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Fisher receives top honor from AISC

John W. Fisher

John W. Fisher, the Joseph T. Stuart Professor emeritus of civil engineering, recently became the third consecutive Lehigh alumnus and former civil engineering faculty member to receive the Geerhard Haaijer Award for Excellence in Education from the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The Geerhard Haaijer Educator Award recognizes individuals who have had a “profound impact” in mentoring future technical leaders or in developing unique applications for engineering practice. The award also honors those who, through research and teaching, have advanced the use of structural steel framing in the construction industry.

The Haaijer Award is named for the late Geerhard Haaijer, who earned a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1956, and became director of research at U.S. Steel and vice president for engineering and research at AISC.

The March issue of Structure magazine, in reporting Fisher’s award, described him as “an expert on fatigue and fracture” and said the list of students with whom he has worked at Lehigh “is too long to even begin to mention.”

Fisher is the founder and former director of Lehigh’s ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Research Center, which was established two decades ago and is one of the leading structural-research laboratories in the world.

In the past 45 years, Fisher has examined most of the major failures of steel structures in the U.S. He and other Lehigh researchers pinpointed a popular weld metal as the cause of many structural failures during the 1994 Northridge-Los Angeles Earthquake. Fisher also served on a panel of national experts that investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, and prepared a report for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Award-winning career

Fisher, who earned an M.S. from Lehigh in 1958 and a Ph.D. in 1964, has won most of the awards and distinctions in his field during his 50-year career with the university. In 1999, he joined a company including Herbert Hoover, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, when he received the John Fritz Medal from representatives of five of the world’s premiere engineering societies. That same year, he was named by ENR, the leading journal in the construction industry, as one of the “Top 125 People” of the 125 years since ENR’s founding.

Of Fisher, the magazine wrote, “After helping to conduct post-mortems on nearly every major failure of a steel structure, from the Hartford Civic Center to the Mianus River Bridge, Fisher campaigned for research to advance technology and prevent failures. Fisher’s research has advanced the knowledge of fatigue and brittle fractures of steel.”

In 2003, the Haaijer Award was granted to the late Lynn Beedle, professor emeritus of civil engineering at Lehigh, who received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1952. Beedle, founder of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, also received the John Fritz Medal and was named one of ENR’s Top 125 People.

In 2000, the Haaijer Award was given to Theodore V. Galambos, professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. Galambos earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1959 and taught civil engineering here from 1959 to 1965.

The Chicago-based AISC is a non-profit organization that promotes structural-steel-related technical and market-building activities.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2006

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