In Memoriam: Ken Kerri, CWEA Past President and WEF Leader

February 20, 2015


Photo courtesy of Bruce Corwin, president of The Corwin Group Inc. (Fresno, Calif.).

Photo courtesy of Bruce Corwin, president of The Corwin Group Inc. (Fresno, Calif.).

Kenneth D. Kerri, Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member since 1959 and California State University, Sacramento professor, died Dec. 15 at the age of 80. Kerri’s many leadership roles, long list of achievements, and vast volunteer experience in the water sector, earned him the respect and admiration of many.

“Ken was one of the, if not THE, godfathers of wastewater. He was always so humble,” said Christine H. Radke, WEF member and Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF; Alexandria, Va.) research program director. Radke worked with Kerri on WEF’s Collection Systems Committee. Kerri served as the first chairman of the committee from 1982 to 1984 and remained an active member through 2014. He never missed a committee meeting at WEFTEC, Radke said.

In 1977, Kerri received the WEF Collection Systems award. From 1997 to 2000, he served as committee chair of the WEF Awards committee, remaining a member of the committee through 2014. Kerri also received numerous other WEF awards and recognitions including honorary membership in 1984, the Gordon Maskew Fair Medal in 2000, and WEF Fellow in 2014. Kerri served as president of the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) from 1983 to 1984. In 1988, he received the Arthur Sydney Bedell Award from CWEA.

Photo courtesy of Corwin.

Photo courtesy of Corwin.

“Ken’s legacy with this organization, our industry, and I am sure all of us personally, will live on,” said Paul Bishop, WEF member and Association of Boards of Certification (Ankeny, Iowa) CEO. “He was an extraordinary man and you could not help but be changed by his presence in your life.”

Kerri received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University (Corvallis), a master’s degree in sanitary engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate in sanitary engineering from Oregon State University.

Kerri worked throughout his life to educate others. He began by teaching civil and sanitary engineering at Sacramento State in 1959. While teaching in the Department of Civil Engineering, Kerri received a Distinguished Faculty Award from the university. In 1997, he became professor emeritus and retired.

In 1972, Kerri established the Sacramento State Office of Water programs, a national training program for operators and managers of water sector facilities.

“[Kerri] remained active with WEF and CWEA training events, both via presentations and in networking activities,” said Bruce Corwin, WEF member and president of The Corwin Group Inc. (Fresno, Calif.). Corwin served on the CWEA Sacramento section board with Kerri for more than 6 years.

“His professional association mentoring included work with student groups, as he inspired new generations of wastewater professionals,” Corwin said.

Kerri contributed to books that provide training for wastewater professionals. In 2005, more than one million of these operator training manuals had been sold to more than 250,000 operators, adopted as textbooks in more than 300 colleges and universities, and translated into 12 different languages, Corwin said. “His analogous series of texts for water supply systems have been critical to wastewater education.”

Kerri also served as project director for operator training programs, water distribution systems, wastewater collection systems, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment and reclamation facilities, pretreatment facility inspection, and utility management. Recently he acted as senior advisor on a project to train and license water and wastewater sector operators in Jordan, a project that has been expanded throughout the Middle East, Corwin said.

As a professional consulting engineer, Kerri provided consulting services for cities, counties, special districts, states, federal governments, universities, industries, and engineering firms, Corwin said. His achievements also earned him honorary membership to the American Water Works Association (Denver) and the President’s Award for Outstanding Service from the Association of Boards of Certification (Ankeny, Iowa).

Chuck Weir, WEF member and owner of Weir Technical Services (Pleasanton, Calif.), first met Kerri while working at the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB; Sacramento, Calif.) when Weir served as executive director for the State of California’s Water Quality Control Institute (WQCI). “We served together on an Advisory Board for the SWRCB for Operator Certification and Training,” Weir said. “He had recently begun to publish his operator training manuals. I was a trainer for the state and used his materials in the classes taught by WQCI … He was responsible for developing training manuals on a variety of subjects in the water and wastewater sector.”

Kerri’s contributions to the water sector carry on through his work, the programs he started, the educational materials he contributed to, as well as the Ken Kerri Endowment Fund. Sacramento State established the fund in 2009 to honor Kerri’s contributions to the university. It supports an annual grant to civil engineering faculty research.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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