HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Called one of Huntsville Center's most brilliant engineers by Engineering Director Boyce Ross, Ralph Schuler ended his career April 25 in the conference room where he attended countless meetings during his 32 years with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the room overflowing with family, friends and co-workers, Huntsville Center Commander Col. Robert Ruch celebrated the career of Schuler, chief of the Center's Management Review Office, where he had been the program manager in support of a classified Department of Defense mission since 1990.

"I'm honored, I'm humbled and I'm very grateful," he said to the group gathered to wish him farewell.

While Schuler joked that his program's mission is "so highly classified that even I don't know what I'm doing," he spoke with pride of the extremely talented, passionate and dedicated people he's had the opportunity to work with on the program.

Schuler, who received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award from Ruch during the ceremony, also earned two Superior Civilian Service Awards during his career at the Huntsville Center, as well as a Service Citation from the Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq, and the U.S. Army Engineer Association's bronze de Fleury Medal. His wife Nancy pinned on his civilian retirement pin before Ruch presented a retirement letter from President Barrack Obama and a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor at the request of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. Shortly before his retirement, Schuler was specially recognized by the Army's Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, according to Ruch, which he said is a rarity and speaks volumes about Schuler's contributions to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Robert E. Slockbower, Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division's Director of Military Programs, presented Schuler with a surveyor's compass, explaining how it is representative of his leadership, vision and contributions across the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Ralph truly is an exceptional engineer," said Slockbower. "Talk about engineering excellence -- if you were going to have a dictionary … the picture you would see next to engineering excellence is Ralph Schuler. I can't tell you how much you have done for us, providing that engineering excellence.

"There are a thousand challenges that we have met every day to be able to accomplish our mission; you've had that vision -- you've laid out the way ahead for us. This compass is really indicative and representative of that vision and your service to the nation we are all so proud of, and we are going to miss you so much."

A group of Individual Mobilization Augmentee Soldiers who support his program led an effort to have a conference room in a Redstone Arsenal building named in Schuler's honor, further evidence of the impact he's had on the mission, as well as the Soldiers and civilians with whom he has worked.

The son of Albert E. Schuler, a member of Wernher von Braun's German rocket team who came to the United States after World War II, Ralph is a registered professional engineer in the state of Tennessee and a certified project management professional. Schuler earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and started his engineering career in 1972 with Teledyne Brown Engineering performing stress analysis of space vehicle structures in support of NASA's Apollo space program.

Following that he took a position in the engineering design division of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in Knoxville, Tenn., and then worked as a mechanical group leader responsible for installation, testing and documentation for operations of mechanical systems at TVA's Hartsville Nuclear Plant.

Schuler first came to the Huntsville Center as a lead mechanical engineer in 1982 for a variety of military programs including Army ammunition facilities and chemical demilitarization, working with "things that go boom," Ruch said. In 1984 he became chief of the special projects branch of Huntsville Center's Engineering Division.

"I am retiring; I don't plan to work again," Schuler said at the end of the ceremony. "After 42 years I think I got the whole work thing out of my system. Nancy and I have a big list of things to do, places to go and sights to see. … When we sit down in the evening and watch the sun set, I'll think happily of my time here and the friendships I've made."