CIVIL ENGINEERING RECEIVES
NEW NAME, RE-ENERGIZED GOALS
The Lyles family’s success in major construction projects, their multigenerational
ties to Purdue University, and their extensive philanthropic generosity have come
together in their latest gift to Purdue, to name the Lyles School of Civil Engineering.
William “Bill” Lyles (BSCE ’ 55); his brother,
Gerald Lyles (BSCE ’64, MSIA ’71); and Bill’s
son, Will Lyles (BSCE ’81, BS Economics
’81), have made a historic $15 million gift.
Civil Engineering plans to invest the gift
toward increasing student scholarships,
recruiting and retaining top professors, and
establishing endowments to support new
efforts, said Rao Govindaraju, the Bowen
Engineering Head of Civil Engineering and
Christopher B. and Susan S. Burke Professor
of Civil Engineering.
“This influx of support will play a significant role in the success of our students,
faculty, and staff, enabling us to amplify
our impact on society,” said Govindaraju.
“It allows us to enhance student learning
and faculty research. In keeping with our
land-grant mission, we will be educating
future civil engineers to be leaders in the
The gift will help civil engineering
address critical world problems, he added.
“Among those grand challenges are the
world’s aging infrastructures, along with
transportation, power, and water- and fuel-
supply systems. As we build our strengths
in big-data systems and computational
solutions, we will seek answers to long-term
questions of sustainability and resiliency.”
These goals reflect the ambitious stra-
tegic growth initiatives the entire College
of Engineering has set for itself under
the leadership of Leah H. Jamieson, the
John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering
and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of
Electrical and Computer Engineering. (See
Page 4 for more on these initiatives.)
“Purdue is making a landmark investment
in expanding the College of Engineering,” said
Jamieson. “Generous support such as that
from the Lyles family is the crucial complement to that investment. It is the ingredient
that will allow us to recruit, retain, and invest
in top students and top faculty — to grow our
impact as well as our numbers.”
Century-long Purdue ties
The Lyles’ Boilermaker connection began
with Henry Gerald Venemann, who began
his studies in Purdue’s class of 1907. After
working in industry, he returned to teach
mechanical engineering, retiring in 1954.
He was the maternal grandfather and
great-grandfather of the three Lyles family
members who were instrumental in this
recent transformative gift. All three are
principals in Lyles Diversified Inc., a Fresno,
California, company that expanded from
construction to include manufacturing,
agriculture, and real estate development.
Bill is president and chief executive officer;
Gerald is senior vice president; and Will is vice
president of construction.
Bill’s and Gerald’s parents— William
Lyles Jr. (BSCE ’ 35) and Elizabeth Lyles (BS
Science ’ 33, MS Education ’ 34) — founded
the business in 1945 and were among many
other family members with Purdue degrees.
Their reasons for giving to Purdue are
simple, Bill said. “It is our way of saying
‘thank you’ to a place that is doing a good job.”
He said his education enabled him to
build on what his parents started. “Purdue
allowed me to prepare myself to be an engi-
neer who was also a businessman,” he said.
That background helps in leading the family
company, which employs about 500.
Gerald combined engineering and busi-
ness as well. He built upon his civil engineer-
ing degree with a Purdue master’s degree in
industrial administration. “I believe we are
given talents to use during our lifetime and
to do our best to multiply them,” he said.
“The resulting rewards we accumulate while
on this earth are not ours to necessarily keep,
but to pass along for the benefit of others.”
Like his father, Will knew at a young age
that construction was his calling, even though
his first Lyles Diversified job, at age 16, was
pulling tumbleweeds from a field. And like
his uncle, he combined civil engineering and
business in his studies, double-majoring in civil
engineering and economics.
Will is participating in the gift because
he believes that more U.S. students need
what Purdue teaches. “Technical sciences are
absolutely critical to our country’s future,
to develop and maintain opportunities and
vitality in our country,” he said.
To support Civil Engineering, please make your check
payable to the Purdue Foundation and designate
to “Lyles School of Civil Engineering.“ Mail to the
College of Engineering, Neil Armstrong Hall of
Engineering, 701 W. Stadium Avenue, West Lafayette,
IN 47907-2045, or call 1-877-867-0050.