Modernization Plan update


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Above: rendering of the bridge interior.

Plans for Phase II of CEE's Modernization project are well underway and fundraising has been very successful to date. Below are some details and floor plans for various aspects of this initiative, and ways for alumni and friends to help make CEE history with this major transformation of our facilities. All donors will be acknowledged on the donor installation within the building and in spaces where naming gifts have been made.


Lalit and Kavita Kinra
Lalit and Kavita Kinra
The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Smart Bridge: a new campus landmark

The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Smart Bridge will be a highlight of the new construction and a new campus landmark. The bridge will be a living laboratory featuring the latest innovations in infrastructure sensing, a showcase for sustainable energy and environmental design options, and an instructional tool to teach students about the effects of dynamic forces on the built environment.

The bridge was made possible by a gift from Kavita and Lalit Bahl. Lalit is an alumnus of Illinois’ Electrical and Computer Engineering department who earned his master’s degree in 1966 and his Ph.D. in 1969. Kavita’s late first husband, Ravindar K. Kinra, earned his Ph.D. in 1968 from CEE at Illinois. Gratitude for their education and the research assistantships the two men received during that time motivates Lalit and Kavita’s continued philanthropy to this day.

“We have been supporters of the university for many years,” the couple wrote. “We have endowed fellowships in both the CEE and ECE departments. We also contributed to the building fund for the new ECE building. So supporting the Smart Bridge project is a part of our efforts to pay back the university, to a small extent, for the great education and benefits we received from the University of Illinois.”

Bridge floorplan.
Bridge floorplan.

Ideas for instrumenting the bridge and adjacent portions of the new building are being planned by a faculty committee, with input from all of the department’s areas of study. The committee is investigating such wired and wireless instrumentation possibilities as strain gauges; accelerometers; inclinometers; pressure sensors; fiber optic cables; and environmental sensors for relative humidity, temperature and wind. In addition to this monitoring of the bridge structure and its foundation, the committee is also looking into instrumenting the indoor areas of the bridge and adjacent spaces with respect to sensing for occupancy, energy consumption, ventilation and indoor air quality; monitoring pedestrian traffic flow; and perhaps even developing the street beneath the bridge as an autonomous transit testbed. Data from all the sensors will be displayed on a screen on the bridge. The department hopes to establish an endowment fund to support future updates to the bridge instrumentation, so that its technology will always represent the latest innovations in infrastructure sensing.

When asked what impact they hope the Smart Bridge will have, the Bahls responded with an answer to which every Urbana-Champaign alum can relate.

“Well, for one thing it will protect the faculty and students from the miserable winter weather in Urbana when they need to go from one building to the other,” they wrote. “But more seriously, we hope that the research and teaching activity connected with the bridge will be of significant value to CEE faculty and students.”


Mickey and Janice Kupperman
Mickey and Janice Kupperman
Classroom to be named for William J. Hall

Melvin “Mickey” Kupperman (BS 57, MS 58) and his wife, Janice, have made a leadership gift to the CEE Modernization Fund to name a classroom after Professor Emeritus William J. Hall.

“I came from a family of modest means,” Kupperman wrote. “I believe I came to the U of I with an equally modest intellect. Bill was both a professor of mine in the undergraduate Civil Engineering program and my graduate school adviser. He made an average student believe he could reach some above average goals. He was somebody who cared about his students inside the classroom and beyond. While I am grateful for the education I received at the University of Illinois that experience is distilled for me into one person, Bill Hall. Our gift is not only recognition of what Bill did for me, but also for the decades of students who also benefitted from his influence. A whole other case could be made for honoring Bill’s professional achievements. That is not our objective. Our gift is all about Bill the person.”

Kupperman is Chief Operations Officer for the real estate development, investment and management firm Silverstein Properties Inc. in New York City. He began his career at A. Epstein and Sons, the company founded in 1921 by Abraham S. Epstein (BS 11), also a CEE at Illinois alumnus. Throughout his 45-year career there, Kupperman had a particular focus on organizational strategy and development as well as the management and organization of mega-projects, such as the expansions of McCormick Place in Chicago and the United Airlines Terminal at O’Hare International Airport and the redevelopment of Midway Airport.

William J. Hall Classroom, first floor
William J. Hall Classroom, first floor

After A. Epstein was sold to the employees through an employee stock ownership plan in 2000, Kupperman retired as Chief Operating Officer. In 2005, he began working at Silverstein Properties Inc., where his projects have included the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has honored Kupperman with the College of Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Service and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Professor Emeritus William J. Hall posing before the Alaska Pipeline, one of the projects on which he worked.
Professor Emeritus William J. Hall posing before the Alaska Pipeline, one of the projects on which he worked.
During 40 years on the department faculty, Professor Emeritus William J. Hall (MS 51, PhD 54) educated and advised generations of students who became civil and environmental engineering leaders around the world. He was a named a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1968 — one of the youngest people ever elected. He led the department as Head from 1984-1991.

“I’m honored to have this classroom dedicated to me,” Hall said. “My hope is that others who use it are as fortunate as I was in enjoying a long career at Illinois with top-notch colleagues and talented students. I’m very grateful to Mickey for his generosity and to all the donors who are contributing to this space.”

The Kuppermans also made a gift to establish the Sidney Epstein Alumni Welcome Center in the new Hydrosystems Lab addition.


Wilbur Milhouse
Wilbur Milhouse
Wilbur Milhouse establishes Milhouse Family Classroom

Alumnus Wilbur Milhouse (BS 94, MS 95) and his wife, Dawn, have made a gift to establish the Milhouse Family Classroom. Milhouse is president and CEO of Milhouse Engineering & Construction Inc., the firm he founded in 2001. The name of the classroom has dual meaning.

“Whenever I refer to Milhouse Engineering and the individuals in it, we talk about being the Milhouse family. The name refers to my own personal family and also my family at large here at Milhouse,” he says.

Milhouse is a longtime supporter of the University of Illinois, having served on several university boards, including the College of Engineering Board of Visitors and the CEE Alumni Association Board of Directors. His many awards have included the CEEAA Distinguished Alumnus Award (2018); the Illinois Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers Citizen Engineer of the Year (2016); the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame (2015); and a University of Illinois Black Alumni Network Power Mover (2015). Milhouse’s extensive involvement in civic and charitable groups has included his founding of Milhouse Charities in 2012. He was featured in the Chicago Tribune for his efforts to bring power to Nigeria.

Milhouse Family Classroom, second floor
Milhouse Family Classroom, second floor

When asked about his motivation for giving to the Modernization Plan, Milhouse said, “I’d like to give back to my university. You go through life, and you get to a level of success, and I like to remember those who helped me get there. The university and the faculty are all part of that.”

Milhouse also sees value in improving CEE’s facilities.

”When I was going to school there, we didn’t have the Yeh addition that is there now,” he said. “It was very bare; we had classes in the basement, and we’d wait in the dark hallway. Having additional classes and lecture spaces is very important. You made do. But if you go to other universities, or even to other departments at Illinois, you think, we need a better building. We’ve been number one for so long, it’s time to give a little TLC.”


Jon and Judith Liebman. Photo: Larry Kanfer.
Jon and Judith Liebman. Photo: Larry Kanfer.
Judith Liebman Gallery to be named for CEE’s first woman on tenure-track faculty

Professor Emeritus Jon Liebman has made a leadership gift to establish a student collaboration space named for his wife, Professor Emerita Judith Liebman. Judith was the first woman to be appointed to the tenure-track faculty in CEE.

“Judith has always had a strong interest in various forms of participatory learning: learning by doing, learning by collaboration,” Jon said. “So it is very fitting that a collaborative space in the new addition carries her name, and we both hope that a lot of enjoyable and beneficial learning will happen over the years in this space.”

Judith began her career at Illinois in 1972 as an assistant professor in CEE, later moving to the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering when Jon became CEE department head. From 1986 to 1992 she served as Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate College. She is Professor Emerita of Operations Research in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Illinois. She holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Physics from the University of Colorado. She has chaired the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation Engineering Directorate. Other service has included membership on the Army Science Board and as president of the Council of the Operations Research Society of America. She has served on the University of Colorado Foundation Board of Directors and its Board of Trustees. Judith has authored or co-authored many research publications and received numerous awards for excellence in teaching.

'Engineer,' by David Reekie
'Engineer,' by David Reekie
The Judith Liebman Gallery will also feature a work of art donated by the Liebmans.

“Judith and I have been collecting contemporary art made from glass for more than 30 years,” Jon said. “We love the huge diversity of forms and representations that can be made from glass, and the incredible variety of skills and techniques that can be used to create these shapes.

“The piece that we are giving for incorporation in the space is called ‘Engineer,’ and is by British artist David Reekie. Reekie is known for his humorous figures that show aspects of the human condition, usually with an underlying serious social commentary. This work, with its almost-robotic figure with a screwed-on arm, is a reflection on under-utilization of highly-educated technical skill.”

Judith Liebman Gallery, second floor
Judith Liebman Gallery, second floor


Additional Funding Opportunities

Spaces that still require leadership gifts in order to be secured (see floor plans below):

  • Transportation Faculty Classroom (Third floor. To be named for the transportation faculty who educated and inspired generations of Illini transportation professionals.)
  • Resource Recovery Laboratory (Basement level. A hands-on teaching laboratory that will give students experience with real waste streams and state-of-the-science resource recovery technologies, plus opportunities to ideate, build, test and develop innovative approaches to sanitation and resource recovery. The Resource Recovery System would be unique among American universities.)
  • Sedimentation Laboratory
  • Materials Laboratory (Basement level. To provide hands-on instruction in these fundamental subject areas.)
  • Faculty and graduate student offices (World-class faculty and top graduate students are key to maintaining our exemplary research program, and adequate office space is essential in attracting and retaining them.)

Green: Fully funded
Yellow: Naming established with a leadership gift; more funding needed
Orange: Planned but not yet funded

Click to enlarge

Bridge additional funding opportunities:

Basement funding opportunities:

First floor funding opportunities:

Second floor funding opportunities:

Third floor funding opportunities:

For more information about giving to the CEE Modernization Plan, please contact:

Benito Mariñas
Professor and Head
(217) 333-6961

Katya Trubitsyna
Strategic Data Manager
(217) 300-0194

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This story was published July 16, 2018.