Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory.
Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory.
Established 1867 (1867)
Type Public
Department Head Professor Amr S. Elnashai
Academic staff 50
Students 1,150
Location Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
Colors      Illinois Blue[1]
     Illinois Orange[1]

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (also known as CEE at Illinois) was founded in 1871 as the Department of Civil Engineering, having been one of the four branches of the university’s Polytechnic Department since 1867, the year the University of Illinois was founded. In 1998 the name was changed to its current form. Now one of 12 departments within the University of Illinois College of Engineering, CEE at Illinois enjoys a strong reputation for undergraduate and graduate education and for civil engineering research and public service. It is consistently ranked as one of the top civil engineering programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

The department includes approximately 50 faculty, 800 undergraduate students, and 450 graduate students. It is housed in Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory and the Hydrosystems Laboratory on the north side of the U of I campus. A facility for transportation research, the Advanced Transportation and Research Laboratory, is located 15 miles away from campus in Rantoul, Ill. The department is also the headquarters of the Center of Excellence for Airport Technology (CEAT), the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT), an equipment site for the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, and other research and educational programs.



The civil engineering program at Illinois comprises seven main disciplines: (1) construction engineering and management, (2) construction materials engineering, (3) environmental engineering, (4) geotechnical engineering, (5) environmental hydrology and hydraulic engineering, (6) structural engineering, and (7) transportation engineering. While each discipline has its own special body of knowledge and engineering tools, they all rely on the same fundamental core principles. Civil engineering projects often draw expertise from many of these disciplines.

The civil engineering curriculum is designed to develop engineers who have a strong background in mathematics and science, engineers who are articulate, and engineers who understand the nature of their special role in society and the impact of their work on the progress of civilization. The curriculum is designed to guarantee a certain breadth of knowledge of the civil engineering disciplines through a set of core courses and ensure depth and focus in certain disciplines through primary and secondary areas of specialization. The curriculum develops the basic engineering tools necessary to solve problems in the field of civil engineering.

Degrees Conferred

Undergraduate students work toward a bachelor of science (B.S.) in civil engineering with primary and secondary areas of study chosen from one of the seven main areas. Master of science (M.S.) and Ph.D. degrees are offered in civil engineering, environmental engineering in civil engineering, and environmental science in civil engineering.



The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering had its birth in 1867 when it was named as one of four branches of the Polytechnic Department of the University. The University catalog for 1868-69 listed a faculty position in “Civil and Rural Engineering,” but that position was not filled. However in the 1869-70 catalog, Samuel Walker Shattuck was identified as “Professor of Civil Engineering.”

During the 1870-71 academic year, University records show the department as having been administered by Professor Stillman W. Robinson, head of the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, and as having a faculty that consisted of Shattuck as professor of mathematics and Professor Alexander Thompson as teacher of railroad engineering with leadership responsibility for the civil engineering department. Finally, in 1871, John Burkitt Webb was appointed as Professor of Civil Engineering and head of the department.

John B. Webb

The department continued to grow under the headships of John B. Webb (1871–78), Ira 0. Baker (1878–1915 and 1920–22), Frederick H. Newell (1915–20), and Clement C. Williams (1922–26).

It was clear from the beginning that the department recognized not only its responsibility to instill the knowledge of the profession in the minds of aspiring students, but also to generate new knowledge that could be used to advance the effectiveness of those in the profession, in order to serve better those needs of society that are met by civil engineers. Illustrative of the objectives of the department (frequently referred to as a “school” at that time), even in its very early years, are the following quotations that were taken from University publications of that era: From an 1870-71 report of the Board of Trustees: “This school is designed to make good practical Engineers, thoroughly prepared for all branches of Engineering work, Railroad sur¬veys, Topographic and Geodetic Surveying, Bridge building, Government surveying, etc.”

From an 1872-73 University Catalogue and Circular: “The School is designed to furnish a course of theoretical instruction accompanied and illustrated by a large amount of practice, which will enable students to enter intelligently upon the various and important duties of the Engineer. Those who desire a preparation at once broad and thorough, and who are willing to make persevering effort to obtain it, are cordially invited to connect themselves with this school.”

From an 1890-91 University Catalogue and Circular: “While the instruction aims to be practical by giving the student information and practice directly applicable to his future professional work, the prime object is the development of mental faculties. The power to acquire information and the ability to use it is held to be of far greater value than any amount of so-called practical acquirements.”

As the program of instruction of the department developed, so did laboratories that were needed not only to support that instruction, but also to provide the space and physical facilities that were needed to foster the research objectives of the department. According to records now available, initial efforts in laboratory equipment development were focused on the acquisition of surveying instruments. Evidence of this interest in the surveying component of the early curriculum is seen in the following statements that were taken from the 1890-91 issue of the University Catalogue and Circular:

“The school is provided with the instruments necessary for the different branches of engineering field practice, including chains, tapes, compasses, plane tables, stadias, transits, levels, barometers, base rods and comparing apparatus, sextants, engineer’s transits arranged for astronomical obser¬vation, and solar compass attachments for transit.

“A portable altitude and azimuth instrument of the latest and best form from the celebrated makers, Troughton & Simms, of London, is used for instruction in geodesy and practical astronomy. It is read by micrometer microscope to single seconds, both of altitude and of azimuth. The astronomical observatory is provided with an equatorial telescope, and astronomical transit, with attachment for zenith telescope work, a chronometer, and a set of meteorological instruments.”

In view of the emphasis then given to surveying instruction, this is not unexpected. Surveying continued to hold a strong place in the undergraduate curriculum until the early 1950s, requiring at that time 10 semester hours for all students, and an additional six hours of surveying electives for use by some students. Today, the department offers no courses in surveying.

In 1889, Professor Baker established a “Cement and Masonry Laboratory,” later to be known as the “Cement and Concrete Laboratory,” and a companion “Road Materials Laboratory,” which dealt primarily with stone, gravel, brick and bituminous materials, was established in 1906. In 1923, the work of this laboratory was split into two separate units, a “Bituminous Materials Laboratory” and a “Non-Bituminous Materials Laboratory.” In a closely related development, a structural research laboratory, the initial focus of which was the experimental study of reinforced concrete, was established in 1923. All three of these laboratories were first located in temporary space, but were moved into the new “Materials Testing Laboratory” (later to be known as “Talbot Laboratory”) in 1929.

Even in its earliest days, the department recognized the particular needs of cities to deal effectively with their public water supply and distribution systems, as well as with their sewage collection, treatment, and disposal systems. However, in 1890, it was decided that these subjects could be more effectively dealt with in a separate “Department of Municipal and Sanitary Engineering,” which, it was hoped, would attract more students and serve better the needs of society in these areas. Later in 1926, it was decided that this was not a good idea. The new department was then discontinued, and its responsibilities were returned to the Department of Civil Engineering, at which time a Sanitary Engineering laboratory was established.

But the Department of Municipal and Sanitary Engineering, however brief its life, had a great impact on the development of our department. The head of that department was Arthur Newell Talbot, who served also as head of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. As an undergraduate student in civil engineering, from which he received his degree, Talbot demonstrated clearly not only his innate intellectual abilities (an average grade on all undergraduate work of 98 percent), but also the extraordinary breadth of his interests. While performing with distinction in technical areas, he also took leadership roles in literary society activities on campus, holding several offices in the Philomathean organization, as a delegate to the Interstate Oratorical Association, and as an associate engineering editor for The Illini.

From the available records, it appears that Professor Samuel W. Shattuck, a native of Massachusetts with B.S., A.M. and C.E. degrees from Norwich University in Vermont, who served as the first professor of civil engineering, was a veteran of the Civil War and a man of outstanding managerial and leadership abilities. His appointment in engineering was effective in 1869; however, because of other responsibilities that were given to Shattuck shortly thereafter, direc¬tion of the civil engineering program from March 1870 until November 1871 was assigned to Professor Stillman W. Robinson, head of the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. Interestingly, Robinson, though not a member of the CE faculty, was well qualified to direct its program, since he had received a civil engineering degree from the University of Michigan in 1863, and had taught mining engineering and geodesy there for several years. Following his service to Civil Engineering, Shattuck was appointed to successively higher positions of leadership within the University, including those of Vice-Regent, Business Agent and Manager, and Comptroller.

John B. Webb, who followed Shattuck and Robinson as a leader of the civil engineering program, was born in Philadelphia and received his CE degree from the University of Michigan in 1871. He had a somewhat longer tenure in the position (1871–78), and he is remembered primarily for his insistence that his students perform at very high standards. Indeed, according to available records, he was regarded as a superb teacher, but also as one whose demands upon the students were excessive and unreasonable. However, in later years, many of his former students are reported to have admitted that his teaching style was more effective than they had realized at the time. In 1878, he took a leave of absence from the University to go abroad but resigned before returning.

Frederick H. Newell, the third head of the department, came to Illinois to fill that position in 1915. He, too, was a native of Pennsylvania (Bradford), but his academic degree was in mining engineering from MIT. He had no academic administrative or teaching experience at that time, his prior work having been with the U. S. Geological Survey and the U. S. Reclamation Service, through which he had become highly regarded and admired by his fellow professionals. Indicative of his professional status was his appointment as the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. A further indication of his reputation is given in the following statement that was written of him by President Theodore Roosevelt: “He is a public servant of whom it is the bald and literal truth to say, that by his services he has made all good American citizens his debtors.”

However, in 1920, Newell observed that he could not get interested in the “educative process,” and resigned his position at the U of I to engage in consulting work in Washington, D.C.

Ira Osborn Baker, the second head of the department, is the individual who influenced most strongly the early development of the department, having led the department for the periods 1878-1915 and 1920–1922, for a total of 39 years. He received his B.S. and C.E. degrees from the U of I in 1874 and 1878, respectively, and was appointed Assistant Professor in Charge of Civil Engineering in 1879. He was promoted to Professor in Charge of the Department in 1880.

Baker was a man of extraordinary capabilities and energy. During his tenure as department head, he taught courses in engineering drawing, surveying, railroad engineering, bridges, masonry construction, geodesy, descriptive and practical astronomy, tunneling, contracts and specifications, roads and pavements, and analytical mechanics. In the absence of adequate textbooks for his students’ use, he prepared such texts for surveying, masonry construction, and roads and pavements, and published them in blueprint form. As noted earlier, he also established cement testing and road materials laboratories to improve both the instructional and research programs of the department. He was also unusually active in professional organizations, having conceived and founded both “The Western Society of Engineers” and “The Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education,” the second of which evolved into “The American Society for Engineering Education,” which is the primary engineering education organization of today.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to it, the University of Illinois awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in 1903. Baker retired from the University in 1922 after 48 years of service, 39 of which were as Head of the Department of Civil Engineering.

Clement Clarence Williams, the fourth head of the department, was a native Illinoisan with a C.E. degree from the University of Colorado. He came to Illinois in 1922, following service on the faculties of the University of Colorado and the University of Kansas. He resigned from the Illinois faculty in 1926 to assume positions of higher responsibility at other institutions, culminating in the Presidency of Lehigh University.


The Great Depression, followed by World War II and the economically booming post-war years all affected the department in varying ways during this most interesting period in history. When Professor Huntington became head in 1926, the department had an academic faculty of 16 members at ranks of instructor and above, five graduate research assistants, one laboratory technician, and one secretary; and it had an annual operating budget of about $70,000. Faculty salaries ranged from about $2,400 for instructors to an average of about $4,750 per year for full professors. The department secretary was paid $1,200 per year, and graduate research assistants received $600 per year, presumably for half-time appointments.

The same situation prevailed for much of the next several years; by 1932-33, the department budget had grown to about $77,000, while the faculty and staff, as well as enrollments, had remained essentially unchanged. But in the next academic year, 1933–34, disaster, in the form of a severe national economic depression, struck the University. For that year, the budget suffered a reduction of about 18 percent, shrinking to about $63,000. All faculty members took substantial cuts in salary, and graduate research assistants were eliminated. In the 1933-34 annual report of the department, special note was taken of the severe negative impact that the elimination of research assistants would have on the department’s research program and, correspondingly, on its reputation unless the situation could be corrected in the near future.

Particularly because of the work of Professor Wilbur M. Wilson, who began and was the driving force behind the structural testing laboratory, as well as that of closely associated and collaborating faculty members in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM), the department had already acquired a highly regarded reputation for its research. During the 1930s, undergraduate enrollment fluctuated between about 250 and 290, and the graduate enrollment between about 20 and 30, and despite the Depression that engulfed the nation, the department’s budget recovered from the reductions of 1933. By 1940 the budget had reached about $80,000, and the academic faculty had grown slightly to 18 members, plus seven graduate research assistants. Perhaps it was the commitment and responsibility that Huntington observed in his faculty in the early days of the Depression that led him to include in his 1933-34 annual report the following quote by writer Henrietta Ripperger from the April 1934 issue of The Atlantic Monthly: “Among professional men, engineers are the best paid. It has been said that engineers are the happiest of God’s creatures. They deal in facts; they see a task, and they do it. Their work, always difficult and challenging, seldom proves impossible. They have a tradition of accomplishment. It is merely in keeping with their whole habit of life and thought that, if they have debts, they try to pay them. It is interesting to note here that the kind of mental training they have had seems directly to produce responsibility in money affairs, a result of education so unusual as to be almost unique.”

The undergraduate curriculum evolved during this period. In the early years, all students followed the same curriculum, but in 1915, the inability of the department curriculum to cover adequately the expanding breadth of the profession within four years led to students being permitted to specialize their programs somewhat by selecting, in their fourth years, among General, Highway, or Structural engineering options. In the years that followed, additional program flexibility was introduced so that, by 1940, a student could specialize in any one of six options: General, Highway, Hydraulic, Railway, Sanitary, or Structural engineering. Numerous similar curriculum changes were made in the following years in order to better satisfy the interests of the students and the needs of the profession. One curriculum change of this era seems worthy of special note. In 1946, the Sanitary Engineering option was replaced by a separate four-year curriculum leading to a B.S. in Sanitary Engineering. This change was precipitated by a requirement of that era which stipulated that a candidate for a state or federal position in the field of sanitary engineering had to have a degree in that field. The degree was discontinued in the 1960s.

An important instructional activity of the department during this era was the Summer Surveying Camp that was held at the former Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Rabideau at Blackduck, Minn. Preceded by three weeks of instruction on campus, this five-week surveying camp was authorized in 1945, first implemented in 1946, and discontinued in 1973. The surveying program was administered at that time by W. H. Rayner. After he retired in 1952, he was succeeded by M. O. Schmidt.

Much of the early reputation of the department was generated through the widespread use of textbooks that were authored by members of this faculty. Before 1945, the faculty had produced more than 50 textbooks, many of which were adopted for use at a large number of schools. Illustrative of these well-known textbooks are the following: Babbitt’s “Sewerage and Sewage Treatment,” Babbitt and Doland’s “Water Supply Engineering,” Bauer’s “Highway Materials” and “Plain Concrete,” Huntington’s “Building Construction,” Pickels and Wiley’s “Route Surveying,” Rayner’s “Surveying” and “Advanced Surveying,” Shedd and Vawter’s “Theory of Simple Structures,” Shedd’s “Structural Design in Steel,” and Wiley’s “Principles of Highway Engineering.” These and numerous others were written during the period covered by this article.

The contributions to the profession through the research efforts of the faculty also served to expand and enhance the reputation of the department as a center of graduate study. One such achievement was that of Professor Hardy Cross, who made an enormous contribution to the profession through development of a practical method for the rigorous analysis of highly indeterminate structures that he called “Moment Distribution.” Before the introduction of Cross’ method, such analyses could be carried out only through the solution of large numbers of simultaneous equations (the so-called “slope-deflection method”), which of course was impractical for many large, complex structures. Moment Distribution, which was essentially an approximate numerical solution of the slope-deflection equations, was used extensively throughout the profession for the analysis and design of complex structures until the digital computer came into widespread use and made the routine solution of large systems of simultaneous equations practical. To further the value of his analytical contribution, Cross also applied it successfully to the analysis of the flow through complex hydraulic pipe systems.

Cross resigned his position in 1937 to become head of the civil engineering department at Yale University. He was succeeded by Professor T. C. Shedd, who had worked closely with Cross at both U of I and earlier at Brown University, and by a young man, Nathan M. Newmark, who had recently received his Ph.D. here under the guidance of Cross and who had been appointed to the faculty in 1934. Although their efforts were directed differently, the work of both Shedd and Newmark in the years that followed enhanced enormously the reputation of the department in the area of structural engineering. Shedd’s contributions were directed primarily toward the instructional mission of the department, having been the co-author of two widely used texts, and in what might be called the professionalization of structural engineers; he was extensively involved in the development and implementation of the structural engineering registration requirements in the State of Illinois. Professor Newmark’s career development in the department took a different route, the primary thrust of his efforts being in the area of structural engineering research. In his early years here, he worked closely with Professor Wilbur M. Wilson who, at that time, had primary responsibility for the structural research program of the department, as well as with Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM) professors F. E. Richart, H. F. Moore, and other colleagues, who were actively engaged in closely related structural engineering and structural material research.

A noteworthy structural research program of this era was what came to be known familiarly within the department as “The Slab Project.” Conducted cooperatively with the TAM department, this project was under the general direction of TAM professor Richart, with Newmark having primary responsibility for the analytical studies that were an integral part of it. Professor Chester P. Siess was also involved in the project’s experimental aspects. The objective of the 10-year project was to improve our understanding of the behavior of reinforced concrete slabs under various support and loading conditions, and thereby to improve our ability to design and build such slabs. The results of this study had a profound effect on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) specifications for the design and construction of such slabs, as did the pre-stressed concrete research that was begun in the department in the early 1950s. Earlier analytical studies by TAM Professor H. M. S. Westergaard on the behavior of uniformly supported reinforced concrete slabs also influenced strongly the formulation of specifications for the design of rigid concrete pavements. Wilson’s other major research during this era included studies of welds and welding procedures, the behavior of reinforced concrete arch and rigid frame bridges, cylindrical shells and thin spheres, and the fatigue strength of riveted connections.

All of these, and many other related studies, had profound effects on the practice of structural engineering. Illustrative of the influence of these studies are the restrictions that, as a consequence of the fatigue-of-riveted-connections studies, were placed on the use of low-alloy steels for members that would be subjected to fatigue loading in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.

While the major research emphasis of the department during the early years of this era were in the areas of structural engineering, materials and mechanics, research programs had been developed and were being given increased emphasis in other technical areas as well. The expansion of research activities in other areas was greatly enhanced by the corresponding expansion of the physical facilities in which they could be conducted. To this end, a separate Sanitary Engineering Laboratory building was built in 1944, and a hydraulic engineering laboratory was established in a section of an unused physical plant warehouse nearby. Similarly, during that same period, the highway engineering research program was strengthened by the establishment of a small test track in a Quonset hut. All of these facilities, considered even at the time to be inadequate, were replaced in later years. The following research projects, along with many others, were conducted during the 1930s and 1940s:

  • Flow of Sludge in Pipes, Diatomite Water Filtration, Hydraulics of Wells and Open Channels, Disposal of Radioactive Wastes (Babbitt)
  • Flood Flows of Illinois Streams (Pickels)
  • Flow in Prismatic Channels (Lansford of TAM, in close cooperation with CE)
  • Foundation Pressure Distribution (Newmark)
  • Road Signs, their Size, Design and Placement (Wiley)
  • Pressures due to Granular Materials in Storage Bins (Huntington)
  • Loads of Culverts through Earth Embankments (Huntington)
  • Joints in Concrete Pavements (Crandell, Wiley, Huntington and Richart)
  • Hydraulic Model Tests of Spillways (Doland)
  • Hydraulic Analysis of Precipitation Data (Doland and Chow). This study provided the basis for the design of the drainage system of Chicago’s Congress Street Expressway, now Eisenhower Expressway.
  • Study of Dolomites in the Chicago Area to assess their suitability as aggregates (Bauer)
  • Soil Particle Size Determination (Bauer)

Even in a short history, note must be taken of the continuity and growth of the department’s highway engineering program, established by Professor C. C. Wiley and later expanded by Professor Ellis Danner, who joined the faculty in 1946. While the research program in this area was supported in the early years by the Illinois Division of Highways, stronger emphasis was given to it in 1952 with the establishment of the Illinois Cooperative Highway and Transportation Research Program (ICHTRP) which provided continuity of funding, of which the concrete slab studies were a part. There was widespread interest in the department’s work in transportation and highway engineering, as evidenced by the continuous existence of the Highway Engineering Conference, which has been offered continuously since 1914, except for 1945 and 1946 when World War II considerations forced its cancellation.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, as well as in the years to follow, the department’s programs were strongly influenced by World War II and its aftermath. Among the more visible of these influences was the presence of significant numbers of U.S. military officers working toward graduate degrees. All of the branches of the military-Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard—sent engineering officers to the department for advanced study. Paralleling this contribution to our nation’s military strength was the department’s substantial participation in research programs developed and funded by the U. S. Department of Defense. These programs included not only on-campus theoretical and experimental studies, but also studies conducted at the Nevada and Pacific military test sites concerning the effects of nuclear blast loadings on various types of structures.

Research and graduate study programs in all areas of the department continued to expand during the post-war years, much of it due to additions to the faculty that were made during the 1940s and early 1950s. Particularly significant among these faculty additions were Ralph B. Peck in geotechnical engineering, Richard S. Engelbrecht in environmental engineering (then called sanitary engineering), and Ven T. Chow in hydrology and hydraulic, or hydrosystems, engineering. All of these men, as well as many others such as Chester P. Siess, William J. Hall, William H. Munse, and Clyde E. Kesler in structural engineering, mechanics and materials, built upon the foundation that had been established by their predecessors and mentors to develop further the well-deserved reputation of the department as one of the world’s foremost centers of study and research in civil and environmental engineering.

During Prof. Huntington’s tenure as department head, the externally funded research budget of the department increased from about $15,000 to $640,000 per year. In like manner, the undergraduate and graduate enrollments in the department increased from 324 to 593 and from 30 to 154 students, respectively. There are numerous other faculty members of this era whose names have not yet appeared in this narrative but must be included in any summary of the department’s programs of that time. Such a list of names, incomplete as it almost certainly is, would include J. G. Dark, E. J. Daily, G. H. Dell, L. E. Goodman, W. E. Hanson, F. H. Reichert, W. A. Oliver and A. S. Veletsos in the structural program; J. C. Dietz who followed Babbitt as manager of the sanitary engineering program; John C. Guillou in hydraulics; W. W. Hay whose primary interest was in railroad engineering; C.S. Danner in surveying; and J. W. Briscoe, who served not only as a member of the structural engineering faculty but also as unofficial Assistant Head of the department.


In 1956, Nathan M. Newmark was selected as the sixth official head of the department. Newmark asked Professor J. W. (Jack) Briscoe to continue in the capacity of Associate Head that he had held during the later years of the Huntington era. In 1958, Professor William J. Hall joined the department administration with general responsibility for its graduate student and research programs. Following Briscoe’s elevation to the position of Associate Provost of the University in 1965 and later of Vice Chancellor for Administration, Professor John D. Haltiwanger also joined the department’s administrative team with primary responsibility for the undergraduate student and instructional programs of the department.

The single most significant event of this era was the construction of the new civil engineering building which, following Newmark’s death, was named Nathan M. Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory. The need for such a facility had long been recognized, and concerted efforts to acquire it were begun shortly after Newmark assumed office. At that time, the programs of the department were conducted in 13 different buildings around campus, including what was then Civil Engineering Hall (now Engineering Hall), Talbot Laboratory, the Civil Engineering Surveying Building (immediately south of the University Library), a Sanitary Engineering Laboratory (south of Springfield Avenue and immediately west of Gregory Street in Urbana), a Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory (located in an unused Physical Plant warehouse near the Sanitary Laboratory), and several smaller structures such as a highway test track in a Quonset hut in the vicinity of the Sanitary Engineering Lab, two old residences across Wright Street from Talbot Lab that were used for research assistant offices, and several others. The first phase of the new building was funded primarily by a state grant of $4,216,000, and construction of it had progressed in 1967 to the point that most of the offices in it could be occupied at that time, while work on the several laboratories continued. The second phase of the building, funded substantially by an NSF grant in the amount of $1,500,000 permitted the expansion of Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory within the next few years. The Hydrosystems Laboratory was completed in 1970. A second major accomplishment that affected the general health of the department was the establishment of the Civil Engineering Alumni Association in 1963. The officers selected to oversee the initial program of this new group included Paul F. Kent (President of General Paving Co. of Champaign) as President; Frank Veasman (Vice President of Chicago Malleable Castings Co.) as First Vice President; Thomas D. Wofford Jr. (Assistant Chief Engineer, ICRR) as Second Vice President; Prof. E. E. Bauer as Secretary; and Prof. M. O. Schmidt as Assistant Secretary. While not physically or contractually connected with the department, the location of the U. S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign represents a third major accomplishment of that era. During the planning phase for the CERL, the Army had indicated that it wanted its new laboratory to be located in close proximity to a highly regarded university civil engineering research program. Such a location would be of obvious benefit to both the new Army laboratory and the nearby academic institution. In response to this interest as expressed by the Army, proposals were submitted by a number of schools, of which the University of Illinois was one. Illinois’ proposal was selected, and CERL in Champaign became a reality in 1969.

During this era, the department evolved as one of the premier civil engineering programs in the nation, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Evidence of this status is given by the following statement taken from the ECPD accreditation report of 1961: “This department was judged to be one of the finest in the nation with respect to faculty qualifications and scholarly production, curriculum, instruction, and equipment.” That report did note, however, that “physical facilities were inadequate,” a statement with which the department agreed fully, and which gave support to the department’s continuing efforts to acquire a new building. Among the general observations that help define the growth of the department during this era in both size and stature are the following:

  • Of the faculty members that were active during this era, 19 were elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering.
  • Of the faculty members that were active during this era, 14 were elected as

Honorary Members of ASCE.

  • Enrollments varied during this period from 1966 levels of 593 undergraduate and 154 graduate students to maximums of 627 undergraduate and 303 graduate students in 1970 and 1973, respectively. The all-time maximum enrollments to date were 816 undergraduates in 1978 and 410 graduates in 2004.
  • The number of full-time-equivalent academic faculty increased to about 70 in 1973.
  • The annual research budget for the department grew from about $750,000 in 1956 to more than $2 million in 1973.
  • Both Professors Newmark and Peck were awarded the National Medal of Science.

Up until that time, with a few exceptions, the faculty consisted essentially of two faculties, a “teaching faculty” and a “research faculty.” But within a few years under Newmark’s leadership those two faculties had become one, with all faculty members being involved in both teaching and research. The structural engineering and mechanics programs continued to be the largest and most widely regarded of the programs of the department, with general guidance still being given them by Professor Newmark. Among the many other faculty leaders in these programs whose names will be recalled by many readers were, in alphabetical order: R. A. Eubanks, D. A. Foutch, W. L. Gamble, E. H. Gaylord, G. Gurfinkel, W. J. Hall (who, subsequently, became Department Head), J. D. Haltiwanger (author of this article), N. Khachaturian, C. E. Kesler, F. V. Lawrence, L. A. Lopez, V. J. McDonald, R. J. Mosborg, W. H. Munse, S. L. Paul, D. A.W. Pecknold, A. R. Robinson, W. C. Schnobrich, C. P. Siess (who also became Department Head), G. K. Sinnamon, J. E. Stallmeyer, W. H. Walker, and J. F. Young, all of whom completed their professional careers on this faculty. Significant contributions to the program were made also by many other young men who spent only parts of their professional careers here. Included in this latter group are, again in alphabetical order, M. Amin, A. H-S. Ang, W. J. Austin, S. J. Fenves, L. Goodman, H. H. Hilsdorf, J. L. Merritt, B. Mohraz, W. W. Sanders, M. A. Sozen, W. Tang, Y. K. Wen, and A. S. Veletsos.

The well-established research programs in concrete and steel, as structural materials under assorted environmental and loading conditions, and the behavior of reinforced concrete beam and slab structures under varying load and support conditions were continued with expanded breadth, but new areas of structural engineering research were introduced. Among these new areas were numerous programs in the area of structural dynamics, with emphasis being placed on both the behavior and design of structures under the effects of both earthquakes and nuclear blast loads. It is fair to say that the research work done here during that era provided the bases upon which much of the design criteria for structures subjected to loadings produced either from earthquake motions or nuclear blasts now rests. Much the same can be said for the areas of prestressed concrete and the probabilistic approach of the determination of the safety of structures.

In addition to its work in the area of the design and behavior of structures to resist nuclear blast forces, a closely related program concerned he design of structures to protect occupants from the radiation as well as the blast effects of nuclear explosions. This program was conducted by Professor A. B. Chilton, with the cooperation of numerous other members of the structural engineering faculty, and consisted of courses of instruction as well as a significant number of short courses that were presented to practicing engineers.

But major strides in program growth, in both size and stature, also occurred in the other technical areas of the department. Of particular note in this regard are Geotechnical Engineering, Sanitary (now, Environmental) Engineering, Hydrology and Hydrosystems, Construction Management and Systems Engineering, Transportation Engineering, and Surveying and Photogrammetry.

Under the guidance of Professor Ralph B. Peck, assisted by professors E. J. Cording, M. T. Davisson, Don U. Deere, A. J. Hendron, H. O. Ireland, T. K. Liu, G. Mesri, R. E. Olson, and T. H. Thornburn, several of whom completed their careers elsewhere, the geotechnical program gained international recognition. As was the case for the structural research program, the work domain in geotechnical engineering was expanded to include soil and rock dynamics in order to deal more confidently with the behavior and design of structures built either on, in, or through these materials when subjected to unusual dynamic loadings such as those induced by nuclear blast loadings or earthquake motions.

Directed by Professor Richard S. Engelbrecht, the Sanitary Engineering program made major advances during this era, expanding its scope of interests to the point that its name was changed to “Environmental Engineering and Science” in order to reflect more properly its broader interests. During this era, its areas of research and teaching were expanded to include water quality control, emphasizing both drinking water and wastewater, air pollution control, solid waste management, aquatic biology, and environmental systems analysis. With the development of programs in these areas, it became one of the premier environmental engineering programs in the nation. Participating closely with Professor Engelbrecht in this program growth and expansion were such highly regarded engineers and scientists as E. Downey Brill, Richard I. Dick, J. W. Eheart, Benjamin B. Ewing, E. E. Herricks, Jon C. Liebman (who later became Head of the Department), John T. Pfeffer,Vernon L. Snoeyink, and James J. Stukel (who became President of the U of I).

Similarly, under the direction of Prof. L. R. Shaffer (who was appointed later as the first Technical Director of the new U. S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign), the program in Construction Engineering and Management blossomed. Among the notable additions to that faculty were L. T. Boyer and J. W. Melin. During this period, having been stimulated by a newly enacted “State Technical Services Act,” the closely related area of Civil Engineering Systems achieved self-identification, and a significant program of research and instruction in this area was developed. Instrumental in this development were S. J. Fenves and L. A. Lopez. Contributing also to the developments of this era was Professor Judith S. Liebman (later to become Vice Chancellor for Research on the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus) who applied her background in operations research to further expand the scope of the department’s interests.

The long and distinguished history of research, service and teaching in the area of Transportation Engineering, which was led in earlier years by C. C. Wiley, was continued and expanded under the guidance of Ellis Danner, with the able assistance of John E. Baerwald, Eugene Huang, John Hutchinson (all of whom completed their careers elsewhere), W. W. Hay, who had responsibility for the railway engineering aspect of the program, and Moreland Herrin. Upon the retirement of Professor Danner, Moreland Herrin assumed the leadership role for this program, and E. J. Barenberg, S. H. Carpenter, M. I. Darter, B. J. Dempsey and M. R. Thompson joined its faculty. During this era, the Transportation Facilities program grew in both size and stature to become one of the widely regarded centers of transportation engineering study in the nation, a position that it still enjoys.

With the advent of the new Hydraulics and Hydrosystems Laboratory Building in 1970, the department’s program in that area of teaching and research also expanded. This era saw a marriage between the well-established hydrology program and the then-emerging laboratory oriented hydraulic engineering program that had been housed in the old hydraulic engineering laboratory building. This merger fostered the development of a strong and highly regarded program in water resources systems. Until his untimely death in 1981, Professor Ven T. Chow, an internationally known authority in the area of Hydrosystems Engineering, directed the program. Participating with him in this work were fellow faculty members such as William C. Ackermann, John C. Guillou, E. R. Holley, W. H. C. Maxwell, Murray B. McPherson, J. P. Murtha, H. G. Wenzel, and B. C. Yen.

Under the guidance of Professor M. O. Schmidt, Surveying and Photogrammetry continued during this era to be a small but vital area of departmental instruction and research programs. Participating with Professor Schmidt in the conduct of this program were W. H. Eldridge, H. M. Karara and K. W. Wong.[5]

Historical List of Department Heads

  • John B. Webb, 1871–1878
  • Ira O. Baker, 1878–1915 and (interim) 1920-1922
  • Frederick Haynes Newell, 1915–1920
  • Clement C. Williams, 1922–1926
  • Whitney C. Huntington, 1926–1956
  • Nathan M. Newmark 1956-1973
  • Chester P. Siess, 1973–1978
  • Jon C. Liebman, 1978–1984
  • William J. Hall, 1984–1991
  • Neil M. Hawkins, 1991–1996, and (interim) 2001-2002
  • David E. Daniel, 1996–2001
  • Nicholas P. Jones, 2002–2004
  • Robert H. Dodds, Jr., 2004–2009
  • Amr S. Elnashai, 2009-


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