By Wileen Wong Kromhout
William W-G. Yeh, distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named the inaugural holder of the Richard G. Newman AECOM Endowed Chair in Civil Engineering.
The chair was made possible by a $1.5 million gift from members of the executive team of AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management-support services.
“Bill is an outstanding scholar, teacher and a leader in his field. I am pleased he will be the first holder of this chair,” said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. “I am also tremendously grateful to AECOM for their generous support. This endowment will help Bill to continue his important work as an educator and researcher in the important areas of hydrology and water resources.”
Yeh is well known in his field for having pioneered the development of large-scale optimization models that utilize systems analysis techniques to plan, manage and operate several of the nation’s large water resources systems. The methodology — as well as the algorithms he developed for the real-time operation of complex, multiple-purpose, multiple-reservoir systems — have been adopted in the U.S. and throughout the world, most notably in Brazil, Korea, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
Additionally, Yeh developed nonlinear inverse algorithms for parameter identification in groundwater hydrology, and his methodologies and algorithms for parameter estimation have been widely adopted in groundwater modeling.
Yeh’s work has garnered distinction both nationally and internationally. He is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering and an honorary diplomate of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. In 1999, he received the Warren A. Hall Medal from the Universities Council on Water Resources. In 1996, two years after receiving the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Julian Hinds Award, he was awarded honorary member status by the society. Yeh also received the American Geophysical Union’s Robert E. Horton Award (now the Hydrological Sciences Award) in 1989 and three years later was elected a fellow of the union.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be appointed as the inaugural Richard G. Newman AECOM Endowed Chair in Civil Engineering,” Yeh said. “It is a distinct honor for me to associate my name with such a distinguished individual as Richard G. Newman. It is my intent to apply the endowment effectively to enhance teaching, research and service to UCLA, as well as to the greater community.”
The endowed chair was established in recognition of Newman’s leadership and service to AECOM, where he served as chairman for more than two decades, and CEO until 2005.
AECOM is one of the largest and most respected firms of its kind. Since its launch as an independent company in 1990, Newman led the firm’s worldwide expansion and oversaw its transformation into a multifaceted corporation that offers services ranging from financing, strategizing and planning to procurement, design, construction management and operations.
The endowed chair is part of UCLA Engineering’s Enhancing Engineering Excellence (E3) initiative, a $100 million fundraising effort aimed at generating new endowed faculty chairs, graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships, as well as funds for capital projects and diversity initiatives.