Chicago – May 14, 2009 – The Thornton Tomasetti Foundation endowment to the University of Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering awarded its first Eli W. Cohen Scholarship recently to Danny Lee Dian Woon, a junior civil engineering student at the University of Illinois. The $25,000 Thornton Tomasetti Foundation - Eli W. Cohen Endowment was established last year in memory of the structural engineering pioneer who helped shape the Chicago skyline. The long-time Thornton Tomasetti principal passed away in May 2007 at the age of 80.
“I would like to express my gratitude for being awarded the first Eli W. Cohen - Thornton Tomasetti Foundation Scholarship,” said Mr. Woon. “Being a new transfer to the University of Illinois, I have been trying my best to adapt to this new environment. With this award presented to me, it further motivates me to proceed farther in achieving my dreams of becoming a successful civil engineer.”
A native of Malaysia, Woon said he witnessed first-hand many inferior construction projects designed as low-cost housing and the pain that these poor designs caused residents as they deteriorated, heightening their hopelessness in the face of poverty. It was these experiences that fueled his dream to become a civil engineer in order to build affordable and better quality houses that will benefit those in need.
“The foundation’s scholarship gift is made in honor of a man who was the heart and soul of structural engineering and whose spirit and accomplishments will always be with us,” said Richard Tomasetti, chairman of the Foundation. “We wanted to do something special to honor our long-time colleague and friend, and this scholarship fund ensures that future generations of structural engineering students will benefit from Eli’s legacy.”
The endowment will be used annually to provide scholarships to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The annual scholarship award will be given to a structural engineering student deemed by the Department to have the potential to make an impact in the field professionally.
Eli Cohen graduated with a civil engineering degree from the University of Illinois in 1955. He joined Paul Rogers Associates, a structural engineering firm in Chicago, became partner in 1965, then president and principal of Cohen-Barreto-Marchertas (CBM) in 1969. In 1993, CBM merged with Thornton Tomasetti.
Born in Germany in 1927, Cohen and his family fled the Nazis and moved to Palestine in 1935. After high school, he served as a communications officer in the Haganah, fighting for Israeli Independence in 1948. Mr. Cohen moved to the United States in 1953, and after receiving his civil engineering degree from UIUC, went on to become a leading member of the Chicago engineering community.
Cohen also spearheaded numerous philanthropic efforts, particularly his firm’s involvement with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Newhouse Architectural Program, which gives high school students the opportunity to enter the field of architecture and design. He served on the board of Congregation Beth Emet in Evanston and led a tour in Israel that included, among other sites, a building named in his honor at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The Thornton Tomasetti Foundation, a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization established in February 2008, has two primary missions including funding fellowships, scholarships and internships for undergraduate students, and those planning to pursue graduate studies in building engineering, design or technology and providing financial support for individuals and organizations pursuing philanthropic activities related to building engineering, design or technology. Key elements of the program are college scholarships, traveling internships, and grants to, and partnerships with nonprofit organizations.