Anestis “Andy” Veletsos, a National Academy of Engineering member and an internationally renowned educator, died last week. He was a distinguished adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, which he joined in 2010, as well as the Brown & Root professor of civil engineering emeritus at Rice University. He was 91.
Veletsos previously served as professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also participated in the Center for Advanced Study. He held visiting appointments at the University of California at Berkeley and at universities in Brazil and India.
In his teaching, Veletsos emphasized the importance of mastering the fundamentals of a subject and developing insight into the structures involved.
“Dr. Veletsos was a role model to many of his students and colleagues. He inspired many to continue contributing to the betterment of structural engineering,” said Abdeldjelil “DJ” Belarbi, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cullen College.
“He was a good friend to the UH community and his contributions to the University’s education mission was remarkable,” said Belarbi, who as a UH Ph.D. student took a graduate course with Veletsos at Rice. They eventually became close friends and colleagues. “He will always remain in my heart and I will miss him so much.”
Veletsos’ leadership in engineering education, teaching, and professional activities had a profound influence on structural engineering, Belarbi added.
His NAE membership stemmed from advancements he made in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, especially inelastic behavior and soil-structure interaction. He was elected in 1979.
Veletsos won the George W. Housner Medal from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the highest honor given by the Institute in recognition of sustained leadership and contributions to earthquake engineering and earthquake risk mitigation.
He was also a two-time winner of the Norman Medal, the highest award given by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for papers published in its journals. Veletsos was also elected to honorary membership of ASCE in 1998 and to the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas in 2004.
On the national level, he headed the group that formulated the Applied Technology Council’s first design provisions for soil structure and then incorporated those provisions into the federal government’s National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. He was also involved with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tank Waste Remediation Systems Committee, the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board for the Yucca Mountain Repository Project and with the Brookhaven National Laboratory for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. More recently, he was affiliated with the Exxon Mobil Co.
Veletsos’ areas of expertise included structural and foundation dynamics, earthquake engineering and the dynamics of offshore platforms. His research helped expand the understanding of response behavior exhibited by structures, foundations and foundation-structure systems, leading to improved designs.
He received his bachelor’s degree with high honors from the Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Patras in Greece.
His other honors include the Huber Research Prize, the Newmark Medal, the Howard Award, the Reese Research Prize, the Theodore von Karman Medal of ASCE, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Civil Engineering Alumni Association of the University of Illinois.
“Our faculty, staff and students are deeply saddened by this news,” said Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean of the Cullen College. “We were blessed to have him share his extensive knowledge and expertise with our community. Our hearts go out to his family and loved one at this very difficult time.”
Visitation for Dr. Veletsos will be held 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, 2018, with 6:30 p.m. Trisagion Prayers at the George H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, 1010 Bering Drive, Houston, TX 77057; telephone 713-789-3005. His Funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 2, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., Houston, TX 77006.