Speeches by Dr.G. Wayne Clough

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Dr. G. Wayne Clough

Dr. G Wayne Clough became the tenth president of Georgia Tech In September of 1994. He was the first President of Georgia Tech who actually graduated from Tech. He received a Bachelors and Masters degree in Civil Engineering in 1965, but went on to receive his PhD from the University of California. His civil engineering specialty is in geotechnical and earthquake engineering. Dr. Clough has received nine national awards from the American Society of civil engineers including the revered OPAL lifetime award for contributions to education. Clough is involved with many engineering related organizations such as the New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects and the US Council on Competitiveness. Clough excelled as president of Georgia Tech. He pushed many ideas which were new at the time such as an emphasis on expanding Tech's computer learning department in the mid 90's. Dr. Clough helped make Georgia Tech the great school that it is today. On July 1, 2008 Dr. Clough stepped down as president of Georgia Tech to serve as the twelfth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.


Views on Diversity

Dr. G Wayne Clough delivered many speeches to a multitude of different audiences throughout his role as president of Georgia Tech. Some of his speeches were about the future of engineering or where he believed Georgia Tech should focus its assets on. Dr. Clough delivered a speech about exactly over ten years ago in March of 2000 at the MIT Colloquium about the future of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In this speech Dr. Clough stated that engineering needs to draw in more minorities into colleges and the workforce. He believed that a diversified student body and workforce was necessary as the world moved towards a more globalized economy and the interaction of different cultures becomes more commonplace. These views have not changed and are still held by Georgia Tech.[1]

The Future of Construction

On October 12, 2001 Dr. Clough gave a lecture at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During this lecture Dr. Clough explained how civil engineering is not usually a topic of discussion among people. Clough stated that when people discuss emerging technology, typically biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology are the focus of conversation. He said that even though these fields may be more complex our society depends on technologies that are more basic to its functioning. Clough said that the human population is growing at a rate much faster than any other time in history and that engineers will need to develop new technologies to create the housing, transportation, and public structures to cope with these new challenges. Clough said that the United States will need to upgrade its underground water pipes especially in cities like New York where by 2030 over half the pipes will be more than 100 years old. Clough also said that the nations oil pipelines leak millions of gallons of oil and that this is a construction problem that requires a new, not old solution. Clough commented on the terror attacks of September 11, he said that a new generation of technology will be needed to win back the public confidence in the towering skyscrapers that are symbols for our civilization. He explained how buildings and other structures must be sustainable and be created in a way that does not encroach on the environment; whether that be the materials that the structure is comprised of or the manufacturing processes that create the materials. Dr. Clough concluded this lecture by saying that as the human population grows the worlds infrastructure and environmental challenges needs will grow and that innovative technologies outside civil engineering will offer civil and construction engineers the tools they need to solve these challenges.[2]

Women in Engineering

In April of 2004 Dr. Clough gave a speech at the ADVANCE Conference. In this speech Clough discussed how over the twentieth century two of the most powerful movements to occur were the women's movement and the technological revolution. He stated that women's advances in social status have affected our social institutions tremendously. Clough said that the expansion and influence of technology in our lives parallels the expanding roll of women in the workforce. He said that it is essential that we find ways to form a stronger connection between women in the world of work and the technology in our lives. Clough said that as we move towards a globalized economy it is becoming increasingly urgent that the number of women involved in science and engineering increases. Clough said that other countries like China and Russia are producing far more engineers than the United States who are willing to work for less wages. This means that to stay at the pinnacle of the economic spectrum we need to build an economy based on innovation. He said that the nations economic future will depend on the nation's best and most creative minds. Clough explained how building an economy based on innovation means that the size and skills of the technology workforce must increase and broaden. He said that the current workforce is aging and that in the coming years there will be a great increase in retirements in the coming years and that women represent a critically needed but untapped resource. Clough said that in 2000 women made up 49 percent of the U.S. workforce with college degrees, but that women compose fewer than 25 percent of the science and engineering workforce with college degrees. He stated that the number of women outnumber men in undergraduate enrollment and that by 2010 women will outnumber men among graduates in most degree levels from associate to Ph.D, however women are not as interested in studying science and engineering. Clough said this was not a matter of ability because high school boys and girls take accelerated math courses in roughly the same numbers and obtain relatively equal scores. Clough said that we need to attract more women to the fields of science and technology not only to expand the opportunities of women but in order to help the United States stay afloat and prosper in this new world economy.[3]

Rebuilding the New Orleans Region

On September 25, 2006 gave a speech regarding rebuilding the infrastructure systems of New Orleans due to the damage that hurricane Katrina caused. Clough said that the credibility of engineering was at stake. He said that in order to restore this credibility the engineering profession was to step forward, try to conclude where and why things failed, admit that errors were made, and finally create a solution to this problem that had formed. Clough said that the reconstruction of New Orleans will be one of the most massive and extensive infrastructure projects in United States history. He said that the rebuilding of New Orleans will be extensive due to the many sectors that must be replaced or overhauled. These sectors include transportation initiatives, flood control and prevention, power supply, human factors, etcetera. Clough said that the rebuilding of new Orleans must be done carefully and efficiently because it will be done under public scrutiny where any mistake or failure will be met with tremendous outcry.

Clough was asked to chair the National Academies' Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects to independently review the work of the Corps and ASCE. He said that the purpose of this board was to understand what happened and then use this data to rebuild New Orleans. He said that one of the challenges when trying to figure out why this disaster occurred was storm records. He said that there have only been about 100 years of reliable records for hurricanes. He said this created a problem because the patterns of hurricanes are constantly changing and this creates an issue when you are trying to categorize data for the purpose of analysis. He said that New Orleans is protected by 284 miles of levees and flood walls that were built in sections with different design philosophies and not as a unified system. He said that infrastructure should not have so many various agencies that interact independently of each other. Clough said that levees and flood walls, sewage, roads, bridges, etcetera should should be coordinated in conjunction with one another. Clough also stated how some of the older homes in New Orleans had survived the flooding. He said how 100 years ago the builders had enough common sense to understand that levees could fail or water could run over them, so homes were built five feet above the ground. He said that he wondered why this reasoning had become lost among todays building codes and engineers. Clough finished his speech by saying that this is an example of a disaster that we must learn from in order to educate engineers in the future.[4]


  1. "Civil Engineering in the next Millennium" Archives and Records Management, http://hdl.handle.net/1853/20376
  2. "Society and the Built Environment: What Lies Ahead?" Archives and Records Management, http://hdl.handle.net/1853/20556
  3. "ENHANCING THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN ENGINEERING: A CRITICAL MISSION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES" Archives and Records Management, http://hdl.handle.net/1853/21176
  4. "Rebuilding the New Orleans Region" Archives and Records Management, http://hdl.handle.net/1853/22140
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