A legacy of excellence in education
"I think that the best thing about my career was the students. I wanted to help each one of them." — C.K. Wang
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an outstanding institution. Built on the work of great researchers, educators and leaders, it nurtures learning in a vast array of disciplines. The College of Engineering is one of the finest examples, supporting nine departments, including the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
As one of the top-ranked graduate programs in the nation, the department is home to several successful curriculums, most notably structural engineering. This field has changed greatly in the past several decades, and the UW-Madison program has strived to lead the way to the next level of this industry. The program is poised to provide a solid education to the next generation of structural engineers.
As the structural engineering program evolves to meet a changing marketplace, it must work diligently to recruit and retain the best professors. The college's new C.K. Wang Professorship in Structural Engineering is a vital part of this future. Established with an initial $500,000 gift from Emeritus Professor C.K. Wang, this $1 million professorship will create a new faculty position in structural engineering. Such professorships cannot be funded through state dollars; they must be created through private support. Once fully funded, it will allow the department to strengthen Wang's legacy of excellence in devotion to training students and citizenship in the department.
In 1941, C.K. Wang came from China to accept a graduate fellowship at the University of Colorado. Backed by the strong recommendations of his mentor and professor, Clarence Eckel, then head of civil engineering at Colorado, he was able to complete his PhD at the University of Illinois in 1945. Years later, Wang established the Dean Clarence L. Eckel Memorial Awards for faculty and students in civil engineering at Colorado to honor Eckel's commitment.
In 1943, Wang worked one year in the airplane industry, searching for a thesis topic and aiming to help the war effort. He accomplished this in his published PhD thesis on the stress analysis of large holes with reinforcing rings, such as those used in airplanes for weight reduction. Following 12 years of teaching at Colorado and Illinois, he joined the UW faculty as a full professor in 1960. At that time one of his textbooks was already in use at UW, no doubt being appreciated by both faculty and students.
Before retiring in 1992, Wang had earned a reputation as a tough, albeit beloved, professor. During his 32 years, he taught thousands of students and served as advisor for more than 48 master's and 17 PhD students.
Wang's first objective was to help each one of his students reach their full potential. Students were greeted with an open door policy, invited to stop in at all times to discuss classes, research, or the field of structural engineering. In 1974, Wang received the college's prestigious Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching Future Engineers.
With nearly 10,000 pages of text attributed to him from more than nine book titles, Wang is a force in civil engineering departments throughout the world. His textbooks, including Reinforced Concrete Design (co-authored with Emeritus Professor Charles G. Salmon) and Statically Indeterminate Structures, are internationally recognized for their expert analysis of structural engineering.
Rene Dupuis, PhD, PE
“C.K. was so enthusiastic about his teaching that every lecture was both a listening and a visual pleasure. Structural analysis, an otherwise dry subject, became alive. C.K. became my sponsor, mentor and role model. I would have never pursued and succeeded in an academic career without him. He is one of the individuals who had the most influence on my life. In addition to his international stature as a teacher and researcher, C.K. could be counted upon for moral and personal guidance. In my mind, he was the conscience of the department.”
Wang was one of the first to realize that his field would be revolutionized by the advent of computers. Before finite element analysis became the norm, he single-handedly developed computerized analysis procedures. Funded by the National Science Foundation, he conducted two summer courses in 1968 and 1970 for more than 70 civil engineering faculty in the United States and Canada. He was the principal lecturer in these courses using the preprints of his well-known textbooks in computer and matrix methods of structural analysis. He also taught a large number of weekly short courses for practicing structural engineers in the nation. In his later years, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, he and his PhD students developed new computer procedures in advanced structural analysis subjects like structural dynamics and structural system optimization.
Wang continues to support the structural engineering program. His $500,000 gift to the Wang Professorship exemplifies his commitment to the college, its students and faculty.