Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 25
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  • Michael A. Koplinka-Loehr
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  • RAYMOND C. LOEHR 1931-2021


    RAYMOND CHARLES LOEHR, the Hussein M. Alharthy Centennial Chair and professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), died April 15, 2021, in Ashburn, Virginia. He was 89 years old.

    He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 17, 1931, to Clarence and Anastasia Vanniel Loehr. He obtained a BS in civil engineering (1953) and MS in sanitary engineering (1956) from Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University) and his PhD, also in sanitary engineering, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    He began his lifelong teaching career as a professor of civil engineering at the University of Kansas, Lawrence (1961–68). He then moved to Cornell University (1968–85), where he became head (1972–80) of the Environmental Studies Program in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, associate director (1975–78) of the Office of Research and Agricultural Experiment Station of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor (1981–85). He also established a multidisciplinary research program in agricultural waste management.

    In 1985 he accepted appointment as the Hussein M. Altharthy Chair and Professor of Civil Engineering at UT Austin, where he continued his pioneering research on treatment of waste materials and launched graduate courses on that topic. He was also the founding director of the university’s Environmental Solutions Program, which involved a consortium of industry sponsors of research, workshops, and other activities that addressed challenges in the industry and provided research support for faculty and students.

    In 2003 he retired from full-time academic work, became professor emeritus at UT Austin, and moved to northern Virginia.

    He was an expert on the treatment of industrial wastes, management of hazardous wastes, and remediation of sites contaminated with industrial and hazardous wastes. His research contributions led to improved biological methods to treat contaminated soils and a better understanding of the risks of organic chemicals found in sediments. He published over 300 peer-reviewed technical articles, and authored or coauthored 10 books. In addition, he was the major advisor for 10 PhD students and over 80 MS graduate students, and had a profound impact on the lives of his students.

    Beyond his academic activities, he was an active member of the environmental engineering profession. He provided invited testimony to congressional committees and subcommittees, and was a consultant to industries, law firms, and engineering firms; a member of the board of directors of two engineering consulting firms; and a registered profes- sional engineer in Texas, Ohio, and Kansas. To obtain practical experience helpful to his professional, academic, and research activities, on separate academic leaves of absence he worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for a consulting engineering firm.

    As an active contributor to the broader community, he was a member, diplomate, and president (2002–03) of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and chair or member of committees of the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and EPA. He served for over 25 years as a member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board, including as chair (1988–93). As part of his EPA involvement, he chaired several independent evaluations and reports, such as the 1990 report Reducing Risk: Setting Priorities and Strategies for Environmental Protection, which helped set directions and action for the agency.

    He provided nearly 2 decades of service on boards and committees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He was appointed chair of the Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA (1995–97) and vice chair of the Committees to Review EPA’s Research Grants Program (2002–03) and on Remediation of PCB-Contaminated Sediments (1999–2001), and was a member of the Committee on Research and Peer Review in EPA (1994–2000), Committee on Sustainable Water Supplies in the Middle East (1995–99), Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (1983–86 and 1995–98), Committee on Multimedia Approaches to Pollution Control (1986–88), and Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation (1984–87).

    His research on biological treatment of wastes and his technology development efforts, particularly in surface treatment of wastes, were widely recognized. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1983 and received awards from 10 professional engineering and scientific organizations, including the Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers; the 1995 Rachel Carson Award from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; the 1997 Camp Applied Research Award from the Water Environment Federation; and the 1969 ASCE Rudolph Hering Medal (with Robert W. Agnew). The UTA College of Engineering bestowed on Dr. Loehr the 1987 Engineering Foundation Faculty Excellence Award, the 1991 Billy and Claude Hocott Distinguished Centennial Engineering Research Award, and the 1992 Joe J. King Professional Achievement Award for his “exemplary service and demonstrated leadership in advancing the profession of engineering.”

    In honor of his 70th birthday, his family created the Raymond C. Loehr Scholarship for Environmental Science to recognize his lifetime of commitment to education. Scholarships are given to students in the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) to encourage and recognize interest in science, especially environmental science. The family also initiated the Raymond C. Loehr Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, given to an ICSD faculty member to recognize innovative methods for fostering interest in the sciences.

    Ray loved country music, flowers, and his family, creating over 90 memory books for his loved ones. He leaves his wife of 67 years, Joan M. (Briggs) Loehr, and their eight children: Stephen (Amy Yale-Loehr), Michael (Carrie Koplinka-Loehr), Mary, and James (Caitlin) of Ithaca, NY; Mark (Catherine Tapsall) of South Sutton, New Hampshire; Kathleen (Kevin Coray), Daniel (Karen), and Anne (Neel Inamdar) of Reston, VA, as well as 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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