Fond memories and an eye to the future led Emeritus Professor Douglas Foutch to give
By Douglas Foutch (BS 70)
One of the most exciting days of my life was the day I received my acceptance into the Department of Civil Engineering at Illinois. Some people in Marseilles doubted that I had a chance of being successful, since I was from this small town in north central Illinois from which few students had made it at Illinois in the past. I was quite nervous my first few days on campus. That problem was solved when I discovered Murphy’s.
During my years at Illinois, I believe that I received the best general and technical education possible. The faculty in our CE department was well-educated and had real-life experience solving complex problems required for finishing large engineering projects around the world. So they were able to teach us not only the important engineering principles, but also how to analyze problems and find solutions. My education was also enhanced by outstanding fellow students with whom I struggled to solve homework and design projects. This taught me the importance of communication and teamwork. These factors provided a firm foundation for success as I entered the working world. After gaining work experience and two graduate degrees, I was doubly blessed by U of I when I was hired in 1976 as an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, which led to a successful career in academia. As a professor I always believed that my greatest contribution to the profession of Structural Engineering would be the students that I would influence through my teaching and research. After talking to former students along the way and learning about the successful careers they have had, I am honored to have been a very small contributor to their education.
When I look back over the years, I realize how really important my association with the University of Illinois and Civil Engineering department has been to my professional career. I also highly value the personal relations that have developed through my contact with classmates, students, undergrad teachers, CEE staff and former colleagues. Many years ago I realized that I would not be where I am today had I not received that letter of acceptance to Illinois back in 1965. This realization led me to donate money to the CEE department on a regular basis. Recently Connie and I decided to up the ante and make a more sizable contribution to the CEE Modernization Plan: Phase II. The bottom line is that I want to be part of the future of CEE as well as the past. We chose a brick and mortar project for our donation because I am convinced that it is required for CEE to remain relevant. Over the past 50 years the CEE professions have changed dramatically. Entire areas that were important when I was an undergrad no longer exist. Research activities within the areas that remain have changed dramatically. Solutions to the problems that currently face the nation are more complex and require new research in areas that could not have been imagined when I was a student. If we hope to remain relevant and keep advancing our professions, CEE must continue to have modern research labs, outstanding faculty and staff, very bright students and a modern learning environment where these students can reach their full potential.
I hope that each of you will look back and ask if you would have been where you are today had you not gotten your CEE degree from the University of Illinois. I hope you will decide to be a part of the future of our department and begin or continue to contribute to help ensure its future. There are many possible ways to support CEE besides the Modernization Plan. The first step towards becoming a regular donor is giving for the first time. If we are ever on campus at the same time (firstname.lastname@example.org) we can meet at Murphy’s and share old memories. My old friend Jack might even be there.