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The Life of a Lehigh University Professor: Le-Wu Lu (1933 – 2014)

Le-Wu Lu served Lehigh University as a teacher, mentor, researcher and active scholar for over 43 years in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He started his career in 1954 by receiving a BS, Civil Engi-neering from the National Taiwan Uni-versity. From there he traveled to the United States to pursue a graduate degree which he received from Iowa State University in 1956 specializing in Geotechnical Engineering. While at Iowa State he learned about the re-search being conducted at the new Fritz Laboratory, Lehigh University on the plastic design of steel structures by one of his structural engineering pro-fessors who suggested he attend that university for a PhD. He decided to switch his emphasis from geotechnical to structures and in 1957 came to Lehigh. In 1960 he received his PhD and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1961. By 1965 he was promoted to Associate Professor and became a Full Professor in 1969. Dr. Lu served the CEE department as its Chairman from 1994 to 1998 and was awarded the first Bruce G. John-ston Endowed Professor of Structural Engineering in 1999 which he held until his retirement in 2004.

Dr. Lu’s teaching activities were ex-tremely varied both at the undergrad-uate and graduate levels. They includ-ed the following courses: Structural Analysis 1, Probability and Statistics for Civil Engineers, Fundamentals of Structural Steel Design, Building Sys-tems Design, Structural Dynamics, Re-search Methods, Structural Members and Frames, Advanced Mechanics of Materials, Methodology of Structural Design, Analysis and Design of Steel and Composite Structural Members, Analysis and Design of Ductile Steel Structural Systems, and Stability of Structural Systems.

Dr. Lu’s areas of research were very broad, but concentrated on two types of structures: buildings and ships. He studied aspects of the behavior of build-ing structures and components made of steel, reinforced concrete (both cast-in-place and precast) and composite steel and concrete and subjected to gravity, wind, and earthquake forces. A major part of the work on seismic behavior emphasized post-earthquake field stud-ies and failure analysis of damaged or collapsed steel buildings. The ship struc-ture research was on double hull systems resisting forces due to severe wave mo-tions. He was involved in development of an automated construction system for steel frames, utilizing a type of special steel casting connectors, referred to as the ‘ATLSS Connector,’ which he was a co-patent holder. He also worked on the use of fiber reinforced plastic compo-sites for short span bridges and in strengthening reinforced concrete beams and columns. In nearly all the work, both analytical and experimental approaches were adopted and, in some cases, new testing techniques had to be developed. He has served as a consultant to design and construction industries on building projects in the U.S. and abroad.

During his 44 years of active teaching and research he supervised or co-supervised 24 PhD students that came to Lehigh from all around the world. Most of their research contributions can be sum-marized into five select areas, 1) Strength and Deformation of Steel Columns, Beam-Columns, and Structural Assemblages, 2) Ultimate Strength and Design of Steel Frames, 3) Steel Frames Subjected to Re-peated Lateral Loads (i.e., simulating seis-mic effects), 4) Post-Earthquake Failure Studies of Steel Building Frames, and 5) Double Hull Ships Made of High-Performance Steel and Non-Magnetic Stainless Steel. As previously stated, Dr. Lu is best known for his extensive experi-mental and analytical studies on the seis-mic response of steel building structures, precast concrete structures, innovative structural systems, composite steel-concrete structures, structural connections, and the repair and retrofit of structures that were carried out both in Fritz Labor-atory and later at Lehigh’s ATLSS (Advanced Technologies for Large Struc-tural Systems) Center. He and his students and colleagues not only enhanced Lehigh’s global reputation in structural engineering, but his own work proved invaluable as architects and engineers around the world sought to advance the development of seismic-resistant buildings.

Among his many awards and honors were the following:

∗ The Leon S. Moisseiff Award for ex-cellence in a paper published by the American Society of Civil Engineers recognizing his contributions to struc-tural design, including applied me-chanics as well as theoretical analy-sis, in 1967. ∗ A Senior Fulbright-Hays Lectureship as a member of an exchange pro-gram with the Moscow Civil Engineer-ing Institute, in 1975. ∗ An honorary professorship from the Harbin Architecture and Civil Engi-neering Institute, China, in 1980. ∗ An honorary consultancy from the Central Research Institute for Building and Construction, China, in 1993. ∗ An honorary consultancy from the National Research Center for Industri-al Building Diagnosis and Rehabilita-tion, China, in 1993. ∗ The Eleanor and Joseph F. Libsch Page 2 S S R C N E W S L E T T E R | V O L U M E 4 , I S S U E 1 The Life of a Lehigh University Professor: Le-Wu Lu (1933 – 2014) Award for distinction in research, Lehigh University, in 2001. ∗ A lifetime achievement award from the Asia-Pacific Network of Centers of Earthquake Engineering Research (ANCER), at the Third International Conference on Earthquake Engineer-ing, Nanjing, China, in 2004.

Dr. Lu was still an active researcher well into his retirement. He served as one of six principal investigators for Lehigh’s Chinese Bridge Project, a project that has been supported by the Henry Luce Foun-dation. He helped to teach two courses on modern Chinese fiction, and aided in the effort being undertaken by the Lehigh Library Materials Center to or-ganize a donation of more than 2000 Chinese books.

Dr. Lu was a member of the original joint Committee on Tall Buildings which later became the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, served as CTBUH’s Secre-tary (1969-1972), and was on the or-ganizing committee that brought the First International Conference on Tall Buildings to Lehigh in 1972 where the event drew nearly 800 attendees. Subsequently, he held the following positions at CTBUH: International Conference Committee Chairman (1973-1975), Monograph Working Group Secretary Volume SB Tall Steel Buildings (1978-1980) and was involved in the editing of the five Monographs that were published on the Design and Planning of Tall Buildings, Advisory Group Member (1982-1984), and Research Coordinator (1988-1992). Over his career he was actively involved in numerous professional societies: Ameri-can Society of Civil Engineers Administra-tive Committee on Tall Buildings (Chairman, 1978-1982), ASCE Commit-tee on Seismic Effects (1968-1969), ASCE Committee on Plastic Design, Struc-tural Division (Chairman 1969-1973), ASCE Committee on Composite Construc-tion (1982-1985); Earthquake Engineer-ing Research Institute; International Asso-ciation for Structural Safety and Reliabil-ity; Structural Stability Research Council Task Group on Stability under Seismic Loading; CTBUH Group Secretary for Criteria and Loading, and Structural De-sign of Tall Steel Buildings; ECCS Com-mittee 13 on Seismic-Resistant Design of Steel Structures (ECCS-European Conven-tion for Constructional Steelwork); and Applied Technology Council, Board Mem-ber (1987-1990).

Le-Wu Lu is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Dorothy Lu, his daughter, Julia, son, Paul, and one grandchild.

On a personal note, Dr. Lu was a real mentor to me, always positive and in-sightful. My first recollection of him was during my first graduate days at Lehigh. He taught CE453, Structural Members and Frames, in Fall 1978 – a very chal-lenging course which, among other things, made sure we understood the behavior of structural members, stability issues, and most importantly how to think. I re-turned to Lehigh in Fall 1991 to start my PhD studies and got reacquainted with Dr. Lu while a Graduate Research Assis-tant working on the U.S. Navy’s Fleet of the Future program, 1992-1994, and then on my dissertation research 1994-1997.

As CEE Department Chairman, Dr. Lu seemed to always keep an eye on my progress towards graduation whether it was from an informal discussion after class, meeting for lunch in the Faculty Staff Dining Room, or when witnessing one of my many experiments in Fritz Laboratory or ATLSS. He appointed me a Visiting Instructor Summer 1997 and Adjunct Assistant Professor Fall 1997 which, as it turns out, was just what my CV needed to secure a number of inter-views for a Faculty Position and subse-quently my appointment as an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida. I will always be indebted to him for the opportunities that he gave me. Dr. Lu, you will be greatly missed.

– Perry S. Green, MS 1979, PhD 2001, Lehigh University 

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