1973 Pittsburgh Section President, Past Chair of Pitt’s CE Department Abrams Dies at 88

Distinguished Member Joel Ivan Abrams, chairman of the University of Pittsburgh’s civil engineering department for more than 20 years and a past president of ASCE’s Pittsburgh Section, has died at 88.

Abrams, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, served as department chairman from the mid-1960s through 1987, and was founding director of Pitt’s groundbreaking program in public works. “He was a passionate defender of the value and the transformational power of education,” his son Stephen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Abrams was a Fellow of ASCE, and advanced to Distinguished Member in 1997. His active Pittsburgh Section membership included a year as president in 1973. He also was a recipient of an ASCE Professor of the Year award.

Other honors included the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Pittsburgh, the Award for Excellence in Education from the American Public Works Association, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers. For 30 years, he chaired the jury for the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development.

Many will remember Abrams for his homemade wine, which he fermented in his basement. “He enjoyed drinking it, obviously. He also enjoyed giving it away. It was his standard social gift,” Stephen said.

Abrams also is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rosalie, and two other sons.


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