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Ryckman Lecture

DeVere W. (Rick) Ryckman was a man of many capabilities, the foremost of which was his ability to inspire others. Rick served as the catalyst for attracting distinguished scholars and built a top program in environmental engineering at Washington University in St. Louis in the mid 1950s. The program flourished even prior to the recognition of the importance of environmental engineering, and predating the first “Earth Day” celebrations in 1970. The ENVIRSAN program, recognized for its outstanding laboratories, was one of the first accredited environmental engineering graduate programs in the U.S.

The lecture is a tribute to all the faculty and students who helped start the original program: Drs. D. W. Ryckman, Ed Edgerly, Nathan Burbank, H. D. Tomlinson, Rolf Skrinde, and Jim Buzzell, and an acknowledgement to Betty Ryckman, who generously opened her home to the many students of this program and their families.

DeVere W. "Rick" Ryckman, was the founding director and responsible for setting up the environmental engineering science department at Washington University in St. Louis. He died September 14, 2004 of complications of lymphoma. Mr. Ryckman was brought up on a farm in South Boardman, Michigan. He attended the University of Maine before enlisting in the Navy as a member of the Construction Battalion, stationed in the Pacific while serving in World War II. After his military service, Mr. Ryckman earned a bachelor of science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., one of the nation's oldest technological universities. Mr. Ryckman received a master's degree from Michigan State University and a doctorate of science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in environmental engineering.

In 1956, Mr. Ryckman moved to St. Louis, Mo. where he was in charge of setting up a new department in environmental engineering at Washington University. The Program was established with Drs. Edgerly, Burbank, Tomlinson and Skrinde.

In 1962, Mr. Ryckman helped organize a graduate program at the University of Hawaii. From 1963 to 1975, Mr. Ryckman was a partner in the environmental consulting firm RETA (Ryckman, Edgerley Tomlinson and Associates). In 1975, he founded REACT (Ryckman, Emergency, Action and Consulting Team) which continues today. His son, Stewart Ryckman of Ladue, is president of the company. His other son, Mark D. Ryckman of Atlanta, is the principal engineer of Remtech Engineers, another engineering consulting firm in Marietta, Ga. Mr. Ryckman was a member of the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, St. Louis downtown Rotary Club, the Engineers Circle Club and the Washington University in St. Louis Eliot Society. He served on the board of the Salvation Army.

The environmental engineering science department at Washington University in St. Louis established the Rick and Betty Ryckman lecture series that is supported by an endowed fund. The annual lecture series invites individuals to further promote environmental engineering science education.

Series Presenters

  • Dr. Kimberly A. Prather, University of California, San Diego (2023)
  • Dr. John H. Seinfeld, California Institute of Technology (2019)
  • Dr. Michael R. Hoffmann, California Institute of Technology (2018)
  • Dr. Chaitan Khosla, Stanford University (2016)
  • Dr. Chung K. Law, Princeton University (Fall 2015)
  • Michael McGuire, Michael McGuire, Inc. (Spring 2015)
  • Dr. L.-S. Fan, The Ohio State University (2014)
  • Dr. Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, University of California, Berkeley (2013)
  • Dr. Mark Verburgge, General Motors (2012)
  • Dr. Linda Abriola, Tufts University (2011)
  • Dr. Kirk Smith, University of California, Berkeley (2010)
  • Dr. David A. Dzombak, Carnegie Mellon University (2008)
  • Dr. Adel Sarofim, University of Utah (2007)
  • Dr. Walter Weber, University of Michigan (2005)
  • Dr. Charlie O'Melia, Johns Hopkins University (2004)
  • Dr. Perry McCarty, Stanford University (2003)