WILLIAM H. MEGONNELL, P.E.
Assistant Surgeon General
Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.)
William Henry Megonnell, known as “Bill”, was born on June 3, 1923 in Dauphin, Pennsylvania. He attended Central Pennsylvania Business College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from 1940-1941. In 1943 he entered the Army Air Corps and was stationed in multiple locations around the United States and Puerto Rico until his discharge in 1946. He married the former Betty J. Tschopp and they had two children.
After his Army tour, Bill Megonnell obtained a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1950 and an M.S. in Sanitary Engineering in 1951 from The Pennsylvania State University using the G.I. Bill. He was a member of five honorary fraternities.
In July 1951, Megonnell was commissioned into the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) as a Junior Assistant Sanitary Engineer (Ensign) and stationed in the Dallas, Texas, regional office of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). He had responsibility for interstate carrier sanitation, but also carried out other engineering duties which included inspections of a Veteran’s Administration hospital and the Leprosarium at Carville, Louisiana.
In April 1953, Megonnell transferred to Washington, D.C., and was assigned to the Interstate Carrier Branch of the Bureau of State Services to prepare training manuals. In that position, he traveled to all the HEW regional offices to observe inspections by regional staffs to promote a uniform inspection methodology.
When the first Federal air pollution legislation was passed in July 1955, Megonnell was selected to receive specialized graduate training in air pollution control at Harvard University, which awarded him an M.S. degree in engineering in 1956. The rest of his career was devoted to the analysis and control of air pollution. He authored numerous articles in various environmental publications, lectured at many colleges and universities, and testified before Congressional committees on the topic of air pollution and health.
In 1956-57, while detailed to the Interstate Sanitation Commission, he served as the project manager for the New York-New Jersey Interstate Air Pollution Study while based at the PHS Region II office in New York City. While on assignment to the New York State Department of Health in 1958, he authored “A Review of Air Pollution in New York State;” prepared a survey procedure which was adopted for use by the State’s Air Pollution Control Program; and presided over the Air Pollution Survey of Greater Elmira, New York. He returned to the New York Regional Office in 1959 and served as the Regional Air Pollution Consultant for the 10 states in PHS Regions I and II.
In 1964, Megonnell transferred from the New York Regional Office of HEW to Washington, D.C. to become Assistant Chief and later Chief of the newly formed Abatement Branch of the Division of Air Pollution in HEW. In this position, he served as Presiding Officer at abatement conferences and rule-making hearings under the Clean Air Act. He also supervised the development of innovative survey methods that were incorporated into legislation and regulatory procedures of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to which he was transferred when EPA was established in 1970. In recognition of his leadership and responsibilities, William Megonnell was promoted to Assistant Surgeon General, with the equivalent rank of Rear Admiral lower half (RADM), on September 11, 1968. He retired from the PHS Commissioned Corps on April 1, 1973.
In 1973, RADM (ret.) Megonnell began work for the National Association of Electric Companies as an Environmental Advisor. That Association amalgamated with the Edison Electric Institute in 1978, and he became the Director, Legislative Affairs (Environment). Betty Megonnell passed away in 1981. In 1982, he married the former Veronica F. Fischetti. In 1989, he retired to Annapolis, Maryland. Veronica Megonnell passed away in 2008.
RADM (ret.) Megonnell was a Registered Professional Engineer in New York and West Virginia. He is a past Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. His awards include the USPHS Meritorious Service Medal, USPHS Commendation Medal, the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He was also recognized with the S. Smith Griswold Award by the Air Pollution Control Association.
RADM (ret.) Megonnell currently resides in Annapolis, Maryland. He is a life member of the Military Officers Association of America, Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS, National Association for Uniformed Services (past national chairman), and the American Legion. He is also the past Commander of the Annapolis, Maryland, chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars.