CLEMSON — It’s extraordinary enough to win two professional honors a few days apart, but Les Grady did it 11 years after retiring from Clemson University.

Les Grady

Les Grady

Grady learned he won the 2014 Frederick George Pohland Medal on the heels of becoming a fellow of the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

The honors are the latest in a string that is helping turn the national spotlight on Clemson’s environmental engineering and Earth sciences department.

The attention helps attract top students and faculty to a department that has grown more than 50 percent in five years, reaching 293 students as of 2013.

Grady, who is the R.A. Bowen professor emeritus, retired from Clemson in 2003 and lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with his wife, Joni.

The medal he will receive honors individuals who have made sustained and outstanding efforts to bridge environmental engineering research, education and practice. It will be the 10th awarded by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP).

“I’m pleased,” Grady said. “Fred Pohland was a great guy. He exemplified what it means to bridge research, education and practice.”

Grady said engineering educators need a “good balance” in their careers. They should engage in practice to stay in touch with the real world while conducting research to push knowledge forward.

“However, their focus should be on education because the students are why they are there,” Grady said.

Past medal winners include giants in environmental engineering, said David Freedman, interim chair of Clemson’s environmental engineering and Earth sciences department.

“What a great honor for an outstanding professor emeritus,” Freedman said of Grady’s awards. “We extend our most heartfelt congratulations to Les.”

Pohland, who died in 2004, was a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology before moving to the University of Pittsburgh where he was professor and Edward R. Weidlein Chair of Environmental Engineering.

Grady said that when he was an assistant professor at Purdue University in the 1970s, Pohland asked him to serve as vice chair of the research committee at what is now a 36,000-member nonprofit known as the Water Environment Federation. The experience led to several other opportunities at the federation, he said.

“He had a big hand in getting me started,” Grady said.

Grady was one of 12 individuals named as fellows in the WEF Fellows Recognition Program. It recognizes distinguished accomplishments and contributions of individuals who have made an impact in the global water environment in a variety of disciplines. Grady’s discipline was education/research.

“The medal and fellowship are fantastic news,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science. “It’s a great day for the environmental engineering and Earth sciences department, Clemson University and Dr. Grady. The awards show the lasting impact of his work.”

Grady’s awards are the latest in a series for the department. Cindy Lee, a professor who has researched PCB contamination in Hartwell Lake’s tributaries, recently won election to the board of directors for the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

After retiring, Grady remained in Clemson and kept an office at the university for several years. He helped students finish up research projects and worked on the third edition of the textbook, “Biological Wastewater Treatment,” with co-authors Glen T. Daigger, Nancy G. Love and Carlos D.M. Filipe.

Grady has since turned his attention to climate change, serving as chair of the steering committee for Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

His hobbies include spending time in Shenandoah National Park and working with fused glass. Grady said he has installed solar panels on his house to offset energy use.

His 8-year-old granddaughter lives nearby.

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