Bernard Amadei

Photo: Jim Harrison

Bernard Amadei

13th Heinz Awards - 2007

Dr. Bernard Amadei received the 13th Heinz Award in the Environment category for his work to improve the quality of life in some of the world’s poorest communities.

By all accounts, Dr. Bernard Amadei had established an impressive, though mainstream, academic career in engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he arrived in 1982 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2000, however, his career took an abrupt turn.

Invited by a representative of the Belize Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Amadei visited San Pablo, a Mayan village of 250 people, to examine the possibility of designing and installing a water delivery system to the village. What he saw, he said, “broke my heart”: a village with no electricity, running water or sanitation, and, because most villagers worked at a nearby banana plantation, the responsibility for carrying drinking and irrigation water from a nearby river to the village fell to the village children. Professor Amadei returned to Boulder and recruited eight University of Colorado students in civil and environmental engineering, as well as a local civil engineering expert, to work on the project.

He eventually founded Engineers Without Borders - USA (EWB-USA), which applies professional expertise and selfless compassion to remote areas of the world. Dr. Amadei and EWB-USA have since grown to 224 projects in 43 countries, 8,000 members and 235 established university and professional chapters. In 2001, he co-founded the EWB-International Network, which is now in 45 countries.

At the University of Colorado, Dr. Amadei has also created a new program, Engineering for Developing Communities. Its overall mission is to educate globally responsible engineering students and professionals who can offer sustainable and appropriate solutions to the endemic problems faced by developing communities worldwide.

Grounded in the principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability, Dr. Amadei engineering solutions restore human dignity, peace and economic health to poor villages. His talented and dedicated network of academics, professionals and students is engaged in making sustainable changes that are profoundly improving the lives and fortunes of some of the world’s poorest people.

Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.

“International development is a two-way street —you learn as much from them as they do from you.”

— Bernard Amadei