Montana State University

Montana Society of Engineers honors former MSU student with hall-of-fame induction

November 20, 2012 -- MSU News Service

Alex Drapes was posthumously inducted into the Montana Society of Engineers during a recent ceremony. Drapes, who was a mechanical and electrical engineer, was a longtime Great Falls resident.    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - Alex Drapes, a mechanical and electrical engineer who also received two Purple Hearts for his service in World War II, was recently inducted into the Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame.

Drapes passed away in October of 2011. His wife, children and grandchildren attended the Nov. 7 Montana Society of Engineers banquet during which he was honored.

"The amazing thing is that Alex Drapes was both a mechanical and electrical engineer," said Doug Brekke, past president of the Montana Society of Engineers. "Today that is unheard of. But Alex was special."

Drapes graduated from Great Falls High School in 1942 and attended Montana State College before joining the United States Army.

Drapes was in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest fought by Americans in Europe. During fighting in the Ardennes region, Drapes was captured by the Germans and sent to three different Nazi concentration camps.

After the war, Drapes went to the California Institute of Technology, where he finished out his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1949.

Drapes then returned to Montana where he worked as a staff engineer for VanTylingen, Knight & VanTylingen, an architectural firm based in Great Falls.

In 1954, he founded Drapes Engineering in Great Falls. William "Bill" Kilby was a partner in the firm, which provided mechanical and electrical design services for numerous projects across Montana. In 1992, Drapes sold the firm to the group of engineers that formed Gordon Prill Drapes or GPD.

His engineering portfolio includes public schools in Great Falls, Harlem, Brockton, Lame Deer, Lodge Grass, Big Sandy, Choteau, Cascade, Miles City, Bozeman, Babb, White Sulphur Springs, Centerville, Glendive, Glasgow, Browning, Terry, Missoula, Highwood, Plains, Helena, Malta, Geraldine, Box Elder, Lakeside and Kalispell.

He was also engineer for numerous telephone switching facilities owned by Mountain States Telephone, numerous additions to Malmstrom Air Force Base and Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana State Prison, as well as numerous health care facilities, banks, airports, motels, churches, television studios, libraries, swimming pools and private residences.

At MSU, Drapes was engineer on numerous ground-up and remodel projects, including Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, which received a national award for its lighting system. He also worked on the Creative Arts Complex, Sherrick Hall, Ryon Labs, planning for the Animal Biosciences Complex, heating plant upgrades, and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

Also part of Drapes' portfolio are the Life of Montana building in Bozeman, the Lee Metcalf Building in Helena, a remodel for the Montana House of Representatives chambers in Helena, primary electrical and heating systems for the University of Montana in Missoula, MSU Northern heating plant and Cowan Hall renovations in Havre, as well as Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls.

Drapes also worked on projects outside Montana, from the Agriculture Ministry building in Saudi Arabia to fish hatcheries in Alaska.

The Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame, which is housed at MSU's College of Engineering, is sponsored by the Montana Society of Engineers to honor those who have made significant contributions to the development of Montana and the engineering profession.

Previous inductees into the Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame include Ralph Prussing, John H. Morrison, Ben F. Hurlbut, W. Paul Schmechel, Leland J. Walker, Harold S. "Sonny" Hanson, Robert L. Sanks, Eldon R. Dodge, Joseph A. Maierle, Willis J. Wetstein, Daniel T. Berube, W. J. Bennington, and Fred F. Videon.

More information on the Montana Society of Engineers is available at

Contact: Doug Brekke, (406) 932-5400 or