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WRITTEN BY WILLIAM J. HALL, W. HALL C. MAXWELL, AND GLENN E. STOUT
SUBMITTED BY WILLIAM J. HALL
William C. Ackermann, former chief of the Illinois State Water Survey and emeritus professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois at ...
William C. Ackermann, former chief of the Illinois State Water Survey and emeritus professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, died of lung cancer on June 9, 1988, in Urbana, Illinois, following several months of declining health.
Bill Ackermann was born on October 7, 1913, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a son of William and Frances E. Shermer Ackermann. He married Margaret Adele Koepsell on May 6, 1942, in Sheboygan. He attended Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) in Appleton, Wisconsin, before going on to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, from which he graduated in 1935 with a B.S. (honors) in civil engineering.
Upon graduating he spent a short time with Kimberly Clark Corporation in Neenah, Wisconsin, and then began his professional career as a water resources engineer with the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville, Tennessee. He worked in the Water Control Planning Department as a river forecaster from 1935 to 1941, and then headed the Hydrology Section from 1942 to 1954. In 1954 he moved to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, where he headed the Watershed Hydrology Section. Two years later he was appointed chief of the Illinois State Water Survey. In 1958 he was given a joint appointment as professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was during his years in Illinois that Professor Ackermann made his most valuable contributions to the field of water resources.
In 1963 he accepted a one-year special assignment on the White House staff in Washington, D.C. as technical assistant in the Office of Science and Technology, Executive Office of the President, where he chaired the Committee on Water Resources Research. He strongly advocated the establishment of water resources institutes in fifty states, and this was enacted by Congress in 1964. He continued to serve the Executive Office of the President in various capacities from 1964 to 1984, and was vice-chairman of the Acid Rain Peer Review Panel. He was proud of his service in the White House and was seldom seen without the PT 109 tie clip given to him by President Kennedy.
In 1967 he directed the preparation of Illinois' first comprehensive water plan. This guided water management decisions in Illinois for twenty-three years until about 1980, when he was asked to direct the preparation of a new plan. He served as the executive director of the Illinois State Water Plan for the state of Illinois' Division of Water Resources until 1987.
Bill Ackermann was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1967 and served on the NAE Council from 1972 to 1975. He was particularly known for his willingness to serve and did so on many of the Academy's advisory boards and committees including, starting in 1970, his chairmanship of the Academy's Committee on Engineering Aspects of Environmental Quality, and from 1980 to 1982, the National Research Council (NRC) Water Resources Research Review Committee that evaluated the U.S. water resources program. In addition he was a member of the Environmental Studies Board, a joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering. He served on the Executive Committee and Commission of the NRC Commission on Natural Resources from 1973 to 1978, and was president of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.
His major consulting activities included consultation for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1970, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission from 1979 to 1981, and the Department of Commerce's Office of Sea Grant Programs from 1978 to 1985.
Bill Ackermann was honored many times during his fifty-year career. These honors include his membership in the National Academy of Engineering, the Laureate Medal of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the American Society of Civil Engineers' Collingwood Prize, the American Geophysical Union's Robert E. Horton Medal (cited for ''expertise and outstanding leadership in research, planning, and management of water resources''), the Soviet Medal for Geophysics, the American Water Works Association's Fuller Award, and the American Water Resources Association's Icko Iben Award. He was also twice awarded honorary doctor of science degrees: one in 1970 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a second in 1971 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. At the time of his death he was to be the first recipient of the American Water Resources Association's William C. Ackermann Award for Planning and Management in Water Resources.
Besides his long service as chief of the Illinois State Water Survey, other positions of leadership that he assumed over the years included the presidency of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) from 1966 to 1968, AGU's Section of Hydrology from 1962 to 1964, the International Association of Scientific Hydrology in 1971, the Committee on Water Research of the International Council of Scientific Unions, and vice-presidency of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. His leadership roles in the American Society of Civil Engineers included chairmanship of the Hydrology Committee in 1953, of the Hydraulics Division from 1966 to 1967, of the National Water Policy Committee from 1969 to 1970, and of the National Energy Policy Committee from 1973 to 1975. He was a member of the society's board of direction from 1971 to 1974.
Bill Ackermann loved teaching, and when he retired from the Illinois State Water Survey in 1979 he became fully involved with education. In 1980 he was appointed adjunct professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and in 1985, when he retired from that position, was appointed emeritus professor.
Bill Ackermann's life of service was not confined to engineering or scientific matters, nor was it solely at the state, national, or international level. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Champaign, Illinois, where he was a longtime elder. He was a member of the Champaign Kiwanis Club.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret; his sons William C. Ackermann of Champaign, Illinois, and Arthur J. Ackermann of Kirkwood, Missouri; his daughter, Mrs. David (Nancy) Price of Summerville, South Carolina; and seven grandchildren.
Those of us who were privileged to know Bill Ackermann and to work closely with him during his years here in Illinois feel a great sense of loss at his passing. We miss his wise counsel and advice, and his willing service whenever called upon.