ASCE Honors 5 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

March 24, 2014

ASCE OPAL Gala 2014At its annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) gala, held March 20 in Arlington, Virginia, at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, ASCE paid tribute to 5 eminent engineers who have made a career out of advancing the profession and whose lifetime achievements have profoundly carried the civil engineering profession forward and improved the lives of so many.

ASCE presented lifetime achievement awards to 5 distinguished Society members: Joseph P. Welsh, P.E., F.ASCE, for construction; Jon D. Magnusson, P.E., S.E., F.SEI, Dist.M.ASCE, for design; Jeffrey S. Russell, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, for education; John R. Njord, P.E., M.ASCE, for government, and J. Richard Capka, P.E., NAC, M.ASCE, for management.

“It is an honor to share such a special night with all of you” said ASCE President Randall “Randy” S. Over, P.E., F.ASCE, in his opening remarks. “We’re here this evening to celebrate the finest in our profession.”

Welsh, vice-president emeritus at Hayward Baker, Inc., was honored by ASCE for his work in underground construction and his extraordinary contributions to the civil engineering profession over a more-than-50-year career. Welsh, who oversaw the firm’s engineering and marketing operations, has worked on more than 2,400 geotechnical construction projects. In this capacity, he contributed such innovative techniques as dynamic deep compaction and deep soil mixing, saving his clients construction time and thousands of dollars.

“This is a great honor,” says Welsh. “I am especially glad that ASCE is recognizing the specialty contractors and subcontractors as part of the build/construct industry; we’re a very important part of the civil engineering community.”

Magnusson, senior principal at Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Inc. (MKA), was honored by ASCE for his continued work in enhancing public safety, improving the built environment, and innovating. In the past 10 years he has overseen $2.5 billion in construction projects, and some of his most notable work includes the CenturyLink Field in Seattle, the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, and the U.S. Courthouse in Seattle. In the past 27 years, 25 of his projects have received the American Council of Engineering Companies National Engineering Excellence awards.

“I really look at this award as recognition of the whole team of people that I have been working with over the years,” says Magnusson. “Engineering is a team sport.”

Russell, member of the National Academy of Construction, vice-provost for lifelong learning and dean of continuing studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-Madison), was honored by ASCE for his extraordinary contributions in the area of civil engineering education and development of the Raise the Bar Initiative. Russell, who joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1989 as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, cofounded the Construction Engineering and Management Program and developed the construction curriculum. As an educator, ASCE recognized Russell as a professional engineer dedicated to utilizing emerging technology in the classroom in order to prepare the next generation of engineers.

“This really means a lot to me as a crescendo event in my career and something that I will cherish tonight and for a long time,” says Russell. “Given the history and tradition of ASCE and what we do as a professional society to enhance the quality of life for others, this honor means a great deal to me. I will cherish this for as long as I live.”  

Njord, recently retired executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), was honored by ASCE for having one of the most innovative and best-run transportation departments in the U.S. Njord’s contributions were instrumental to UDOT leading the nation in a variety of areas, including accelerated bridge construction (ABC); projects delivered using the A+B method, which reduces inconvenience for drivers while greatly decreasing construction time; and increased funding for transportation projects. With Njord’s leadership, UDOT was an early adopter of the context-sensitive approach to project development, for which Njord was a strong advocate and which has since become a widely utilized method. 

“I think this was something beyond what I could possibly imagine,” says Njord. “As a young engineering student at the University of Utah, all I ever wanted to do was build projects; to be honored in this way is beyond anything that I could have ever possibly imagined.”

Capka, a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal highway administrator, was honored by ASCE for a career in which he oversaw some of the nation’s most important infrastructure projects. Capka served as CEO of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority during construction of Boston’s Central Artery and Tunnel Project, also known as “The Big Dig.” While serving as Federal Highway Administrator, he helped the Bush administration’s transportation reauthorization proposals, shaped the management of highway projects nationwide, and, in 2003, was the first U.S. Department of Transportation officer to deploy to Iraq. He is presently chief operating officer at Dawson & Associates.

“It was surprise when it was first announced and it still is a surprise right now and a little overwhelming being honored by ASCE in this fashion,” says Capka. “It is terrific and I am certainly honored but also recognize that it is not just me alone who deserves the recognition tonight. This is very humbling.”

 Pankow and Michel Awards

RABIT-PankowAwardAmong the evening’s highlights, ASCE presented the Pankow award to the RABIT Bridge Deck Inspection Tool, an automated data-driven decision tool that integrates multiple advanced nondestructive evaluation technologies to collect quality information on concrete bridge deck condition with high precision. The Pankow award was established to celebrate collaboration in innovative design, materials, or construction-related research and development transferred into practice in a sustainable manner.

The RABIT Bridge Inspection Tool was developed through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, a leading transportation research center, and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey. The bridge inspection tool is a product of the FHWA’s Long-Term Bridge Performance Program, a research initiative intended to develop a quantitative bridge performance database from a large representative sample of bridges around the country. CAIT is the principal investigating institution on LTBP. Other collaborators on the RABIT Bridge Deck Inspection Tool include Geomedia Research and Development, and IDS–Italy (Ingegneria Dei Sistemi).

“Thank you so much ASCE for this distinguished award,” said Nenad Gucunski, professor and chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers University in accepting the Pankow award. “Let me quote Victor Mendez, acting deputy secretary [of the U.S. Department of
Transportation], who from the very first RABIT demonstration said, ‘I want you all to remember this day; this is the start of a whole new industry. I sincerely hope that it inspires many new approaches and devices in the years ahead as we grow accustomed to seeing robots on our bridges and highways.’”

Pearlman, Seth - MichelAwardSeth L. Pearlman, P.E., D.GE, M.ASCE, president and CEO of Menard USA, was presented ASCE’s 2014 Michel award for being “a translational researcher – a professional who combines research sense with a desire to see technology applied and proven.” Pearlman, who has more than 30 years of experience in the geotechnical industry, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). A member of ASCE’s Geo-Institute, Pearlman serves on an advisory council to the CMU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“How can I be honored over so many other qualified people,” asked Pearlman in accepting his award. “Perhaps it stems from a series of opportunities. The opportunity my parents afforded me to attend a great university [CMU], the encouragement that they gave; saying things like, ‘join things, participate, and put yourself out there.’ And the opportunity to be inspired by that university and its great professors; they taught us not just how to do things but how to think and create things.”

The award was established in 1996 in honor of Henry L. Michel, past chairman of the board of directors of the former Civil Engineering Research Foundation, and is presented annually to an individual who is a recognized and acknowledged leader “of the design and construction industry, whose dedication and aggressive vision have provided cornerstones for improving the quality of people’s lives around the world through research in the design and construction industry.”

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