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Distinguished CEE Alumnus M.T. Geoffrey Yeh has died

11/11/2016 1:33:28 PM

M.T. Geoffrey Yeh (BS 53), CEE alumnus and namesake of the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Student Center in Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory, died on October 16, 2016. He was  85.

Yeh was born in 1931 in Shanghai, China. After receiving his B.S. degree with honors from CEE at Illinois in 1953, he earned his M.A. degree from Harvard University in 1954. Yeh joined Hsin Chong and Company in Hong Kong, a construction company founded by his late father, K.N. Godfrey Yeh. During his career, the younger Yeh made significant contributions to the construction and financial sectors in Hong Kong, including various cost- and time-saving innovations that are now in use by construction firms throughout the region. He was chair of the Hsin Chong Group of Companies until his retirement in 2002, then served as chair of Hsin Chong International Holdings Ltd.

A commitment to service led to many appointments and honors throughout his lifetime including Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors; the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; the Silver Bauhinia Star by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China; and the Badge of Honor for Meritorious Services by His Excellency the Governor General of Jamaica. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. (1982).

Yeh was a loyal and generous supporter of CEE at Illinois. He established the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Graduate Research Fellowship in 1994 and the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Endowed Chair in 1998. He was the lead donor for the Yeh Student Center, an addition to Newmark Laboratory that provides state-of-the-art classrooms, meeting rooms and gathering space for students. His generosity extended beyond the University of Illinois, and he founded The Yeh Family Philanthropy in 2011 to support education and social entrepreneurship projects.

“I am particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet three times in the past couple of years with CEE Distinguished Alumnus Geoffrey Yeh,” said Benito Mariñas, CEE professor and head. “I always found Geoffrey’s advice inspirational and his optimism contagious. I was also most grateful to have had on these occasions the opportunity to thank Geoffrey Yeh and the Yeh Family Philanthropy for their most generous and inspirational support on behalf of the students and faculty at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

“The state-of-the-art facilities of the Geoffrey Yeh Student Center allow our students to have a world-class educational experience. We have been able to honor some of our top faculty members with the Geoffrey Yeh Endowed Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Support by Geoffrey Yeh and the Yeh Family Philanthropy is also inspiring other alumni and friends, thus allowing us to continue recruiting top students and attracting top faculty so that the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Geoffrey Yeh’s Alma Mater can retain the top-ranked position that it has enjoyed in the past for many more decades to come.”

College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris, Geoffrey Yeh and Benito Mariñas at the Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement award ceremony
College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris, Geoffrey Yeh and Benito Mariņas at the Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement award ceremony

The CEE Alumni Association awarded Yeh the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2010 for “management of construction and property development companies instrumental in rebuilding Hong Kong after WWII; for development and application of innovative construction tools; for outstanding civic leadership; and for long-standing philanthropic support to several universities including the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois.”

In 2012, Yeh was inducted into the Engineering at Illinois Hall of Fame, which recognizes significant achievements in leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation of great impact to society. He also received the 2015 Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois International Programs, which is awarded annually to a distinguished international alumnus or alumna who has helped to better their own nation or the world through their contributions to government, humanity, science, art or human welfare.

 “Geoffrey Yeh was a distinguished engineer, a very successful entrepreneur and in his later years an exceptionally generous philanthropist,” wrote Professor Emeritus Robert H. Dodds Jr., former department head and the first holder of the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Endowed Chair.  “I had the great fortune to know Geoffrey as first holder of the Yeh Chair and later as Head of CEE. He was a kind, humble and thoughtful man. Geoffrey often expressed a strong desire to help young people reach their potential through higher education. His generous gifts to CEE over the past 25+ years enabled Geoffrey to touch the lives of so many students and will be his enduring legacy for our department.”

Yeh is survived by his wife, Helen; son, V-Nee; daughter, Yvette; and three grandchildren, Camille, Nadya and Carina.