In a ceremony unlike any ASCE has seen before, Jean-Louis Briaud assumed the role of 2021 Society president, Thursday, Oct. 29.
Briaud accepted the presidential pin and gavel from ASCE’s 2020 President K.N. Gunalan – in a trick of digital technology – during the annual membership meeting as part of the ASCE 2020 Convention, hosted virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no doubt that I would have preferred to meet in person and get the gavel from Guna directly and give him a hug,” said Briaud, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE. “But it was not possible.
“That’s what my mother was just telling me – ‘This darn virus; I miss my hugs!’
“But you accept it and do the best you can with what you have, and hopefully we’ll get back together in person soon.”
Briaud attended the virtual event from his office at Texas A&M University, where he is a distinguished professor, addressing membership, “You’ve just handed me a 168-year-old jewel called ASCE.”
Briaud likened his leadership approach to the way he plays his favorite sport.
“I play tennis, and one thing that helps me is learning that you can only play the next point,” Briaud said. “If you try to think too many points ahead, you usually don’t do well. You can only play one point at a time.”
One of those points no doubt will be communicating with members.
Briaud emphasized communication during his campaign in 2019, and he helped bridge gaps during his year as president-elect, helping organize a summit between ASCE institutes and regions, as well as convening a student presidential group.
He will also launch a regular “town hall” event for members to ask the ASCE president questions about the Society – held every first business day of the month, beginning next week.
“The role of ASCE president is a fantastic honor and responsibility,” Briaud said. “I’m really pumped up, no doubt. I look forward to working with everybody to build upon the good work that’s been done before me.”
Gunalan now assumes the role of past-president. Meanwhile, Dennis Truax, Ph.D., P.E., DEE, D.WRE, F.NSPE, F.ASCE, was installed as ASCE’s 2021 president-elect at the annual meeting, along with five new directors:
• John C. Folts, P.E., M.ASCE (Region 1 director)
• Kevin D. Nielsen, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE (technical region director)
• Lawren Pratt IV, P.E., LEED AP, M.ASCE (Region 5 director)
• Kenneth H. Rosenfield, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE (Region 9 director)
• Elizabeth Ruedas, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE (at-large director)
Convention goes ‘virtual’
The Convention was not in Anaheim, as originally planned, but instead presented as a virtual event, similar to the ASCE Virtual Technical Conference in September and other Society events throughout the year.
“I have been very impressed how intensive and engaging the virtual convention has been going,” said Arthur Alzamora Jr., P.E., F.ASCE, a senior associate and vice president for Langan and vice chair of the ASCE Convention Technical Program Subcomittee.
“This convention shows how great of an event a team can put together when faced with extraordinary measures during this difficult time.”
Much of the regular Convention programming continued – just in a digital form.
Jacob Ward kicked off the Convention with an opening plenary talk about artificial intelligence and the disruptive technologies that will shape the 21st century.
Quincy Alexander, M.ASCE, Carol Martsolf, P.E., PMP, M.ASCE; Yvette Pearson, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE; Elizabeth Ruedas, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE; Stephanie Slocum, P.E., M.ASCE; and Leyah Valgardson had a plenary panel discussion about inclusion, “Become a Change Agent to Rise Together.”
The Industry Leaders Forum provided attendees with an in-depth look at the new Future World Vision Mega City 2070.
And the annual Celebration of Leaders Lunch … OK, the Celebration of Leaders Lunch did not include lunch this year, but it did honor the 2020 class of Distinguished Members and Society award winners, complete with video acceptance speeches.
Attendees could interact with speakers in special Q&A rooms or by posting questions in the session forums. The usual networking moved to direct messaging and daily happy hour events.
“Of course there is always something missing when we can’t get together in person, but this has been the best platform I’ve used for a conference so far,” said Logan Johnson, P.E., M.ASCE, attending the Convention virtually from her home in New Hampshire. “Hats off to ASCE for pulling this all together.”