ASCE is saddened to learn of the passing of James W. Poirot, P.E., Pres.94.ASCE, NAE, the Society's 1994 President, on Aug. 4. Acclaimed worldwide for his leadership in environmental engineering and as an early advocate of sustainable practices, Mr. Poirot served as chairman of the board of CH2M Hill from 1983 to 1993.
Widely admired by all who knew him, Mr. Poirot was active in ASCE for more than 40 years, starting in the early '50s while at Oregon State University, through career moves that took him to Fairbanks, Alaska, Seattle (as Section president), Atlanta and Denver, culminating with his year as ASCE President in 1994. Mr. Poirot said his loyalty to ASCE was based on the Society's position as an unbiased regulator of codes and ethics.
During his year as ASCE President, Mr. Poirot was instrumental in establishing the ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award, recognizing journalists who help the public understand the role and impact of civil engineering in their lives. Founded in 1994, the annual award is showcased at ASCE’s OPAL Gala.
Mr. Poirot's greatest legacy as President was pressing successfully for the move of ASCE's headquarters from its New York City roots. Under his guidance, ASCE relocated to suburban Washington, DC, in Reston, VA. The James and Raeda Poirot Lobby at the headquarters building is named in their honor.
Mr. Poirot was a founding board member of the World Engineering Partnership for Sustainable Development, and later, vice president of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations. He served as president of WFEO’s Committee on Technology (ComTech) for four years and led the engineers’ response to sustainable development for the United Nations’ Committee on Sustainable Development. Guided by Mr. Poirot, ComTech brought case study, real world solutions to sustainability issues at the annual United Nations Committee on Sustainable Development’s spring conferences. In 1994, he was instrumental in providing civil engineering input to create the Earth Charter, a grounds-up approach to the world’s acknowledgement of sustainability issues. At the Earth Charter’s inaugural ceremony in The Hague, Netherlands, Mr. Poirot delivered an address before Earth Charter Chairman Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev.
A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Mr. Poirot also served as president of the American Consulting Engineers Council, chairman of the first ABET Industrial Advisory Board, and member of The Oregon State University Advisory Board.
His contributions were recognized with many awards, including the 1998 Kenneth Andrew Roe Award, presented by the American Association of Engineering Societies, honoring his effective ability to facilitate collaboration among engineering organizations. Mr. Poirot earned a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering in 1953 from Oregon State University, from which he also received an honorary doctorate in engineering in June 2003.
The leadership, staff and members of ASCE extend our condolences to the Poirot family, Jim’s many friends and colleagues.