CEE Update Faculty Retirement: Jery Stedinger

Jery Stedinger
Jery Stedinger

January 1, 2021 marks the retirement of Professor Jery Stedinger. For 35 of his 43 years at Cornell, Stedinger taught CEE 3040 – Uncertainty Analysis and encouraged students to take courses in Statistics and Probability. Stedinger shared, “for me, a major mission was to prepare Cornell Engineering graduates for real-world success by helping them to understand and be able to address variability and uncertainty.” Stedinger never tired of teaching the course.

As a graduate student at Harvard in the mid-1970’s, Stedinger’s studies and research addressed environmental systems analysis. His advisors, Fiering and Thomas, were pioneers and leaders in the field of stochastic hydrology, the application of probability and statistics to hydrologic problems. Stedinger thoroughly enjoyed working with them and consequently he pursued probability and statistical modelling with his graduate students and colleagues throughout his career.

During his tenure at Cornell, Stedinger served selflessly in roles within the School and the University. He served five years as associate director of the CE undergraduate program, under CEE Director Arnim Meyburg. And though he moved on to other responsibilities, his regard for CEE’s undergraduate programs continued. For example, he explored Total Quality Management (TQM) as a paradigm for regularly negotiating with students about how to improve the instruction of CEE 3040.

Stedinger was an advisor for the now defunct Cornell Engineer, an engineering student run magazine. He then became an advisor for Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. Stedinger has served nine years as the advisor of the ASCE student chapter, during which the Chapter sponsored two ASCE Student conferences and hosted the annual pig roast until that tradition ended, around 2012. In 2019, Stedinger also took on the role of advisor for the N.Y. Water Environment Association student chapter.

For the past twelve years, Stedinger has been co-chair of the faculty committee that oversees CEE’s B.S. in Environmental Engineering program, which is offered jointly with the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering (BEE). He worked closely with four BEE faculty co-chairs and both BEE and CEE staff. The program has been a great joy for Stedinger as he has watched many students obtain their B.S. EnvE degree through the program. Additionally, Stedinger has served as a manager of the Master of Engineering program in Environmental Engineering.

In keeping with his research, Stedinger’s sabbatical leaves were spent with teams that dealt with hydrologic risk and statistical issues at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Center in Virginia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering (USACE) at the Institute of Water Resources in Virginia and Hydrologic Engineering Center in Davis, California, and the Centre for Water Resource Systems (CWRS), Vienna University of Technology in Vienna, Austria. Four of five sabbaticals were taken at U.S. federal agencies where Stedinger was able to learn first-hand about challenges those agencies faced in dealing with natural resources, and to contribute to their solutions based on research results he brought with him, developed there, or pursued later. A fun fact about Stedinger’s last two sabbaticals at the federal agencies, USGS and USACE-Davis, was that his closest colleagues at each agency were individuals who had each earned a Ph.D. with him at Cornell. This pleased Stedinger. 

Stedinger himself has been fortunate to be recognized American Geophysical Union Fellow (2000) and with the ASCE Julian Hinds (1997), Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water for Surface Water Branch (2004) and ASCE Chow Award (2014). The ASCE Hinds award also reflects his contributions to optimization methods for reservoir and hydropower systems and reflecting variability in environmental inflows and forecasts.

Coupled with those honors, Stedinger became a distinguished member of ASCE in 2013 and a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2014. Stedinger is very grateful to his colleagues Professors Christine Shoemaker and Pete Loucks for supporting such recognitions, and for the work the three of them have done together and side-by-side. From 1977 until Shoemaker retired, they comprised the Environmental and Water Resources area within the School. It is a truly remarkable accomplishment that all three earned the ASCE Julian Hinds award, became distinguished members of ASCE, and were elected to the National Academy of Engineering!

Stedinger and his wife, Robin, will continue to live in Ithaca and maintain their community involvement. Jery is currently Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 2. In retirement, he plans to work on several research topics and associated papers. Stedinger sends his best to alumni who populated his courses for four decades and members of the student clubs he worked with. Jery adds, “please, do well and stay well."