of her life. In 1972, she became the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. In 1978, while she was the only female professor at Howard University’s College of Engineering, she broke another barrier as the first black female environmental engineer to start an engineering consulting firm focused on the environment.

Although PEER Consultants, P.C., approaches projects from the perspective of engineering professionals and scientists, Abron has a longtime, personal interest in the human environment. “I was part of the very first Earth Day,” she says, proudly recalling the rallies and workshops she helped to plan for April 22, 1970, when she was working toward her doctorate at the University of Iowa. “We were going to clean up the environment, stop rivers from catching fire, quit using DDT, and have a happy, healthy world.”

Abron had considered a career in academia before meeting Delon Hampton, Ph.D., a colleague and professor at Howard, who had launched Delon Hampton & Associates (see page 56). She began consulting for the firm on environmental projects. Then, after she was passed over for tenured promotions twice at Howard, she boldly went off on her own.

PEER has steadily grown by sticking to its environmental niche. “Every time we tried to expand into complementary markets we didn’t understand as well or where we were perceived as threats, barriers were put in our way and they ate our lunch,” Abron admits. “So we always returned to what we know how to do well.”

PEER’s current focus on infrastructure projects has made it possible for it to provide critical environmental guidance on water, the physical and built environment, transportation, energy efficiency, and sustainable energy projects in the midAtlantic and New England regions.  

One of her most rewarding accomplishments, however, has been PEER’s 20-year involvement in developing affordable, energy-efficient, and sustainable housing and communities in low-income and marginalized communities in South Africa.

She envisions similar projects in the United States to improve housing in low-income and marginalized communities. “We can apply our environmental engineering skills to the delivery of municipal services that are affordable and appropriate and will result in the improvement in their quality of life and physical environment.” “We know how to mitigate these problems, but we need money and political will,” Abron says.


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