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Our friend William Gianelli: A deserving tribute

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

We just received word that a longtime member of our team has received a wonderful tribute to his life’s work. On October 8th at the University Club at the University of California (Berkeley), Bill Gianelli was elected to the University’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni for his work in civil and environmental engineering.

This award was presented at the Academy of Distinguished Alumni’s annual banquet.

Bill has always had a special place here at Dawson. He was one of the founding members of our firm in 1997 and his term as Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) immediately preceded the term of our founder, Bob Dawson.

Bill couldn’t be at the event but what follows is the tribute to him:

Alumnus William Gianelli received his Bachelor of Sciences degree in 1941 in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. Upon graduation, he served in the US Army during World War II, rising to the rank of major and receiving the Purple Heart. He was appointed head of the California Department of Water Resources in 1967 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. At DWR, he led the planning for and development of the landmark California State Water Project.

As President, Ronald Reagan appointed Mr. Gianelli to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Chair of the Panama Canal Commission. Mr. Gianelli finished his career as a private-sector engineer at Dawson & Associates. He is retired today, 96 years old and living in Monterey County.


First is the prestigious Hoover Medal in 1988 “for outstanding civic contributions, as civil servant and private consultant, including the development of water resources and enlightened stewardship of public properties to the benefit of the citizens of the United States.” The Hoover Medal is conferred upon “an engineer who is professional achievements and personal endeavors have advanced the well-being of humankind.”

Second, in honor of his contributions to the State Water Project, DWR named the pumped-storage hydropower plant at the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, the William R. Gianelli Power Plant.

Mr. Gianelli could not be with us tonight but I ask that we have a rousing round of applause in his honor.

Congratulations on a great achievement, Bill!


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.


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