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CEE Professor Becomes Knapp Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The family of the late William “Jerry” Knapp ’47 has endowed a professorship in his memory for the study of civil engineering.

The inaugural recipient of the William L. Knapp, Class of 1947, Professorship for the Study of Civil Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science is George Scherer, who has been a faculty member since 1996 and is a leading figure in several areas of materials science.

“This very generous gift will help strengthen our faculty in areas of critical need,” said Michael Celia, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I am grateful to the Knapp family for creating a permanent legacy that connects generations of Princetonians while advancing our goals of teaching and research.”

The opportunity to support civil engineering at Princeton would have pleased Jerry Knapp, according to his widow Priscilla Knapp. “He had a great love and respect for Princeton,” she said. “It was a wonderful part of his life.”

Jerry Knapp came to Princeton as a freshman in 1943, but left the following year for a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Merchant Marines. He returned in 1946 and completed a BSE degree with honors in 1949. He taught civil engineering at Princeton for two years before joining Mrs. Knapp’s family retail business, Swezey & Newins. Knapp went on to a 13-year career in the administration of Brookhaven National Laboratory and then worked at a Manhattan investment firm.

Jerry and Priscilla Knapp were married while he was teaching at Princeton, and had two sons, William ‘76 and David. Throughout his life, Knapp maintained close ties to the University. He very much enjoyed interviewing prospective students and had a particular interest in recruiting scholar-athletes. Before his death in 1984, he and his family created the William L. Knapp, Class of 1947, Scholarship Fund.

Scherer, whose appointment to the Knapp chair was approved by the University Board of Trustees in November, has broad research interests in materials science and has worked recently on the transport of fluids in concrete and other porous building materials. This work has included research on the deterioration of stone monuments as well as analysis of the safety of proposed methods for trapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in deep underground wells.

Scherer also has established a reputation as a dynamic teacher at Princeton. Along with advanced level courses, he created and continues to teach a popular lab-based course in art conservation, which draws many humanities majors as well as science and engineering students.