Lyles family gives $15 million to School of Civil Engineering

February 21, 2014  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue Board of Trustees on Friday (Feb. 21) approved naming the School of Civil Engineering for the Lyles family in recognition of a $15 million gift from the Lyles Foundation.

The school will be known as the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. The gift will be used to broaden the school's capacities for learning and discovery and for generating solutions to critical global problems.

"The Lyles family has deep ties to Purdue and a long history of generous support for the university," said President Mitch Daniels. "This latest of so many gifts fits uniquely into the university's action plan to increase the number of engineers we supply to our state and nation."

In a statement, brothers Bill and Gerald Lyles said: "We believe that a reinvigoration of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines is critical for our society. We are so proud of Purdue for taking the lead in STEM education in the United States. We are delighted that Purdue is expanding all aspects of its highly regarded programs to meet the national challenge to educate future engineers."

They also noted that the School of Civil Engineering has been an integral part of their family and the industry in which they are involved.

"With proven abilities in experimental and computational techniques and our understanding of new and aging infrastructure, the School of Civil Engineering is addressing the grand challenges facing natural and built environments around the world," said Rao S. Govindaraju, the Bowen Engineering Head of Civil Engineering. "The Lyles gift will enable us to amplify our impact through enhanced student learning and faculty research resulting in solutions that will lead to more sustainable and more resilient societies."

The Lyles family construction business was started in central California in 1945 by Bill and Gerald's parents, William Jr. and Elizabeth Lyles. It has since grown into one of the larger California contractors, specializing in water and other infrastructure. Under their direction, Bill and Gerald Lyles have expanded the enterprise into real estate development, real estate rentals and agriculture. They credit their Purdue civil engineering education for much of their success.

Bill Lyles received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1955. Gerald Lyles received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1964 and also earned a master's in industrial administration from Krannert School of Management in 1971. Bill's son, Will Lyles, earned bachelor's degrees in civil engineering and economics from Purdue in 1981.

Other members of the Lyles family are Purdue alumni, including William Jr., who earned a bachelor's in civil engineering in 1935; Bill and Gerald's mother, Elizabeth, who earned a bachelor's degree in science in 1933 and a master's degree in education in 1934; and Bill and Gerald's sister Marybeth Lyles-Porter Seay, who earned a bachelor's degree in speech, language and hearing sciences in 1959. Their maternal grandfather, Henry Gerald Venemann, was a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering.

The family previously contributed to the Lyles Family Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory (i2i) in the School of Civil Engineering. In 1992 their mother funded the William M. Lyles Computational Laboratory, used by the School of Civil Engineering and the Division of Construction Engineering and Management.

Lyles-Porter Hall, now under construction, is named in honor of a $10 million 2009 gift from Marybeth Lyles-Porter Seay. The new building will house the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, the Indiana University School of Medicine-Lafayette and other health programs. 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu 

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Donald Fry, University Development Office, 765-494-2236, drfry@prf.org

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