Richard Weisman Retires After 40 Years

The water resources engineering professor reflects on a career defined by putting students first.

Rick Weisman Lehigh University

Rick Weisman has been a faculty member in the civil and environmental engineering department at Lehigh for four decades, but one of his most memorable and meaningful moments came just this year.

As faculty advisor to the Lehigh student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, he traveled with a group of students this summer to complete Phase I of the group's water delivery system project. "Turning on the water that was a moment. It beats any 'Eureka!' moment in the research lab for me," he says.

Will Kuehne '17 is the president of Lehigh EWB. He wasn't on this particular trip to Nicaragua, but has traveled with Weisman there in the past. "Professor Weisman leads by example during our service trips," he says. "He asks great questions and is curious about a variety of subjects, so people on our trips tend to mimic his curiosity and ask interesting questions themselves which sparks great discussion."

Weisman's leadership in such matters has taken on many forms over his 40 years, but they're all ultimately about one thing: making the student's learning experience as robust as possible.

"I really like problem-based learning and working on projects with students," he says. "I'm a big believer in the idea that if you're excited about the project, you'll work very hard to learn the science and technology that goes into the project."

That's why Weisman got involved with and embraced the Mountaintop Initiative from its inception, as well as the civil and environmental engineering capstone class, for which he led the water resources and hydraulics efforts for many years.

One project Weisman remembers particularly fondly was an effort by students to design and build a playground at the Centennial School on Lehigh's Goodman Campus from scrap materials sourced from the community. "A lot of the students were civic-minded, and a few wanted to go into construction. They worked hard and were really into the project," he says. "And the playgrounds they designed were really cool. That was a fun one."

Weisman's role as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science put him at the forefront of efforts like these for more than a decade from 1995 to 2006 but before that, he was leading a number of research projects with his water resources engineering colleagues in CEE both in the lab and out in the field.

One such project saw him and several colleagues develop a system to fluidize sand. It was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sought to move sand in shallow tidal inlets further offshore to create a more navigable channel for ships. The work started in California and eventually moved to Florida.

A little later, Weisman worked on another project in the Pocono Mountain region of Pennsylvania with George Krallis '00 Ph.D., now a Partner at Kima Environmental. "Rick and I researched wind-induced mixing in small lakes," he says. "The research required the design, construction, and operation of floating data collection platforms at three lakes in northeastern Pennsylvania." Krallis remembers his time researching with Weisman fondly. "Rick was a great advisor both professionally and personally," he says. "He guided and nudged me in an atmosphere of trust and respect. He shared his experiences and wisdom, often with humor, and he helped me to become professionally confident and inquisitive.

While he ceased active research projects around the time he moved into the position of Associate Dean, Weisman remained busy with as many student-facing activities as possible, some of which — including Lehigh in Ireland and the Martindale Student Associates Honors Program — he will remain involved with into retirement. "I'm busy!" Weisman exclaims, saying he'll keep traveling as long as he can and plans to stay involved with other university efforts dedicated to increasing international learning and cooperation.

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