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ATLSS founder John Fisher receives 2007 Beedle Award

John W. Fisher

John W. Fisher, who has won most of the awards given in the field of structural engineering, added another honor earlier this month when he received the Lynn S. Beedle Distinguished Civil and Environmental Engineering Award.

Fisher, a professor emeritus of civil engineering and the founder and former director of Lehigh’s ATLSS Center, was cited for “innovative and internationally recognized research in steel structures, structural connections, fatigue and fracture, and bridge engineering.”

He was also recognized for “forty years of outstanding leadership of major research programs” at Lehigh and at the Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Center.

The Beedle Award is named for Lynn Beedle, distinguished professor of civil engineering at Lehigh and founder of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, who died in 2003 after a Lehigh career that spanned six decades.

This award, which is endowed by gifts from faculty members in Lehigh’s department of civil and environmental engineering, is given annually to a graduate or faculty member in the department for outstanding achievements in civil or environmental engineering.

Like Beedle, Fisher is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a former recipient of the John Fritz Medal, which is given annually by representatives of five of the world’s premiere engineering societies.

In 1999, Fisher and Beedle were included by ENR Magazine, the top journal of the construction industry, among the “Top 125 People” in construction in the 125 years since ENR’s founding.

The magazine noted that Fisher in the previous 30 years had “helped conduct post-mortems on nearly every major failure of a steel structure, from the Hartford Civic Center (1978) to the Mianus River Bridge (1983), [while] campaigning for research to advance technology and prevent failures. Fisher’s research has advanced the knowledge of fatigue and brittle fractures of steel.”

In 2002, Fisher served on the national commission that concluded that fire caused the collapse of the World Trade Center. Previously, he and a team of Lehigh engineers had implicated a faulty weld in the failures of more than 200 steel buildings during the 1994 Northridge-Los Angeles Earthquake.

Fisher is currently working with Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates Inc., the Chicago-based engineering consulting firm chosen by the state of Minnesota to investigate the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007. One of Fisher’s former students, Robert Connor, a former ATLSS senior research engineer and now an assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, is also a member of the panel investigating the failure. Connor received a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 2002.

Previous recipients of the Beedle Award include:

• George C. Lee (2004), former dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SUNY-Buffalo, who earned a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1960. Lee received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President George W. Bush last month.

• George J. Tamaro (2005), a partner with Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers in New York, who earned an M.S. from Lehigh in 1961. Tamaro, who received the Fritz Medal in 2005, played a major role in stabilizing the foundation of the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

• Anthony G. Collins (2006), president of Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. Collins received a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1982.

Beedle himself received the first Beedle Award shortly before his death in 2003.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2007

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