RIT Professor Earns "Engineer of the Year" Award
Jan. 16, 2002
by Michael Saffran
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Bill Larsen of Brighton, associate professor of civil engineering technology at Rochester Institute of Technology, has been named Engineer of the Year by the Rochester Engineering Society. For the honor, he will receive the Leo H. East Award at the societyís annual dinner-dance on Feb. 23.
Larsen, founder of Larsen Engineers in Brighton, was instrumental in the development of RITís civil engineering technology undergraduate program in the 1970s. He joined the RIT faculty in 1980 after retiring from the company he started 25 years earlier.
Larsenís interests go beyond engineering. Fascination with international affairs, particularly United States foreign policy in developing countries, twice inspired him to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1976 and 1982. Sparked by his involvement in the group Partners of the Americas, a Washington, D.C.-based private voluntary organization, he has been active in humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean region for 20 years, during which time he has traveled to the area 20 times, most recently last June.
"Anything I can do to help improve life, I go ahead and do it," Larsen says.
Working with Sarah Brownell, an RIT mechanical engineering graduate, they designed an ultraviolet, solar-powered drinking-water-disinfecting unit for use in rural areas of undeveloped countries. Brownell installed the prototype and two additional units in the Borgne, Haiti area. A fourth unit is under assembly.
Since 1982 Larsen has been a consultant to the Pan American Health Organization and advisor to the chief health inspector of Antigua and Barbuda. He has conducted several international training programs for the organization in the eastern Caribbean region and at RIT covering solid waste management and safety.
He also coordinates eyeglass and shoe donation programs for needy Haitians. Thousands of pairs of eyeglasses and shoes have been given, with shipping costs borne by Larsen four times a year.
Larsen is past president of the United Nations Association of Rochester and serves as advisor to the RIT Caribbean Students Association. In 1987, he was recognized with the Rochester Chamber of Commerce Civic Award in International Relations and he has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary International Foundation.
Of his most recent award from the engineering society, Larsen says, "Iím pleased because to be recognized by your peers is perhaps the ultimate recognition."
Note: RITís Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety, in the College of Applied Science and Technology, offers undergraduate degrees in civil engineering technology, environmental management and technology, and safety technology; and certificates in industrial environmental management, environmental science, safety and health technology, and structure design. RITís civil engineering technology is one of only two in New York state.