Civil Engineering celebrates school’s naming

September 26, 2014  

Lyles family

William "Bill" Lyles, from left, Will Lyles and Gerald Lyles stand in front of the bench commemorating the renaming of the School of Civil Engineering to the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue University School of Civil Engineering officially marked its renaming as the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at a ceremony Friday (Sept. 26).

The school is named in recognition of a $15 million gift from the Lyles Foundation.

Brothers William “Bill” Lyles and Gerald Lyles, and Bill’s son, Will Lyles, made the gift, which will be invested for use in student scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, and endowments to support new efforts.

“This generous gift fits perfectly into Purdue’s goal of increasing the number of engineers the university educates,” said President Mitch Daniels. “The Lyles School of Civil Engineering will play a key role as we prepare those engineers to solve problems and spur economic growth.”

Rao Govindaraju, the Bowen Engineering Head of Civil Engineering, said: “This gift will play a significant role in the success of our students, faculty and staff and enable us to amplify our impact on society. And in keeping with our land-grant mission, we will be educating future civil engineers to be leaders in the global workforce. ”

The gift will strengthen the School of Civil Engineering’s position in addressing critical world problems, he said.

“Among those are aging infrastructures and transportation, power, water- and fuel-supply systems. As we build our strengths in big-data systems and computational solutions, we will seek answers to long-term questions of sustainability and resiliency.”

Those goals play a role in the College of Engineering’s strategic growth plan, a part of Purdue Moves, a range of initiatives introduced by Daniels to broaden Purdue's global impact and enhance educational opportunities for its students.

“Purdue is making a landmark investment in expanding the College of Engineering,” said Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. “Support such as that from the Lyles family is the crucial complement to that investment. It’s the ingredient that will allow us to recruit, retain and invest in top students and top faculty – to grow our impact as well as our numbers.”

Bill, Gerald and Will Lyles all are Purdue graduates and principals in Lyles Diversified Inc., a Fresno, California, company started in 1945 by Bill and Gerald’s parents, William Jr. and Elizabeth Lyles. It expanded from construction to include manufacturing, agriculture and real estate development. Bill is president and chief executive officer, Gerald is vice president, and Will is vice president of construction.

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 earned a master's in industrial administration from Krannert School of Management in 1971. Will Lyles earned bachelor's degrees in civil engineering and economics from Purdue in 1981.

Bill Lyles said their reason for giving to Purdue is simple: “It is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to a place that is doing a good job. Purdue allowed me to prepare myself to be an engineer who was also a businessman.”

Gerald Lyles said: “I believe we are given talents to take custody of during our lifetimes and do the best to make them multiply. The money we have is not ours to necessarily keep, but to do the best with which we can.”

Will Lyles said more U.S. students need what Purdue teaches.

“Technical sciences are absolutely critical to our country’s future to develop and maintain opportunities and vitality in our country,” he said.

Other members of the Lyles family are Purdue alumni, including William Jr., who earned a bachelor's in civil engineering in 1935; 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.

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, 

Sources: Mitch Daniels,

Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346,

Rao Govindaraju, 765-496-3402, 

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