Author
Maribeth Keitz Memorial Tributes Volume 3 National Academy of Engineering
Membership Directory
PublisherNational Academies Press
ReleasedAugust 1, 1989
Copyright1989
Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 3

This is the third volume in the series of Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased.

This is the third volume in the series of Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased.

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  • GERARD ADDISON ROHLICH 1910-1983

    BY EARNEST F. GLOYNA

    Gerard Addison Rohlich, an outstanding educator and environmental engineer, died suddenly of a heart attack on September 16, 1983, at the age of seventy-three. At the time of his death, Dr. Rohlich held dual positions as professor of civil engineering and professor of the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

    The world is a better place in which to live because of the efforts of Gerard A. Rohlich. The contributions he made in providing safe drinking water supplies, abating water pollution, and improving the general environment have been varied and numerous. His career spanned four decades of teaching, research, administration, scientific and professional activities, and public service.

    Dr. Rohlich applied the principles of the biological, chemical, and physical sciences and of engineering to the solution of real-world problems. An excellent teacher, Dr. Rohlich helped to mold the careers of other engineers and scientists. He also left his mark on the engineering profession and on society through his distinguished contributions and unselfish public service.

    Gerard Rohlich was born on July 8, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York. His engineering career was launched when he served as an engineering assistant in New York City's Bureau of Sewers while concurrently studying civil engineering in 1934. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and earned a second undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 1936 and an M.S. in 1937. His illustrious academic career began as an instructor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He returned to the University of Wisconsin in 1939 and earned his Ph.D. in sanitary engineering in 1940. In 1941 Dr. Rohlich joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State University as an assistant professor and advanced in rank to associate professor.

    His teaching career was interrupted briefly while he served as senior sanitary engineer for the War Department's Office of Engineering from 1943 to 1944 and as chief project engineer with the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation of America in 1945. In 1946 he returned to the University of Wisconsin as professor of civil engineering to begin a tenure on the faculty that would last until 1971.

    While at the University of Wisconsin, Gerard Rohlich became one of the first individuals in the United States to evaluate the variables that affect the activated sludge process for the treatment of municipal and industrial wastewaters. Many of the findings of this early research have been reconfirmed in more sophisticated laboratory-controlled bench-scale experimentation.

    His pioneering work in the use of oxidation-reduction potential measurements to control biological systems was also considered by many to be a significant contribution. However, his fundamental work on eutrophication of lakes and streams and the application of these findings to the control of eutrophication in natural waters are landmark achievements that established his preeminence in the areas of ecology and environmental conservation.

    Highlights of his career at the University of Wisconsin include his directorship of the Water Resource Center and the Institute for Environmental Studies. He also served as associate dean of the Graduate School; participated as a member of the governor's Water Resources Committee, which drafted the Wisconsin Water Resources Act; and served on the Wisconsin Natural Research Board, a position in which he had a significant impact on the aquatic environment in the state of Wisconsin. For his continued contributions in this area, Dr. Rohlich was recognized as Wisconsin's Water Man of the Year by the National Water Works Association in 1969.

    In 1972 Gerry Rohlich went to the University of Texas at Austin to assume the dual positions of C. W. Cook Professor of Environmental Engineering and professor in the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. At Texas, he became more involved in formulating public policy and in public service. While continuing his research and his role in the education of future engineers and scientists, Gerry was also able to influence future civic leaders and policymakers then enrolled in the School of Public Affairs, providing individuals responsible for establishing public policy with an appreciation of natural ecosystems.

    A personal source of pride to Gerry Rohlich was his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1970 for his contributions to improving man's environment and for his work teaching engineers about environmental control. Some of Dr. Rohlich's later public service activities and contributions to the profession included his chairing the National Research Council Committee on Water Quality Criteria and the Committee on Safe Drinking Water. The reports of these committees are significant documents that have become valuable resource materials for engineers and scientists. He also chaired the National Research Council Committee on the Potomac Estuary Study.

    In addition, Dr. Rohlich undertook the monumental assignment as chairman of the National Research Council Committee on Eutrophication. The findings of this committee, in addition to the results of his extensive research into eutrophication, were documented in published reports that are currently used worldwide as source material. He also served on the National Research Council Environmental Studies Board. At the time of his death, Gerry chaired the Environmental Engineering Panel of the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Many honors were bestowed on Gerry Rohlich by his peer groups. He received an honorary and life membership in the Water Pollution Control Federation; he was one of the Walker Ames lecturers at the University of Washington; he held an honorary membership in the Brazilian Section of AIDIS (Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering); and he was a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

    His awards included the Harrison Prescott Eddy Medal for Noteworthy Research, the Benjamin Smith Reynolds Medal for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Wisconsin, the Karl Emil Hilgard Prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers for research in hydraulic engineering, the George Warren Fuller Award of the American Water Works Association, and the Gordon Maskew Fair Award presented by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers for his achievements, leadership, and contributions to the total environmental effort.

    Gerry Rohlich enjoyed the respect, admiration, and friendship of the students he guided and the faculty with whom he collaborated in research and teaching. In addition, he quickly garnered the respect of everyone else with whom he came in contact during his lifetime. He was a well-known, well-respected figure in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Through those persons now involved in government, private industry, and academia who passed within his sphere, Dr. Rolich's technical expertise, ethics, and philosophies are continuing to have a major impact on the environmental quality of the world in which we live.

    Gerry Rohlich devoted a substantial amount of his time to public service, advising and assisting local, state, and federal agencies and governments throughout the world on engineering problems related to the control and enhancement of the environment. His dedication to developing and implementing solutions to the problem of maintaining and improving the quality of man's environment was sincere and substantial.

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