Volgenau School Receives $1 Million Gift to Support Civil Engineering Department

Posted: March 26, 2012 at 11:17 am, Last Updated: July 31, 2012 at 10:40 am

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By Catherine Probst

Reva and Sid Dewberry.

Northern Virginia businessman Sidney O. Dewberry and his wife, Reva, made a gift of $1 million to the university to establish the Sid and Reva Dewberry Fund. The fund will be used to support the Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering (CEIE) Department in Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering.

In recognition of the gift, the CEIE Department will be renamed the Sid and Reva Dewberry Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. This is the first department at the university to be named for a donor.

“We are honored that Sid and Reva have made this investment in our school,” says Lloyd Griffiths, dean of the Volgenau School. “Sid has a long history with Mason and has been a strong supporter of university initiatives. He is well respected throughout Northern Virginia and is known for the strength of his support for higher education. Sid played a key role in developing our Civil Engineering Department and was the founder of the Civil Engineering Institute. I can think of no one more appropriate to carry the name of the department.”

The gift will be used to fund the highest priority and most immediate need in the department: a new civil engineering laboratory. With the addition of the 1,250-square-foot laboratory, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2012, students will be able to supplement their classroom learning with hands-on training in hydraulics, geotechnical and environmental engineering and the behavior of structural materials. The laboratory will allow students to develop their critical thinking skills and understanding of scientific inquiry.

In addition, the Dewberry gift will impact both the undergraduate and graduate programs beyond the benefits associated with the laboratory. It will help support undergraduate extracurricular design activities, such as those undertaken by the Mason student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Mason Engineers for International Development. Of even greater importance, the funds will be instrumental in recruiting, retaining and promoting excellent faculty and outstanding graduate students.

“Mr. Dewberry’s generous gift has arrived at exactly the right moment in the department’s development,” says Deborah Goodings, Dewberry Professor of Civil Engineering and CEIE department chair. “This gift will allow us to enhance and support recent initiatives and put new initiatives in place that will redefine our program.”

Goodings adds, “These initiatives will also allow us to assume our place among Virginia’s outstanding civil engineering programs as we develop our own signature strengths. Most important, this gift allows us to honor the Dewberrys, who have been visionary supporters of Mason, the Volgenau School and the CEIE Department.”

Dewberry is the founder and chairman of the Dewberry Companies. From the time he was a young civil engineer and land surveyor in the 1950s, Dewberry has left his mark on Northern Virginia development — not only through the individual projects his firm undertook, but also in the broader planning of the region.

His commitment to higher education and Mason is reflected in his position as a founding member and chairman of Mason’s Civil Engineering Institute, which supports the university’s specialized programs in advanced urban systems planning and design. His ongoing support for the university is evident by his position as Rector Emeritus of Mason’s Board of Visitors, as well as a member of the George Mason University Foundation.

Dewberry has received the George Mason Medal, the university’s highest honor, and the Engineering Excellence and Leadership Award in recognition of his lifelong achievements. He has also been inducted as a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers for his outstanding contributions to civil engineering practice and education.

“George Mason University has quickly become one of the many universities across the country that is providing the necessary education and training for future civil engineers,” says Dewberry. “It was a pleasure for my wife and me to provide this gift to the university that will help build a first-class research and teaching civil and environmental engineering department.”

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at ckearney@gmu.edu

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