Dr. Bruce Ellingwood named Alumnus of the Year by University of Illinois

Civil engineering professor Dr. Bruce R. Ellingwood has been recognized with the 2013 Alumni Award for Distinguished Service by his alma mater, the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Currently the Raymond Allen Jones Chair in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Ellingwood earned his undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois. He will formally accept the Distinguished Alumni honor during the College of Engineering’s 49th Annual Engineering Awards Ceremony on April 20.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is given annually to a graduate who has demonstrated exemplary leadership and service to the profession and to the community.

For most of his career, Dr. Ellingwood has been widely recognized for his pioneering work employing probability and statistics in the design of structures and in the development of new design criteria. At Georgia Tech, he has focused his research on structural load modeling, studies of performance of structures, development of safety and serviceability criteria for design, studies of abnormal loads, progressive collapse and the response of structures to fires, probabilistic risk analysis and stochastic mechanics.

“The area of structural reliability looks at questions that every structural engineer has to deal with. Things like ‘How safe is safe enough?’ and ‘How do you ensure public safety and at the same time build something that is reasonably priced?’” he said.

“My work has really centered on taking probability theory and statistics -- research that seems esoteric –and making it practical for the engineers who are in the trenches, building things.”

Prior to coming to Georgia Tech in 2000, Dr. Ellingwood taught at Johns Hopkins University, where he served as the chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering and was named the Willard and Lillian Hackerman Chair. In 2010, he was named a Distinguished Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, an organization which previously recognized him with several honors, including the Moisseiff Award, the Norman Medal, the Walter L. Huber Engineering Research Prize, the State of the Art Civil Engineering Award, the Walter P. Moore, Jr., Award, and Nathan M. Newmark Medal.

As he looks back on a storied professional career, Dr. Ellingwood is quick to point out that it almost went in an entirely different direction.

“I started out as an architecture student,” he said. “But, at the end of my second year, I realized I wasn’t going to be the next Frank Lloyd Wright, so I walked over to the civil engineering school. I told them ‘Things aren’t working out so well in architecture’ and they said ‘Welcome to the gang.’”

Welcome, indeed.