Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Fisher will receive prestigious OPAL Award

John W. Fisher

John W. Fisher, one of the world’s foremost experts in structural connections, especially fatigue and fracture in bolted and welded connections, has been chosen to receive a career award from the world’s top professional society for civil engineering.

Fisher, professor emeritus of civil engineering, will receive the OPAL (Outstanding Projects and Leaders) Lifetime Achievement Award for Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

ASCE, which was founded in 1852, represents more than 140,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society.

“John Fisher’s research and work as a structural engineer have led to significant innovations in the design and repair of steel bridges,” said ASCE President William F. Marcuson III. “His achievements have greatly enhanced the health, safety and economy of our nation and the world.”

Fisher, the founder and long-time director of Lehigh’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Center, will receive the award on April 25 during ASCE’s annual OPAL Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

Since joining the Lehigh faculty in 1964, Fisher has led investigations into many of the world’s most noted failures of steel structures. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he served on a panel of experts that analyzed the collapse of the World Trade Center and prepared a report for ASCE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Previously, Fisher and other Lehigh researchers pinpointed a popular weld metal as the cause of many failures during the 1994 Northridge-Los Angeles Earthquake. Fisher also helped determine the cause of the failures of the skywalk of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City in 1981 and the Hoan River Bridge on I-794 in Milwaukee in 2000. And he served as a member of a panel that recommended solutions to the problems associated with the deterioration of New York City’s Williamsburg Bridge.

In testimony before Congress and state legislatures, Fisher has called for increased funding for research, development and infrastructure improvements as a means of avoiding the much greater costs of infrastructure failure and inevitable litigation.

Awards are nothing new for Fisher

Fisher has received most of the awards available in his field. In 1999, he was named by ENR Magazine, the top journal of the construction industry, as one of the “Top 125 People” of the 125 years since ENR’s founding. That same year, he joined a distinguished company that includes Herbert Hoover, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison when he won the John Fritz Medal, which is given annually by representatives of five of the world’s premiere engineering societies.

In 2000, Fisher received the Roy W. Crum Award for outstanding achievement from the Transportation Research Board. He was cited for “oustanding contributions to bridge engineering and research, for pioneering work on detection and repair of fatigue cracking in steel bridges that has advanced the art of bridge engineering, and for research and guidance on fatigue and fracture resistance that have informed standard bridge design codes in the United States and abroad.”

The ASCE’s Marcuson also praised Fisher for his work in bringing the ATLSS Center to Lehigh in 1986. Marcuson said ATLSS, founded as a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, has served as a national focal point for scientific research and innovative technological developments for a new generation of large structural systems for the civil and marine infrastructure.

A native of Missouri, Fisher received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 1956 and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1958 and 1964. He is the author of more than 250 books and papers.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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