Isett Professorship to advance civil and environmental engineering

Jennifer Matthews
October 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Penn State has received a $1 million estate commitment to establish the Barry and Shirley Isett Professorship in Civil and Environmental Engineering. This gift comes from the generosity of Barry Isett, a 1958 Penn State alumnus in civil engineering, and his wife, Shirley Isett, of Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania.

A man wearing a button-down shirt and suit jacket and a woman wearing a dark top with a brooch smile at the camera in front of a beige wall.

Barry and Shirley Isett

IMAGE: Photo provided

“On behalf of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State, I sincerely thank Barry and Shirley for this most generous gift,” said Patrick Fox, John A. and Harriette K. Shaw Professor and head of the department. “Their vision to create the Isett Professorship will provide strong support to our mission of teaching and research excellence into perpetuity.”

The endowment will be used to provide vital financial support to an outstanding department faculty member to further their scholarly contributions to teaching, research and public service. This support can be used for research expenses; to develop new courses and programs; for education and travel expenses; for administrative assistance; and to provide support for undergraduate and graduate students.

“This gift for the civil and environmental engineering department will support good educators,” Barry Isett said. “It will allow the department to recruit another really high-level faculty member to join the college and improve the education of our students.”

Following a Penn State family tradition, Barry Isett’s father, Edward, graduated in 1930; his brother, Fred, graduated in 1959; and his daughter, Jennifer, graduated in 1989.

After graduation, Barry Isett was accepted into the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School and joined the Civil Engineering Corps, serving at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base during the Bay of Pigs invasion. After his discharge from the Navy, he was employed by Lehigh Structural Steel in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was a field engineer.

In order to develop design experience, he took a position with STV in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, a multi-discipline, national engineering firm where he gained extensive experience working on both public and private projects. Barry Isett returned to the Lehigh Valley when he joined F&M Associates, which offered engineering services to local architects.

From 1974 to 1977, Barry Isett was the chief structural engineer for Wallace & Watson, an architectural firm. When work slowed during the economic downturn of 1977, he viewed it as an opportunity to start his own business by offering civil and structural engineering and surveying services. Shirley Isett, who had an administrative support background, provided administrative and bookkeeping functions for the new company. She continued to influence the direction of the firm, including the hiring of Kevin T. Campbell as current president and chief executive officer; Campbell also earned his undergraduate degree in engineering from Penn State. Jennifer Isett is the company’s vice president and manager of business operations and support services, contributing to the success of the business.

Today, the company is a highly regarded multi-discipline, multi-office organization serving a broad range of public and private sector clients. In addition to the original services, the company provides mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering; geotechnical engineering environmental services; municipal engineering; landscape architecture; traffic planning; grant writing; transportation engineering; code services; water and wastewater engineering; construction services and project management.

When it comes to philanthropic efforts, Shirley Isett continues to offer her support.

“Barry decides which organization we support; I make sure we have the money to donate,” she said.

Barry Isett is a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was named a Fellow Member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) in 2005 and served as the northeast regional vice president for NSPE from 2004 to 2006. For this, he was honored with the NSPE Distinguished Service Award in 2014. He was the state chairman of Professional Engineers in Private Practice and served as president of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE) in 1995. He was honored with the Penn State College of Engineering Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2007; the Distinguished Alumni Award from Parkland High School in 2016; the Engineer of the Year Award by the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE) – Lehigh Valley Chapter in 1989.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 16, 2019