The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI)'s George W. Housner Medal for 2024 has been awarded to Robert D. Hanson (M. EERI 1968) in recognition of his contributions to earthquake hazard reduction through education, research, international cooperation, and public service. The Housner Medal is awarded to recognize individuals who have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to public earthquake safety through the development and application of earthquake hazard reduction practices and policies. It is the most prestigious award of the institute. The medal will be presented at EERI's Annual Meeting in Seattle in April 2024.
Hanson is a professor emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he served as department chair from 1976 to 1984. His bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering were from the University of Minnesota, and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology under the supervision of George W. Housner. In his 40-year academic career, his research focused on repair of reinforced concrete buildings and passive control of earthquake response of buildings, and he was co-awarded the ASCE Raymond C Reese Research Award in 1980. He also performed research on the design and development of passive energy dissipation devices, leading to an EERI monograph paper. These research activities resulted in over 120 referred publications.
Hanson's contributions to the field also include three off-campus assignments: UNESCO Chief of Mission at the IISEE, Tokyo, Japan 1970-71, NSF Division Director [earthquake and wind], 1989-90, and FEMA Recovery and Mitigation, Northridge earthquake, 1994-2000. As a technical advisor to FEMA’s Northridge Earthquake Response and Recovery efforts from 1994 to 2000, he helped organize a plan for the repair and upgrade of hospital buildings, which was recognized by FEMA's “Meritorious Service Award.” Since 2001, he has served as a technical advisor on projects funded by FEMA and performed by the Applied Technology Council. In this capacity, he had a critical role in most of the FEMA technical design and assessment guidance publications commonly used in practice today.
In all these capacities, Hanson has served as an influential mentor for others in the profession, supporting many earthquake engineering researchers and practicing engineers. He has served as chair or co-chair of twenty-seven PhD graduate committees between 1967 and 2002.
Hanson joined EERI in 1968 by invitation and has been an Honorary Member since 2001. In addition to service on five EERI committees, he served on the EERI Board from 1976-1979 and 1988-1991 and as president in 1989 and 1990. His participation in eleven post-earthquake field investigations starting in Venezuela, 1967 led to his support of the EERI Learning From Earthquakes program. He also led the establishment of two EERI Awards: the Housner Medal in 1990 and the Shah Family Prize in 1997. Over that time, his EERI committee service has included the Endowment, Shah Award, Development, Oral History, and Nomination committees. Hanson is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and Fellow and Life Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).