Pacific News

Professor Gary Litton Receives the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Award

The civil engineering professor and chair was selected for this award in recognition of his unexcelled reputation for scholarship, collegiality, dependability, integrity and sincere care for students that exemplify the teacher/scholar faculty model at Pacific.
Professor Gary Litton

Students investigate water quality at Mono Lake with Professor Litton

Mar 3, 2014
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Dr. Gary Litton, Chair of the Civil Engineering Department, was selected as the recipient of the University's 2014 Distinguished Faculty Award.  Since coming to Pacific in 1993, Dr. Litton has been one of the most talented and effective teachers and scholars in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SOECS).  He was selected for this award in recognition of his unexcelled reputation for scholarship, collegiality, dependability, integrity, and sincere care for students that exemplify the teacher/scholar faculty model at Pacific.

Dr. Litton has skillfully integrated his research into his courses and routinely provides undergraduate and graduate students with research opportunities, maintaining relevancy in the classroom while developing his own knowledge and scholarship.  He actively involves students in his projects and often conducts research on class field trips, motivating students' curiosity and encouraging a desire to develop a fundamental understanding of natural systems.  As part of his courses, Dr. Litton and his students have examined issues of regional and national importance such as water quality issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Field adventures have included gathering and testing water quality samples from the Calaveras and San Joaquin Rivers, Mono Lake, hot springs in the Sierra-Nevada mountains, and acid mine drainage from Leviathan Mine and other abandoned mines in California. 

"His presence in the classroom was evident and his enthusiasm for the subject was unmatched.... As an advisee of Dr. Litton during my time at Pacific, he provided me with mentoring, and a thorough knowledge of the industry that has helped guide me on my career path today." says Margaret Wild (CE'12, MSES'12), who worked as a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Litton while she was a student at Pacific and co-nominated him for this award.

More than 60 undergraduate and graduate students have worked on research projects with Professor Litton. His nurturing approach fosters a positive environment where students develop their leadership and teamwork skills as they help train others on equipment, coordinate activities for field work, and participate in other such activities needed to conduct a successful research program. 

In his letter of support, Pacific alumnus Matt Lemmon (CE'11) wrote:  "I first met Dr. Litton during my sophomore year in his Aquatic Chemistry course.  I was nervous about taking the class ... and I didn't think environmental engineering would interest me.  By the end of the semester, I possessed such an interest in water quality that I enthusiastically accepted an opportunity to work with Dr. Litton as an undergraduate research assistant.  During this time I was able to see how much he enjoys working with students inside and outside the classroom.  Dr. Litton is known for spending the entire night conducting research from his boat on the San Joaquin River, then showing up to class with a cheerful attitude the following day.  He is also known for providing students with his personal cell phone number so they can contact him with questions at any time."

In addition to his work with the students, Dr. Litton is a valued and respected mentor and friend to faculty and staff.  He valiantly led the Civil Engineering Department through the 2012 ABET accreditation process with a successful outcome, has taught everything from the freshman AutoCAD class to Senior Design, and maintains an open door to anyone with a question. 

"Faculty always knew they could go to him for sound advice and they could trust his confidence. Now as the CE Chair, he not only sets the example for faculty by developing their trust, but he inspires them to achieve, which is a superb quality that extends to the other Chairs in the SOECS." remarks Professor Brian Weick.  

Dr. Litton exemplifies the University mission of providing a "superior, student-centered learning experience" by placing students first, offering distinctive quality experiences through his teaching and research, and helping to prepare graduates who are ready to practice in the field of Engineering and to pursue advanced degrees. His research and technical expertise continue to have considerable and substantive impacts at the local, regional, state, and national levels. The Civil Engineering Department, SOECS, and University are indeed fortunate to have such an accomplished and valued colleague.  

The Distinguished Faculty Award was established by the President on the recommendation of the Academic Council in 1974. The award is given for outstanding accomplishment by a tenured faculty member in any or all of the following areas: teaching, research, creative endeavors and service to the University.  Recipients are selected by the University Awards Committee.  One award is made each year at University Commencement.