Get to Know Jean-Louis Briaud, ASCE’s 2020 President-Elect

July 18, 2019

Jean-Louis Briaud has been elected ASCE’s 2020 president-elect by a majority of Society members and will advance to serve as 2021 president.

Briaud, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE, has taught at Texas A&M University since 1978, most recently as a distinguished professor since 2015.

Briaud has served in several Society roles. The Distinguished Member recently completed a three-year term on the board of direction as a technical region director and was president of the Geo-Institute from 2008 to 2009. He also led the Federation of International Geo-Engineering Societies from 2014 to 2018 as its president.

But what is his favorite book? Which actor does he think would play him in a movie about his life?

ASCE News went looking for answers, in a fun, get-to-know-you Q&A.

What initially sparked your interest in civil engineering?

My father told me, “Thou shalt be a civil engineer,” and I said, “Yes sir.”

Of what are you most proud in your career?

Helping people day in and day out to the best of my ability, particularly my family, my friends, my students and my colleagues.

At the end of a long work day, how do you relax?

I play tennis until I am exhausted.

Favorite book?

“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Neither.

Ideal vacation spot?

The Island of Re off the coast of La Rochelle in France.

Favorite television show?

Grand Slam tennis finals.

One thing ASCE members would be surprised to learn about you?

I played rugby when I was younger.

Favorite food?

Chocolate, although trying hard to stay away from it.

Favorite sports team?

Rafael Nadal for his talent, his fighting spirit, his work ethic and his remarkable behavior under pressure.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Piano at the amateur level (classical and jazz).

What is your favorite civil engineering landmark?

Washington Monument.

What is one thing on your bucket list?

I have two, actually, but it is a big secret. Sorry, can’t tell you.

Most used app?

Uber.

Favorite song?

“Minor Swing” by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.

When you spend time with family, what do you all like doing?

Talk, hug and laugh around the kitchen table.

Go-to pizza toppings?

Ham and pineapple.

Favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor?

Mint chocolate chip, but actually none, I am on a diet.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be happy, and I finally realized that happiness is a choice when I was 19.

If they made a movie about your life, what actor would play you?

Jean-Claude Van Damme.

What is the most challenging project you have ever worked on?

The consolidation of the Cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, one of the sites of the D-Day landing in Normandy, France. The engineering problem was relatively simple, but the emotions were overwhelming, just thinking of the 200 young Americans who were ready to sacrifice their lives to come and deliver my parents. Forever grateful!

What is a quality you admire the most in someone?

Reliability.

What was your first car?

A beat-up Renault 4L with a lousy 32-horse-power engine that could barely reach 50 mph when going downhill with wind in the back, cloth seats held together with suspender-style rubber bands. But I had cruise control (a big rock that I would put on the accelerator to relax my foot) and had the best sound system and set of music speakers I could afford.

If you were a Harry Potter character which one would you be?

Who’s Harry Potter?

6 Comments
  • Amen on the rugby!

  • Avatar Robert D Stevens

    Good to see Jean Louis is another civil engineer who plays a musical instrument. Many of us engineers sing or play a musical instrument. Best wishes to Jean Louis as he takes on the role of ASCE President-Elect in October 2019 leading up to his time as 2021 President starting in October 2020.

  • Avatar Joseph Logan, PE

    I attended your deep foundations seminar at A&M back in the ’80’s. You were engaging, enlightening, and very personable to all of us. At an after-hours reception, I asked how you would describe “Lignite”, as we were discussing a nearby power plant powered by lignite. Your response was “coal that didn’t quite make it”. That solidified my opinion of your personality, that was confirmed again by the Q&A here.
    Congratulations on your election – you are an outstanding representative of our Civil Engineering community!
    Joe L.

  • Jean-Louis, Congratulations on ASCE Presidency and thanks for all you profession related work over the past 20 years.
    Regards
    Dick
    Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Michigan

  • Our profession is lucky to have you, all because one day you said, “Yes sir.”

    Thanks for all you’ve done for Civil Engineering!

    Looking forward to your continued service in you new assignment!

  • Jean Louis,

    CONGRATULATIONS for your new assignment !!!
    You never rest !!!!

    Well done ! Keep going with your above- standard energy and optimism !!!!

    Reliability is in your DNA !!
    Ciao
    Massimo C.

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