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Former Department Head E. Downey Brill Jr. initiates program to establish named endowed graduate awards

Graduate students make essential contributions to our department’s teaching and research. Graduate program development requires a strong commitment to recruit and offer competitive financial assistance to top students from around the world. A new program, initiated by former CCEE Head Dr. E. Downey Brill Jr., will establish endowed graduate awards and enable CCEE to offer multiyear supplemental assistance to graduate students.

Dr. Brill was a faculty member at the University of Illinois for 15 years before moving to NC State, where he served as the head of CCEE from 1988 to 2005. He retired from the department in 2019. One of his priorities as head was to further develop the department’s program of graduate education and research. 

Current Head Dr. Morton Barlaz has worked with Brill over the past two years to create a program with a goal of establishing $1 million in endowments to honor faculty and donors. CCEE has garnered commitments of $720,000 in just the past five months to establish awards honoring Drs. Robert C. Borden, Downey Brill, Jon Liebman and Harvey Wahls. Brill also plans to establish an award honoring CCEE professor Dr. Jim Nau, who is planning to retire this year. Ultimately, the endowment will allow CCEE to make 15 to 20 awards annually.

“As usual, Downey’s plan to provide matching funds worked and incentivized Dr. Roy Borden and me to support an award in his name to recognize all that he did for me during my formative years and all that he has done for the department,” Barlaz said.

CCEE hopes to establish additional named endowed awards recognizing other faculty and donors. There is now an opportunity for additional donors to establish such named endowments with a $25,000 or greater contribution payable over as many as five years. Each endowment fund will meet the $50,000 minimum using a one-to-one matching dollar commitment from Downey and Anne Brill. As many as three additional endowments are possible given the Brills’ commitment of up to an additional $75,000 in matching funds. This matching commitment is also available for additional contributions to any of the endowments that have been established. Additional contributions will increase the number and dollar amount of awards that can be made to students.

“Anne and I are delighted to join Harvey Wahls in supporting an award for him; he served as director of graduate programs for many years and helped enormously in building all aspects of our program,” Brill said. “We are also pleased to join Bob and Ann Borden in supporting an award for Bob, an outstanding faculty member who worked with graduate students on groundwater remediation research. Finally, we take special pleasure in helping fund the award for Jon Liebman, who was my thesis advisor as well as mentor and colleague for many years at the University of Illinois.”

“This program provides the department with tremendous flexibility in recruiting nationally competitive graduate students and will serve the department well for decades to come,” said Dr. Ranji Ranjithan, director of graduate programs.

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Individuals may contribute in support of one of the existing endowments using the following links:

All gifts will be matched one-to-one while funds are available. Please contact Lindsay Smith ( if you would like more information and are interested in contributing to this initiative, including contributing to establishing the endowment honoring Jim Nau.