Harry Elmo Bovay Jr.

September 4, 1914May 24, 2011

Harry E. Bovay, Jr., age 96, president of Mid-South Telecommunications Company, Inc., passed away on Tuesday, the 24th of May 2011.

Harry was born on the 4th of September 1914, in Big Rapids, Michigan, the second of four children to the late Harry Elmo Bovay and Addibelle Bentley Bovay. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Sue Goldston Bovay; his son, Mark Bovay; and his daughter, Susan Bovay Baker; his brother, George Bovay; and his sisters, Elizabeth Bovay Elliott and Jeanne Bovay Larkin. His earliest years were spent in Stuttgart, Arkansas but his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee when he was thirteen. He entered Cornell University in 1932 and graduated in 1936 as a civil engineer.

Following his graduation he worked a short time for a contractor and then the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mississippi. He spent the next ten years with Humble Oil and Refining Company in Baytown, Texas. In 1946 Harry formed his own professional engineering firm, H. E. Bovay, Jr., Consulting Engineers, which was incorporated and the name changed to Bovay Engineers, Inc. in July, 1962. Harry Bovay served as president of the firm until his retirement in 1984. For nearly 40 years his firm designed projects in the United States as well as 27 foreign countries ranging from airports to power plants to oil refineries to chemical plants to manufacturing facilities, to city planning, including a good many efforts in the planning and design of facilities at Camp Strake, at El Rancho Cima and at Camp Hudson.

His profession has honored him with election to the National Academy of Engineering and the National Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi. He not only was elected president of the local chapter, the State of Texas and the National Society of Professional Engineers, but was also given their award as the Outstanding Engineer in all three organizations. He was also a life member of both the American Society for Civil Engineers and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc.

He was awarded the prestigious Toulmin Medal by the Society of American Military Engineers and the Newcomen Society of North America honored Bovay Engineers, Inc. and Harry E. Bovay, Jr. at a dinner in 1981. He was a recipient of the George Washington Distinguished Service Award presented by the Paul Carrington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1998. Harry was also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation in 2006. Upon retirement from Bovay Engineers, Harry formed the Mid-South Telecommunica-tions Company, a holding company for rural telephone, cablevision and ancillary service companies, and until a few months ago, still worked at the office a number of hours each day. He contributed to local civic efforts with the Kiwanis Club of Houston, the Houston Engineering & Scientific Society, the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Retina Research Foundation.

In 1991, Harry formed the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation, which focuses on education and community development in rural areas; college scholarships in rural communities to help high school seniors who have taken a leadership role in community service, educators’ grants to teachers from these same areas, enabling them to pursue advanced education degrees and improvements in parks and community centers.

In 1997 he and his wife, Sue, now deceased, funded The Bovay Endowed Chair for the History and Ethics of Professional Engineering at both Texas A&M and Cornell Universities to promote the teaching of engineering ethics. In 2002 he made a gift to the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism at Texas Tech University in its effort to produce a film, “Incident at Morales,” depicting a young engineer struggling with critical ethical issues. In 2007 Harry established an Engineering Ethics Endowment at the NAE to provide support for the Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society and especially for the NAE’s Online Ethics Center; and a second Endowed Chair for the History and Ethics of Professional Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Beyond engineering ethics efforts, Harry’s career with the Boy Scouts has paralleled his career in engineering. He has been involved with Scouting for 84 years, having volunteered at every level from troop leader to national committees. A Scout since age 12, he was a member of the Boy Scout Honor Guard welcoming Charles Lindbergh flying “The Spirit of St. Louis” on his stop in Memphis, Tennessee in October, 1927. Harry firmly believed that the ideals instilled by the Boy Scouts are invaluable in developing strong moral character for America’s youth. He has contributed over the years to 10 councils in 3 regions, including the Sam Houston Area Council. He and his wife also provided the lead gift for the 1,100 acre Bovay Scout Ranch near Navasota, Texas and made arrangements for his Foundation to be a significant benefactor to the Scouts served by the Sam Houston Area Council, the Philmont Scout Ranch and the National Council for years to come. He was awarded the Silver Beaver in 1965, the Silver Antelope in 1976 and the Silver Buffalo in 1986 for Distinguished Service to Boyhood. In 1988, he became a Baden-Powell Fellow in honor of his support of the World Scout Foundation.

On a wall in his father’s office hung a poem that has been a favorite of Harry’s since childhood. The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole was published near the turn of the 20th century, and tells the story of an old man, who, though it will not benefit him personally, takes the time to build a bridge over a stream he has just crossed to benefit an inexperienced youth who follows after him.

Harry’s father built bridges across the Mississippi River. Harry E. Bovay, Jr. has spent his life building different kinds of bridges, whether through his engineering practice or his philanthropic endeavors…but all designed to benefit those following after him. He was a true pioneer, always seeking to solve problems, reminding himself and others that an innovative spirit would enable a person to solve a problem if he could define it. Harry was respected and admired by those who knew him and has touched countless lives through his generosity. He always held others as well as himself to the highest ethical standards for the sake of his profession, clients and the communities he served.

Harry is survived by more loving family, friends, staff, caregivers and recipients of his philanthropy than there is room to mention.

Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from six until eight o’clock in the evening on Friday, the 27th of May, in the Library and Grand Foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

His funeral service is to be conducted at two o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 28th of May, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons. Immediately following, all are invited to a reception in the adjacent Grand Foyer. The interment service is to follow the reception, via an escorted cortege, at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.

In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions, in Mr. Harry E. Bovay’s name, may be directed to the Sam Houston Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, P. O. Box 924528, Houston, TX, 77292-4528.


  • Visitation with the Family Friday, May 27, 2011
  • Funeral Service Saturday, May 28, 2011
  • Interment to follow the reception, via escorted cortege Saturday, May 28, 2011
  • Reception to Follow Saturday, May 28, 2011

Harry Elmo Bovay Jr.

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Betsie Leahy

August 26, 2011

Uncle Harry...Wish I could have spent more time with you. Momma was so very proud of you. She talked of you all the time. As a child, I remember telling Momma, you were my "favorite Uncle". I am comforted by te fact that you, Aunt Jeanne, George, and your parents are all together now in the most perfect place...loving and enjoying being together again. God Bless you and the souls of all the departed

Kathy Davis-Austin

June 1, 2011

Mr. Bovay was very generous to the students at Houlka Attendance Center. He was a wonderful man who truly cared about others and strongly believed in giving back to others. He will be greatly missed.

Margarita Posadas

May 28, 2011

As Mr. Bovay’s caretaker for the past 8 years, I was extremely privileged to have cared for someone who was so smart, caring and generous. I remember going to school, then coming in to assist Mr. Bovay, and realizing I had just stepped into another classroom. He taught me that life should be lived to its fullest. He told me his life experiences and struggles. He told me he felt strongly about getting an education, and of course always pushed me to get my degree. He once shared with me his story on what it took for him to literally pursue his education. He had inquired as a young boy, with all of his father’s friends as to which was the school to go. “ I remember hitchhiking myself from Tennessee all the way to Cornell University with only so many cents and many sleepless nights. We could do that back then. I don’t recommend you hitchhiking now.” He told me with a smile. It was inspiring and an honor to have been a part of Mr. Bovay’s life for so many years, and to have been with him until the end. He will be greatly missed not only for the footprint he left here on this Earth but for his sense or humor and countless jokes.
May You Rest in Peace Sir,

With Love, Adoration and True Respect for a Great Human Being,

Margarita Posadas

Lillie Neblett Jefferson

May 28, 2011

I extend my heartfelt condolences to the Bovay Family on your loss. I first met Mr. Bovay while employed as an analyst with the Aetna Life & Casualty back in the 1970's. When the Aetna closed the doors to the casualty division nationwide, Mr. Bovay hired me when Bovay Engineers was located near the Warwick Hotel. He was a good friend and boss. I had the pleasure of seeing him about a year and a half ago over in the medical center and he actually knew who I was. As we talked while getting off the elevator he even called my name and comment he always wondered what happened to me and had no idea that I was still living in the area. It was a pleasure to see him after so many years. I consider this a great loss as was the passing of my Mother in October, 2010. He has left a great legacy. I told him and apologized also for not staying in touch over the years and he understood. He had touched so many lives in such a positive way with the greatest of integrity. Even though he will be missed by you, his family, he has left so much for you in this life. Enjoy it and cherish hisi wonderful memories. You are in my prayers. Take care and may the love of Jesus Christ embrace you. Grace and Peace to you. Lillie Neblett Jefferson

Linda Smith-Wright

May 28, 2011

I worked for Bovay Engineers for several years and found Mr. Bovay to be a very kind and friendly man. I know he will be missed by many. My heartfelt sympathy to his family.

Stephen Stakemiller

May 28, 2011

Heaven gets the Sam Houston Area Council's best Scout. At every function we loved to play the 'Last Scout Standing' for years of service, because we all knew who would be the last to sit. Looking in his direction, we each thought "There's how high the bar sets."

James Johnson

May 28, 2011

Mr. Bovay lived the ideals of the Scout Oath and Law everyday of his life, always thinking of others before himself. He will be missed by all who were blessed to count him as a friend.

Erica Vega

May 27, 2011

Mr. Bovay you will be GREATLY missed. I have many memories with you that I will cherish forever.

As the darkness of night approaches, there is sadness in the air. The life of the one you loved will be no longer there. Though emptiness surronds you, alas, he's finally free. He may have lost the battle, but his soul is there with thee.... It's hard to lose a loved one and we may not understand, put you trust in God the Father and he'll lead you by the hand. He'll lead you through the heartache and dry each tear you cry, for God knows the pain of death, when he saw his own Son die. Just as he loved his Son, he loves you just the same. Sometimes it takes a heartache to magnify his name

Mark Frnka, DDS

May 27, 2011

It was my privilege to have known and cared for Mr Bovay the past 25 years. I will never forget the numerous hunting trips we shared together, several in which he included my son. He was an example of an individual with the highest integrity, generosity, love of God and his fellow man. Thanks Harry for your friendship, I am a better person for having known you!

Bernard R. Berson, PE, F.NSPE

May 27, 2011

Harry Bovay served TSPE and NSPE as President during the earlier days of the organizations, at a time when the societies, as well as our profession, was evolving and meeting many challenges. For those of us who held the office in recent years, there is much that Harry did that remained as guidance for us. Harry Bovay will be missed, but not forgotten.