Distinguished Alumni Awards

Richard N. Wright

Richard N. Wright
To Richard N. Wright, for the dedication, vision, and innovative guidance that he has demonstrated in the development and direction of an extensive program of research to support the worldwide design and construction industries.

Director (Retired), Building and Fire Research Laboratory and National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland

  • BS 1953, Civil Engineering, Syracuse University
  • MS 1955, Civil Engineering, Syracuse University
  • PhD 1962, Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 As a member of the civil engineering faculty at Illinois from 1957 to 1974, Richard N. Wright developed and taught advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in the analysis and design of structures, and contributed to modifications of the curriculum to exploit the opportunities provided by electronic computation. He conducted and supervised field, laboratory, and analytical research on response of structures to dynamic loads; behavior and design of highway bridges; computer aided design; and techniques for the formulation, expression, and application of standards.

In 1974, he joined the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST) as director of the Center for Building Technology, from which he retired in 1999 as director of its Building and Fire Research Laboratory.

In his positions of leadership at NBS and at NIST, Wright was especially effective in promoting cooperation and collaboration among the myriad national, international, private, and public organizations interested in the development of the technology of building design, construction, and operation. He participated in the formation of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the Building Seismic Safety Council, which developed as a consequence of collaboration between and among interested federal agencies, professional engineering organizations, and leading structural engineering research universities. From 1982 to 1999, Wright chaired the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction, which formulated Executive Orders for the seismic safety of new and existing federally owned and leased buildings. His work has been featured in over 120 technical publications, including papers in refereed journals, NIST reports, and other professional publications.

Wright has also served as board member and as president of the International Council for Building Research, Studies and Documentation, as president of the Liaison Committee of International Civil Engineering Organizations, and as U.S. chairman of the U.S./Japan Panel on Wind and Seismic Effects. He was a founding co-chairman of the Subcommittee on Construction and Building of the President’s National Science and Technology Council. In that capacity, he was instrumental in the achievement of White House, federal agency, and industry support for collaboration in construction research to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. building industry, environmental quality, and safety.

His numerous awards and recognitions include election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2003, the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research from the Civil Engineering Research Foundation, and the Charles Mahaffey Award from the National Council of States on Building Codes and Standards. He is an Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was recognized in 1988 with the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive, and as Federal Engineer of the Year by the National Society of Professional Engineers. In 1989, he received the Distinguished Civil Engineering Alumnus Award at Illinois.

Current as of 2006.