Terzaghi Mentor Award

This award, established in 2008, recognizes outstanding individuals for their achievements as mentors throughout their career. The recipient should be an individual who has made lifelong efforts in providing professional, ethical, and technical mentoring for environmental and engineering geologists. The recipient need not be a member of any particular class within the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists, and shall not be an active member of either the Executive Council or the Board of Directors of AEG at the time of award. Also, this special recognition is intended to recognize both our members in academia, where mentoring is a natural part of their job, and our members who have made extraordinary efforts in the workforce, where it is less expected but equally important. Nominations are due March 15 and should be submitted to Headquarters.


2008 – Christopher C. Mathewson
2009 – Terry R. West
2010 – Jerry Higgens
2012 – Roy J. Shlemon
2013 – Abdul Shakoor
2014 – No Award Bestowed
2015 – Scott Burns
2016 – Dr. J. David Rogers
2017 – James H. Williams
2018 – Donald "Don" West
2019 – Louis van Rooy
2020 – Skip Watts
2021 – No Award Bestowed
2022 – No Award Bestowed



In the fall of 2007, AEG appointed an ad-hoc committee to name and provide criteria for a Mentor Award for the Association.  In the Spring of 2008, the AEG Board of Directors approved the name Karl and Ruth Terzaghi Outstanding Mentor Award. 

Karl Terzaghi, civil engineer, geologist, professor, and Ruth Terzaghi, geologist, were a renaissance man and woman who profoundly influenced the mode of thought of their contemporaries, consequently initiating new eras in the geologic and engineering practices. They worked as geologists in the field of civil engineering, providing mentoring through wit, wisdom, and labor in advancing both geotechnical engineering education and practice as well as, generating the interest of young students while developing a loyal following. Karl, known as the “father of soil mechanics,” now called geotechnical engineering, devoted his entire career to establishing the modern discipline of soil mechanics and foundation engineering enabling the design of safe foundations, earth dams, and subsurface and earthwork construction. Ruth was selected for AEG Honorary Membership in 1972

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary© defines mentor as an experienced advisor and supporter:

Someone more experienced, who advises and guides a less experienced person: a trusted counselor, trainer, tutor or coach: an experienced person in a company or organization who gives guidance and training to a junior colleague.

In reality, mentoring goes much farther than that. Mentoring supports our future. It involves the act of giving or disseminating information/experience/guidance.  Often, mentors lead simply by example. The benefits of mentoring are seldom immediate, but they are long lasting and the satisfaction gained is largely immeasurable.


            The Terzaghi Outstanding Mentor Award Committee (Committee) is charged with developing objective criteria for the award, reviewing nominations for the award, developing and maintaining a list of potential award nominees/candidates, and voting on proposed nominees for the award.  The Committee will interact with the President and the Awards Committee as needed and submit an annual budget for anticipated expenses. Changes to this Charter and the associated nomination and selection criteria and must be approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors.

Committee Membership: 

            Vacancies in the Committee shall be filled by appointment by the President.  The Committee will consist of 6 total members of the Association; 5 voting and 1 non-voting.  The 5 voting members shall include; One Past President, One Honorary Member, One Floyd T. Johnston Award recipient, One Piteau Award recipient and one Karl and Ruth Terzaghi Outstanding Mentor Award recipient.  The current Past President shall serve as the Committee Chair and be non-voting member.  The terms of the Committee Members shall not exceed three years, and the Committee shall strive to stagger the length of their terms in order that continuity is maintained.  The initial terms of the 5 voting Committee Members shall be as follows:

            1. 1 Year Term: Piteau Award recipient, Past President

            2. 2 Year Term: Honorary Member, Johnston Award recipient

            3. 3 Year Term: Terzaghi Award recipient

Selection Criteria: 

The Award recognizes outstanding individuals for their achievements as Mentors throughout their career.  The recipient should be an individual who has made lifelong efforts in providing professional, ethical and technical mentoring for environmental and engineering geologists.  The recipient must have an active AEG membership, but can be from any Class of Membership specified within AEG Bylaws.  The recipient shall not be a member of either the AEG Executive Council or the Board of Directors at the time of the nomination and selection.  This special recognition is intended to recognize both our members in academia, where mentoring is a natural part of their job, and our members who have made extraordinary efforts in the workforce, where it is less expected but equally important.  Nominations for this award may be made by the Membership at large, and must be supported by at least two other AEG Members.  Following are seven important selection criteria for consideration of a nominee;

  1. The awardees must have a long history (at least 20 years) of mentoring environmental geologists, engineering geologists and/or students.
  2. The mentoring should involve close and frequent contact with the mentees over a period of at least a year, not just one or two contacts.
  3. The award honors how the mentor positively affected the mentees professional life. Therefore the mentees should have developed a record of contribution to the profession of environmental and engineering geology, based in part on the influence of the mentor. These contributions could be by publishing professional papers, giving presentations at professional meetings, authoring or contributing to significant consulting reports, or mentoring others, as examples.
  4. This in an AEG award. The committee is encouraged to place emphasis on the nominee’s record of successfully promoting professionalism particularly in AEG. The mentees could show such a commitment to AEG by having held positions in Chapters, Committees, the Board of Directors, or the Executive Council.
  5. The awardees should have influenced a large number of mentees or mentored a smaller number who achieved greater success and positive influence on the profession in part because of the mentor’s influence.
  6. The mentor can have worked in private practice, in a government agency, or as a university educator. The committee is encouraged to consider nominees from all areas, but should NOT establish a quota for each area.
  7. The awardees must have demonstrated a level of integrity and ethics above reproach and consistent with AEG’s Principles of Ethical Behavior.

Any particular individual nominee is not expected to be equally “outstanding” in all selection criteria, but activity in all areas would be expected.

Nomination and Selection Process: 

Selection of the Award candidate in any particular year shall be by a majority vote of the Committee.  Should the Committee not reach a majority decision on a candidate, a decision not to award may be made.  Objective evaluation of the selection criteria will be made by the Committee and the evaluation may include conversations with Nominators as well as those supporting the Nominee. 

  1. Nominations for the Award may be made by the Membership to the Committee Chair (Past-President) throughout the year but must be received by March 15.
  2. An AEG member should submit a letter of nomination and at least two supporting letters to the Committee Chair (the current Past-President) with copies to the AEG Chief Operating Officer by March 15.
  3. The nomination and supporting letters should be written testimonials that focus on the nominee’s success as a mentor rather than his or her success as an engineering geologist. The letters should include convincing evidence and specific examples of mentoring in at least the following areas:
    1. Longevity of mentoring activity - has this activity been taking place during a significant portion of the individual’s professional career
    2. Breadth of the activity – how many individuals have been influenced by the mentoring
    3. Scope of the activity – what has been done (i.e.: mentoring by example, direct intervention, personal contact, encouraging of professional association involvement, etc.)
    4. Consequences of activity – evidence that the mentoring has produced desirable and positive results including the opinion that the mentor has created in the mind of the mentees the idea that he/she should in turn become an effective mentor.  This is the “so what question.
  4. Documentation can take many forms including, but not limited to, written statements (testimony) of individuals involved such as mentees, colleagues, etc.; compilation of data showing dates and individuals involved; job descriptions in which mentoring is shown as a component, performance reviews in which mentoring is mentioned; etc. Evidence that those nominating an individual are in a position to have first hand knowledge of the nominee and his/her mentoring activities should be included. The nomination letter should include a short, but comprehensive, vitae of the nominee.
  5. The Committee shall vote on one or more nominees deemed to meet the selection criteria and the Committee Chair shall notify the President of the recommended Award candidate at least 30 calendar days prior to the Annual Mid-Year Board of Directors Meeting.
  6. The President shall present the recommended Award candidate to the Board of Directors for approval at the Mid-Year Board of Directors Meeting and notify the recipient in writing as soon as practical following approval by the Board of Directors.
  7. The Committee Chair shall notify the Nominators whose Nominees where not successful and include a discussion of the selection criteria if requested.
  8. The recipient shall be presented the Award at the Annual Meeting, and the presentation shall include a citation and an award engraved with “KARL AND RUTH TERZAGHI OUTSTANDING MENTOR” and the recipient’s name, AEG logo, and year of receipt.