AISC to Honor 12 Leading Design, Construction, and Education Professionals in 2021

February 3, 2021



An earlier version of this release incorrectly listed the awards some of these prestigious individuals have received. Please note the following corrections:

  • Dennis Noernberg, Jeffrey Packer, and Rafael Sabelli received Lifetime Achievement Awards, not Special Achievement Awards.
  • Scot Becker and Dale Ison received Special Achievement Awards, not Lifetime Achievement Awards.

We sincerely regret the errors.

CHICAGO - The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) will honor 12 leaders across the structural steel design, construction, and academic communities with prestigious awards for their achievements and contributions.

AISC awards recognize individuals who have made a significant difference in the success of the fabricated structural steel industry. Whether it's for an innovative design, an insightful technical paper, or a lifetime of outstanding service, an AISC award bestows prestige and well-deserved recognition upon its recipient.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals whose continued outstanding service has made a difference in the success of AISC, the structural steel industry, and the structural steel design, construction, and academic communities. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award winners are:

Jerome F. Hajjar, PE, PhD - Professor, Northeastern University

Jerome F. HajjarJerome F. Hajjar is a highly recognized researcher and educator of innovative steel and composite steel/concrete structures. His contributions to the field span more than 30 years and have led to the development of new resilient and sustainable structural systems; strength and stability design provisions for steel and composite structures; and nonlinear analysis formulations for structural stability and performance-based seismic design of steel and composite structures. Hajjar received the 2005 AISC T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award and a 2004 AISC Special Achievement Award. He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and has received several awards from ASCE and other professional societies for his research and teaching. He has served on the AISC Committee on Specifications since 2006, as well as several of its task committees, and he chairs the Task Committee on Composite Design. As the CDM Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University since 2010, he advances the civil engineering profession through research and education every day. 




John D. Hooper, SE, PE, F. SEI, F. ASCE - Senior Principal and Director of Earthquake Engineering, Magnusson Klemencic Associates

John D. HooperJohn D. Hooper, SE, PE, is a Senior Principal and the Director of Earthquake Engineering at Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA). Hooper received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Seattle University in 1981 and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. Since joining MKA in 1997, he has played an important role in almost every high-rise building the firm has designed in seismically active zones.

With more than 35 years of engineering experience, Hooper is a nationally recognized specialist in advanced seismic design. The impact of his work can be found throughout the AEC industry. He has made great contributions to seismic-related research and advancements, particularly in the development of the next generation of Performance-Based Seismic Design (PBSD) methodologies and advancing code-prescriptive seismic design approaches. In addition, Hooper has traveled to major earthquake sites throughout the world to research and analyze the performance of structures and aid in the advancement of seismic risk mitigation.

Hooper is a member of AISC’s Task Committee 3 (Loads, Analysis, and Stability), Task Committee 5 (Composite Design), and the Committee on Specifications. He is the Chair of the ad hoc Task Group on Seismic Analysis.


Dennis Noernberg - Consultant, W&W | AFCO Steel

Dennis NoernbergDennis Noernberg is a consultant who spent 37 years with W&W | AFCO Steel before retiring as a Bridge Detailing Manager in 2019. During his time at W&W | AFCO Steel, Noernberg worked with sub-contract detailers preparing bridge shop detail drawings; assisted DOTs, consulting engineers, and contractors with developing economical bridge designs; and supported in-house estimating by identifying potential fabrication difficulties and costs on jobs being bid. Noernberg was a member of AASHTO/NSBA Steel Bridge Collaboration from its inception to 2015, and has been a member of the AISI Bridge Task Force since 2014. He has presented at NSBA Steel Bridge Forums and World Steel Bridge Symposium at NASCC: The Steel Conference. 






Jeffrey A. Packer, PEng, DSc, PhD - Professor, University of Toronto

Jeffrey A. PackerJeffrey Packer is one of the leading researchers and foremost experts on tubular steel structures in the world. In his 40-year career at the University of Toronto, he has conducted groundbreaking research on tubular steel members, connections, and structures and has published extensively on these topics, including numerous books and design guides. His work has significantly advanced both the state-of-the-art and the state-of-the-practice in tubular steel construction. His work has also had a major impact on design standards for tubular steel structures, including those in the AISC Specification for Structural Steel Buildings.

Packer served on AISC task committees that developed the Specification for the Design of Steel Hollow Structural Sections and has served on AISC Task Committee 6–Connection Design since 2002. In 2005, Packer received an AISC Special Achievement Award for his work on tubular structures. In addition to Canadian and international technical committees, he has also served as a member of the American Welding Society D1.1 Committees on Design (TG1) and Tubulars (TG7). The result of his work has had a profound and sustained impact on the structural steel industry.



Rafael Sabelli, SE - Director of Seismic Design, Walter P Moore

Rafael SabelliRafael Sabelli is a Principal and Director of Seismic Design at Walter P Moore. He is active in the development of seismic design standards for steel systems and is a member of the AISC Committee on Specifications, where he is vice-chair of the Technical Committee on Seismic Provisions. Sabelli is also a member of the AISC Committee on Manuals, where he is chair of the Seismic Design Manual committee. He earned a Special Achievement Award from AISC in 2013, as well as the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award in 2008. Additionally, Sabelli is a member of the ASCE 7 Seismic Task Committee and the NIST Building Seismic Safety Council’s Provisions Update Committee. He is the editor for the SEAOC Structural/Seismic Design Manual and a co-author of Ductile Design of Steel Structures. He has published technical papers on braced frames, connection design, and structural stability.






The Special Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated notable achievements in structural steel design, construction, research, or education. It honors those who have made a positive and substantial impact on the structural steel design and construction industry. This year's award recipients are:

Scot Becker, PE - Deputy Administrator for Regions of DTSD, WisDOT

Scot BeckerScot Becker is the Deputy Administrator for Regions of the Division of Transportation System Development (DTSD) at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). He has been in this role since September of 2019. As Deputy Administrator for Regions, he leads the five Wisconsin DOT regions in planning, developing, and operating safe, reliable, and efficient multimodal transportation systems. Previously, he spent eight years as Director of the Bureau of Structures, which oversees program, policy, design, maintenance, and administration of the state’s 15,000 transportation bridges and ancillary structures.

Additionally, Becker is the Vice Chair of the AASHTO Committee on Bridges and Structures (COBS). Prior to this appointment, he was the State Bridge Engineer representative for 13 years as the primary voting member for Wisconsin. He has served on the T-5 technical committee for loads and chaired the T-19 software and technology committee for nine years.

Becker has been with WisDOT for 26 years and worked three years as a consultant prior to joining the department. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is a licensed professional engineer.


Jamie F. Farris, PE - Bridge Division Deputy Director, Texas Department of Transportation

Jamie F. FarrisJamie F. Farris, PE, is the Deputy Director of the Bridge Division at Texas Department of Transportation. In her role, she assists in overseeing planning, geotechnical and structural plan preparation, construction and maintenance, safety inspection, and PS&E review, among other operations. Farris graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Structures. She joined TxDOT Bridge Division in 2003 after spending three years in the consulting world.






Gary W. Wisch, PE - Vice President, Engineering, DeLong's, Inc.

Gary W. WischGary W. Wisch, PE has worked for DeLong’s Inc., an active NSBA/AISC fabricator member, for 38 years. He spent his first seven years as a research engineer and the subsequent 31 years as the Engineering Vice President. In this role, Wisch supervises all engineering, drafting, and quality control functions. Over the years, Wisch has been involved in numerous civic, religious, educational, and professional organizations. He has served on several NSBA/AASHTO Collaboration task groups, beginning in 1998. He began representing DeLong’s on the NSBA Executive Council in 2008 and recently served four years as chair of the Executive Council.

Wisch has been married 36 years. He and his wife, Jackie, have three children and three grandchildren.






The Terry Peshia Early Career Faculty Award provides recognition to faculty who demonstrate promise in the areas of structural steel research, teaching, and other contributions to the structural steel industry. This year's recipients are: 

Mark D. Denavit, PE, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Mark DenavitMark Denavit has served as an assistant professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville since 2016. Before this, he worked at Stanley D. Lindsey and Associates, Ltd. in the areas of structural design and erection engineering. He has taught courses in structural design, undergraduate steel design, and graduate level steel design. In 2020, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering recognized him with an Outstanding Teaching Award.

Denavit is a member of AISC Task Committee 5 Composite Design, AISC Task Committee 7 Evaluation and Repair, and an associate member of ASCE-7 Subcommittee on Snow and Rain Loads. He also served as the chair of the ASCE/SEI Technical Committee on Composite Construction. His PhD work, which included studies of the axial compressive strength of encased and filled composite columns, led to new and more accurate design equations that were included in the 2016 Specification for Structural Steel Buildings.

Denavit has conducted research over a range of topics on steel and steel-concrete composite structures. His work on ponding has the potential to transform the way this condition is evaluated in practice, leading to more efficient roof designs. His work on strongback systems, for which he was recently awarded a major grant from the National Science Foundation, may lead engineers to more frequently include strongbacks in building seismic force-resisting systems.

Erica Fischer, PE, PhD - Assistant Professor, Oregon State University

Erica FischerErica Fischer has served as an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University since 2017. Prior to this, she spent two years as a design engineer for Degenkolb Engineers. She brings her practical experience into the classroom, where she teaches several structural engineering classes including an advanced steel course and a new structural fire engineering course that she developed. The OSU ASCE Student Chapter formally recognized Fischer’s teaching excellence with the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year award.

Fischer’s research focuses on the performance of structures subjected to hazards, as well as the co-benefits of buildings designed for multi-hazards. The research can demonstrate how the inherent properties of steel-frame buildings (ductility, robustness, sustainability) can contribute to improving the resilience, adaptability, and long-term sustainability of communities, thus promoting the use of structural steel.

Fischer serves on AISC Task Committee 8 AISI/AISC Fire Committee and the AISC Committee on Manuals and has received an AISC research grant to benchmark structural fire engineering modeling to large-scale experimental tests. This builds upon her past work investigating structural steel behavior under elevated temperatures.


Kara D. Peterman, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Kara PetermanKara Peterman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. At UMass, Peterman conducts research on cold-formed and hot-rolled steel system behavior, seismic response of those systems, and the stability of thin-walled steel members. Dedicated to professional service, she is a member of the American Iron and Steel Institute Committee on Specifications (where she chairs the Test-Based Design subcommittee) and Committee on Framing Standards. Peterman was elected to the Executive Committee of the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute and chairs the Education Committee. She also chairs the Thin-Walled Structures Task Group of the Structural Stability Research Council (SSRC). She recently received the 2021 McGuire Award for Junior Researchers from SSRC and the 2020 UMass Amherst ASCE Student Chapter Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2018 she received the Norman Medal, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ highest honor for a technical paper. At UMass, Peterman teaches courses in statics, strength of materials, structural design, and advanced steel design. Prior to joining UMass, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University and received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University.




To learn more about AISC's award programs, visit



For more information contact:

Dani Friedland
Director of Marketing Communications

American Institute of Steel Construction

The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a non-partisan, not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC's mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, market development, and advocacy. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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