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Boening gift names Sanitation and Resource Recovery Lab for John T. Pfeffer

Paul H. Boening (MS 76, PhD 80)
Paul H. Boening (MS 76, PhD 80)

The Sanitation and Resource Recovery Laboratory in the new CEE building will be named for former environmental faculty member John T. Pfeffer, thanks to a leadership gift by alumnus Paul H. Boening (MS 76, PhD 80).

John T. Pfeffer served on the environmental engineering faculty at Illinois from 1967 to 1996. He died in 2017 at age 81. Pfeffer’s research included work in waste management engineering. He served as a trustee for the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District for 18 years and worked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The Sanitation and Resource Recovery (SR2) Laboratory will be a Bio-Safety Level II lab that will allow researchers access to urine for experimentation purposes thanks to a direct connection to a restroom on the first floor of the building. While researchers in other environmental programs also utilize human waste streams, Illinois’s lab will be unique in that it will provide researchers access to both a continuous supply of source-separated waste streams and lab space to conduct experiments in real time.

“This is particularly important for urine as the composition can shift drastically during storage, making experimentation with fresh urine very challenging,” said CEE assistant professor R.D. Cusick, who will oversee the lab. “This will allow us to develop strategies for nutrient recovery from urine at the point of discharge rather than from a centralized treatment facility, enabling recovery of potassium in addition to nitrogen and phosphorus. Real-time access to will also enable Environmental Engineering and Science researchers to monitor COVID-19 concentrations in the building should a new outbreak emerge in the fall.”

John T. Pfeffer (1980)
John T. Pfeffer (1980)

Boening’s gift was motivated by a desire to honor Pfeffer for his mentorship and highlight the importance of resource recovery research. As a grad student, Boening worked with Pfeffer for four years on a biomass anaerobic digestion project. He hopes the lab will encourage others to do research in the area of resource recovery from waste. Boening has worked in his family business – Andrews Knitting Mill in St. Paul, Minn. – since 1982.

“We are deeply grateful to Paul Boening for his leadership gift,” Cusick said. “Naming the resource re-covery lab after John T. Pfeffer is really wonderful given the foundational work Professor Pfeffer and Paul Boening led in the area of energy recovery from wastewater using anaerobic treatment technol-ogies.”

“Making a lifetime gift to our universities is one way to give back to our society,” Boening said. “It is satisfying and gives for a long time. It can inspire others sitting on the fence to make a gift, as happened in my case.

“Manufacturing has taken a terrible hit in the USA since many of our decision-makers have no involvement in industry and want everything clean. Environmental engineers can give us both manufacturing to maintain our technology and a clean environment. That is why I want to support environmental engineering at Illinois.”

Additional gifts are required to fully realize the SR2 lab. To give to this initiative, please visit

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