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George Tamaro '61 M.S. wins Fritz Medal

George Tamaro '61 M.S., who played a major role in stabilizing the foundation of the World Trade Center after it was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, has received the John Fritz Medal from the American Association of Engineering Sciences. The medal is "the highest award in the engineering profession," according to AAES.

In October, Tamaro will receive the Lynn Beedle Award, which is named for the late professor of civil engineering at Lehigh and founder of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Tamaro, a partner of Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, was the third consecutive Lehigh civil engineering alumnus to win the Fritz Award.

Beedle, who received a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1952, won the award in 1995. John Fisher '64 Ph.D., professor emeritus of civil engineering and founder of the ATLSS Research Center, was recognized in 2000.

The Fritz Award rotates among the five leading international engineering societies that make up the AAES, so that each discipline has one winner every five years. Those societies are the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical & Petroleum Engineers; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Tamaro was surprised to learn he had won the Fritz Award. "I thought they lowered the standards," he says with a laugh. "But I am honored to join the ranks of Lynn Beedle and John Fisher."

The Fritz Medal citation says Tamaro's peers describe him as "a man of tremendous foresight and technical acumen; one of those rare engineers who has gained a broad perspective of design and construction through his work as an owner's representative, a contractor and a consulting engineer."

The citation praises Tamaro for "using his knowledge of the underground spaces in and around the World Trade Center to provide guidance for emergency workers to safely navigate the site above and below ground."

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Tamaro helped build the WTC while working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He oversaw construction of the perimeter wall, which extended eight city blocks below the ground. The wall, nicknamed "the bathtub," was constructed from slurry walls, which Tamaro describes as "special walls built from the top down" that prevent water from entering the site.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, Tamaro was asked to help stabilize the underground structure. He assembled construction companies to clear the debris and build support for the bathtub. Then he designed a process to move large equipment into the small area.

When the towers were hit, the slurry walls of the bathtub began to collapse. If the walls had failed, said Fisher, the New York City streets and the subway system could have flooded.

Since the attacks, Tamaro has been designing the foundations for the structures that will replace the World Trade Center.

The Beedle Award is given by the Structural Stability Research Council to Lehigh alumni who have achieved excellence in civil engineering. The SSRC was formerly headquartered at Lehigh and is now located in Florida.

The Beedle Award has been given twice. Theodore V. Galambos, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota who earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1959, was honored in 2002. Yuhshi Fukumoto, a professor of civil engineering at Japan's Fukuyama University who earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1963, was honored in 2004.

Fisher and Tamaro, who were both students of Beedle, said their professor inspired them to become civil engineers. After Fisher and Tamaro graduated, they remained good friends with Beedle.

"Beedle was very demanding, which is good," Tamaro says.

Tamaro and Fisher met in the lab while Tamaro was completing his master's degree, says Tamaro. The two men have maintained a steady friendship and enjoy a mutual respect.

by Becky Straw '06

Posted on Friday, July 01, 2005

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