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October 1, 2020

Schauer honors Boyle’s legacy with WARF professorship

Written By: Alex Holloway

Jamie Schauer sees his Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation named professorship as a way to honor the past.

 James Schauer
James Schauer

Schauer, the William C. Boyle Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, was one of four College of Engineering faculty members to earn a campus faculty fellowship in the spring. When given the option, Schauer chose to name his professorship after late Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Emeritus William Boyle, who passed away in April 2020.

Boyle, a founding father of the college’s environmental engineering program, retired in 1996—two years before Schauer joined the college. Though Schauer didn’t know the late professor personally, he says he wanted to recognize Boyle’s instrumental work in helping to build the program.

“It’s important for me, in a general sense, to understand our roots and understand the foundation for our current work,” Schauer says. “For me, naming it after Bill Boyle isn’t so much about my personal connection to him but that he symbolizes a connection to the past, and understanding that a lot of what we take for granted is based upon the work of those people who have come before us.”

Civil engineering has a long history, but environmental engineering, as we know it today, is much younger. Schauer says the field began through early work in hydraulics and water chemistry, which has since come to be known as environmental chemistry. When Boyle was hired in 1963, he and fellow faculty members began to lay the foundation for UW-Madison’s environmental engineering program, which is now one of the best in the nation.

“When Bill Boyle was hired, he was instrumental in pushing the environmental engineering field forward,” Schauer says. “His early work on wastewater treatment and oxygen transfer really helped establish the field and put UW-Madison in such a strong position.”

Though Boyle’s and Schauer’s careers are separated by decades, their lives have a number of parallels. Both Boyle and Schauer received their doctoral degrees from the California Institute of Technology. Boyle’s father served as a military physician at West Point, which is very close to where Schauer was born, and both have lived in Rochester, Minnesota. Boyle took a sabbatical in Stavanger, Norway—a city Schauer has visited while working as an engineer.

“It’s really fascinating reading about the past and what he’s done, and I thought we shared some interesting connections,” Schauer says.

The WARF professorship elevate the visibility and prestige of the department and the College of Engineering, and Schauer wanted to take the opportunity to honor someone from within the CEE department. The choice wasn’t easy, with several pioneering faculty to choose from, but he says praise for Boyle was universal.

“I really wanted to honor someone within the civil and environmental engineering department,” he says. “There are a lot of important people from our department who have contributed to environmental chemistry and environmental engineering—and while some other names came up as I also was consulting other senior members of the department, Bill was someone that everyone mentioned.”