Published September 16, 2014
Volume 22, Number 9

Engineer Maintains All-Around Healthful Lifestyle

By Zoe Francis

Joseph Azar makes health the focus of his life.
The successful civil engineer works hard to keep his growing company healthy while also pursuing activities to maintain a healthy body and family.
Joseph Azar“It all has to do about health,” Azar said. “I want to stay healthy and keep doing the things we enjoy doing.”
Azar, 54, has managed to sustain a wholesome and active lifestyle while working with his partners to build a flourishing engineering, planning and surveying firm, Ruggeri-Jensen-Azar.
“We work mostly with land developers to do basic infrastructure for new homes and new developments,” he said. “We work with cities to develop and design infrastructures. We do a lot of work with helping people take something from bare land and come up with a vision and do big communities. We work with companies on some of the big projects in the Bay Area.”
Locally, the company has had a hand in developing many highly sought-after neighborhoods in the Tri-Valley, including Ruby Hill in Pleasanton and Gale Ranch in San Ramon. The firm recently helped develop the expansive Stoneridge Creek Retirement Community in far east Pleasanton.
“I like to see things being built,” Azar said. “I like to visualize what we can accomplish. I have a feel for it more than the other types of engineering.”
Azar had no idea he would one day be an engineer when he was a child growing up in Lebanon. As a student, he was always good at math and science, which led him to believe he might grow up to be a doctor.
“In Lebanon, once you go to high school, they branch you out,” he recalled. “Once you pick up a field, you specialize in that. You get the higher science classes and math. They give you some kind of heads up when you start college. You kind of decide a little bit what you want to do before you get to college.”
“I had two choices in my mind -- doctor or engineer,” he continued. “I wanted to be a doctor. I don’t know why. I wanted to do it, but I changed gears. I didn’t pursue it. It’s not like I started on something and changed it. It turned out to be very good for me.”
In the 1970s, Lebanon was not on the cutting edge of technology, but the country had plenty of construction. Watching buildings go up and communities being developed piqued Azar’s interest in becoming a civil engineer.
“If you look at where I came from in Lebanon, you don’t have the big computer companies, electrical, chemical,” he explained. “But civil engineering is really prominent there because there’s more construction. They’re used to going into the Middle East countries and Africa to do big projects.”
In 1979, Azar left his family to move in with his brother in San Francisco to pursue a college education.
“It’s a dream to come here,” he said of the difficult decision to immigrate to America. “The situation in Lebanon was bad. There was a civil war going on. I wanted to start all over here. It’s not easy to uproot yourself, but if you believe in something, you make it happen.”
He lived in San Francisco briefly before his older brother moved to Fresno, prompting Azar to move to Michigan to attend the University of Detroit.
“One of my childhood friends was going to that school, so I went there,” he explained of his choice. “You gravitate toward your friends. I went there not knowing better, but it was a good move. That’s where I met my future wife, Lina. You never know what your destiny is going to be.”
Azar stayed in Detroit long enough to get both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering, while Lina studied electrical engineering. When he graduated in 1982, he moved back to Lebanon to work in construction. Lina stayed in America to work as an engineer.
In 1986, Azar landed a job with an engineering firm in Lafayette and moved back to the Bay Area. He and Lina were married the following year with sons Alexander and Phillip arriving a few years later. The family lived in Walnut Creek and Dublin before moving to Pleasanton in 2000.
Azar worked with the Lafayette firm until moving to a Pleasanton firm in 1990. In 1995, he teamed up with his current partners to start their own company in Hacienda.
“Everyone has their own dream,” Azar said of his decision to strike out on his own. “I wanted to do something that has my footprints in it. We wanted to create a company that reflects our values and how we do things and how we improve the service to our clients. We wanted to build a team that we respect and take care of them in the future. We’ve built a company that has trust and respect in the industry.”
Alexander, the Azars’ eldest son, joined his father’s company a couple of years ago as a civil engineer. Phillip recently got a biomedical engineering degree and is attending graduate school.
“We have a new generation coming,” Azar said of his firm. “We have young engineers who are coming into the company. I like to mentor our future leaders and team members for the company. I’d like to work with this company to see us headed down the right track.”
Although Azar works extensive hours with his partners to build and grow their business, he has never let his hectic career get in the way of maintaining a healthful lifestyle.
“I used to run a lot, but the last five years or so I stopped it because of my knees,” he said. “I like to play basketball from time to time and volleyball. I like to watch sports and football.”
Azar and Lina are both avid bicyclists, often times riding dozens of miles per day, especially near a home they share with another family in Yountville. The nearby Silverado Trail provides a challenging 38-mile route that the couple often used to ride in one day, but now prefer to break into a two-day ride to enjoy at a more leisurely pace.
“It’s the fresh air and the freedom,” he said of his passion for cycling. “You’re looking around and you see everything in front of you. I like the effort that you put into it. You put in some effort and you relax. It’s the freedom of riding and the air hitting you in the face and the views.”
He also enjoys bird hunting, a skill he first learned with his father back when Azar was a child in Lebanon.
“When I was really young, I’d go hunting with my dad,” he recalled fondly. “Now, I go hunting with my partner and my friends. I enjoy the outdoors and the challenge. I go hunting a lot. We hunt pheasant, chukars, doves and ducks. I’m not a big-game hunter, but I like to do bird hunting.”
Azar rounds out his fitness routine with golfing. And while he is not quite ready to retire, it is certainly something he considers for the not-too-distant future. He figures his retirement routine will include his regular fitness regime, plus travel and charitable work.
“The next few years are bright,” he said. “The team and the company are gong to do well. We’re growing and building a solid base for the future. I’m optimistic about where we’re heading as a company. On the personal side, I hope we all stay healthy and have fun and enjoy my life. I say it all has to do with health. If you have good health, there should be a place for everyone.”
Learn more about Ruggeri-Jensen-Azar at rja-gps.com.

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