Just as ASCE standards help civil engineers achieve technical excellence, ASCE’s Outstanding Projects and Leaders Awards are given to professionals whose achievements set standards for outstanding careers worthy of admiration and inspiration, even emulation.

The Society has honored five esteemed professionals with OPALs in construction, design, education, government, and management annually since 2000. The following individuals chosen for 2024 join an exclusive roster of 119 previous honorees. They are:

Cary Kopczynski, PE, SE, M.ASCE, CEO and senior principal of Cary Kopczynski & Company in Bellevue, Washington, for construction. Perhaps more than anyone, Kopczynski and the firm he founded in his name have transformed the Seattle skyline. The structural engineer has built 12 towers of 24 stories or more in the city. He is the immediate past president of the American Concrete Institute and has been named twice by Engineering News-Record as one of its Top 25 Newsmakers for his firm’s pioneering applications of high-strength reinforcing steel in high seismic regions.

James R. Harris, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, principal of J. R. Harris & Company in Denver, for design. Harris’ structural engineering knowledge has benefitted the profession since the late 1960s, including as an active member of several committees that produce national standards. He has chaired the committee producing updates to ASCE/SEI 7, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, and its subcommittee on seismic design. Harris has helped the American Concrete Institute and the American Institute of Steel Construction prepare commonly used standards for the structural use of concrete and steel in buildings.

Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, Dist.M.ASCE, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Technology and Systems Management at the University of Maryland, for education. Ayyub has been a driving force behind researching and disseminating ways of making infrastructure more sustainable and resilient to the effects of climate change, weather extremes, and other natural hazards. His vast contributions include ASCE manuals of practice on climate and hazard resilience. Ayyub has been one of the leaders of a collaboration between ASCE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to share data to enhance standards.

Roger M. Millar, Jr., P.E., FAICP, F.ASCE, secretary of transportation for Washington state since 2016, for government. Overseeing an annual budget of about $3.5 billion, Millar sees transportation projects not as ends unto themselves but as a means of enabling economic vitality, responsible environmental stewardship, social equity, public health, and enhancing area aesthetics. The National Complete Streets Coalition he spearheaded to make roads and streets safe, convenient, and pleasant regardless of transportation mode has been adopted by 30 states. He recently served as an at-large director on the ASCE Board of Direction, as the 2023 president of the Transportation and Development Institute, and currently sits on ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council.

Robert Prieto, P.E., NAC, FCMAA, M.ASCE, chair and CEO of Strategic Program Management LLC, for management. Prieto has served in executive leadership of some of the world’s largest design firms, first as chair of Parsons, then Parsons Brinckerhoff, for 20 years from 1983 through 2003, then as senior vice president for Fluor from 2004 to 2015. He joined Australia-based Cardno Limited in 2016, orchestrating a restructuring that rescued the firm, which was acquired in large part by Stantec in 2021. He has served as an advisor to Mott MacDonald on its shareholders committee. Prieto has demonstrated a dedication to advancing the profession as a member of ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council, including as chief judge of the Society’s annual Innovation Contest.

Each recipient will be honored in person at the OPAL Awards Gala during the ASCE 2024 Convention in Tampa this October. Watch for Civil Engineering Source profiles of each in the weeks running up to the gala. Here's how to submit an OPAL nominee for 2025.