The daily commute from his home in north St. Louis to his high school in Kirkwood, Mo., was an opportunity for T. Christopher Peoples to contemplate. The student’s mind often juxtaposed the two communities.
“Kirkwood was nice and beautiful, kind of like Pleasantville,” he says. “But no one was really fixing up places in the city of St. Louis.”
Peoples, 33, is now the president and chief executive officer of Pitzman’s Company of Surveyors and Engineers in Maplewood, Mo., but he says it was that car ride in high school and the disparity he observed that turned on his interest to engineering.
“I thought, ‘What can I do, and what can I go to school for that would allow me to make my neighborhood like Kirkwood?,’” he says.
He eventually enrolled at the University of Missouri–St. Louis as a civil engineering major. Through a partnership with Washington University in St. Louis, UMSL offers an engineering program in which students take pre-engineering and general education courses at UMSL and upper-level engineering courses at WUSTL.
“You basically get a Wash U engineering education for UMSL prices,” Peoples says. “I felt UMSL was offering me everything I needed.”
Almost all of the engineering classes are taught in the late afternoon or evening – a schedule that worked for Peoples who was a part-time student, full-time worker and a single parent.
“Despite having to attend school part time and at night, I still felt like I was getting an equal education,” he says. “I didn’t feel like I was being cheated out of any opportunities.”
Peoples completed a bachelor’s degree in 2008. But while he was still a student, he applied for an entry-level surveying position at Pitzman’s Company. Roy Leimberg, the owner at the time, hired the 20-year-old.
“I was only his second African American employee ever,” Peoples says. “He took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity, and for that I was extremely grateful and tried to work as hard as I could for him.”
Since joining Pitzman’s Company, Peoples has held every position there. In 2010, he purchased a majority stake in the firm and became president and CEO.
This story was originally published in the spring 2013 issue of UMSL Magazine.