Robert K. “Bob” Tener, a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a Vietnam War veteran, a longtime Purdue University civil engineering professor, and the Charles Pankow Foundation’s first executive director, has died. He was 86.
Tener, P.E., F.ASCE, earned the highest respect while also becoming known as a kind, open-door counselor to friends and students facing career crises or other life dilemmas. Known for his intellect, talents, generosity, caring, and warmth, Tener loved developing people as well as structures.
Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy and Iowa State University, he embarked on a career of engineering achievements spanning five-plus decades in four distinctly separate arenas: military, service engineering, academia, and management. He crossed disciplines with achievements of national scope in the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors, all the while gifting his family with global experiences and an appreciation of altruism.
He became a registered professional engineer in 1963. The life member of ASCE was elevated to fellow in 1988. During his military career, he received the Bronze Star medal for meritorious achievements in Vietnam in 1968, and two Meritorious Service medals – for outstanding service both as a West Point faculty member and as a battalion commander. He also earned early promotions to major and lieutenant colonel.
Capping his time with USACE, Tener served as the senior executive-in-charge of major engineered construction projects in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi, including the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which remains the largest earthmoving project in U.S. history. A strong suit he developed in the corps was prioritization of environmental conservation principles.
Following his first retirement in 1984, he served in several leadership positions in civic endeavors in Dallas. Ten years later he joined the faculty of Purdue University’s School of Civil Engineering, where he taught undergraduate and graduate civil and construction engineering; directed Purdue’s nationally acclaimed construction internship program; and integrated design-build into the civil engineering curriculum. Tener became a Design-Build Institute of America member in 1994.
It was at Purdue that Tener focused his speaking, publishing, and advocacy efforts on promoting industry/educator interaction. He always stressed the high value of professional practitioners engaging with faculty and students to advance civil and construction engineering education. A hallmark of his time at Purdue was increasing student exposure to design-build in the classroom and through internships.
Tener became, in 2005, the founding executive director of the Charles Pankow Foundation, an applied research institute in California, advancing best practices in the engineering, design, and construction industry. He retired from professional work in 2012.
His awards and recognitions include Iowa State’s Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering; voted professor of the year four times by his Purdue students, and election to six university honorary societies. In 2012, Tener was given the DBIA Brunelleschi Lifetime Achievement Award. He founded, and for six years chaired, the board of directors for the Inland Empire, California regional chapter of the National Architects, Construction and Engineers mentor program.