News Release

Remembering Joel Holliday, past president of Charles Lee Powell Foundation

August 15, 2022--The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is mourning the loss of Joel Holliday, former director, president and CEO of the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, and ardent supporter of the Jacobs School's mission to pursue engineering for the public good. Holliday died on June 28, 2022.

The Charles Lee Powell Foundation leadership, including former director, president and CEO Joel Holliday, second from right. From left to right: Charles Rees, Jr., Director; William Holliday, Director; Mary Berglund, Director and Treasurer; Albert Pisano, Dean, Jacobs School of Engineering; Joel Holliday, Director, President and CEO; and William Low, Director. (Photo: Melissa Jacobs)

Over the past three decades, the Charles Lee Powell Foundation has provided more than $40 million in philanthropic support to the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. Much of this was provided under Holliday’s tenure as president. The generous San Diego-based foundation has funded research all across UC San Diego's Department of Structural Engineering. For example, support has been critical to the success of the Structural Engineering Department's Charles Lee Powell Laboratories. In 2005, the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center at UC San Diego became the newest facility added to the Powell Laboratories, and just recently completed an upgrade to a full six-degrees-of-freedom to more effectively test full-scale structures for earthquake resilience. 

The Charles Lee Powell Foundation was also a crucial supporter in the development of the Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall, completed in 2002. In addition, the foundation has established the Powell Fellows program for doctoral students, the H. Kunzel Endowed Scholarship/Fellowship Fund and endowed faculty chairs to help recruit and retain stellar scholars. 

The original Powell Laboratories Building at UC San Diego. (Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann)

Most recently, the Foundation was recognized for their steadfast support of student success with the naming of The Charles Lee Powell Foundation Terrace at the Jacobs School’s new Franklin Antonio Hall.  The Powell Terrace will serve as a premier space for outdoor dining, events, and a central hub for activity and engagement in the new 186,000-square-foot facility opening this fall. 

“Joel was an excellent partner and trusted friend of the Jacobs School of Engineering,” said Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School. “It was a pleasure to collaborate with him on everything from new ways to support our student researchers, to funding the preeminent earthquake research facilities in the world. We will greatly miss his foresight and vision.”

Thanks to the support of the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, the work of our university impacts the San Diego region and beyond. When you drive across a highway bridge in California, there is a good chance that your safety depends on a piece of technology that has been developed and tested in UC San Diego's Structural Engineering Department. More specifically, many of the advances making California roads and bridges safer during earthquakes were tested at the Charles Lee Powell Structural Engineering Laboratories on campus. One of the laboratories’ many landmark contributions is the assessment of key structural elements for the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The iconic bridge’s eastern span needed to be replaced after being damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan inaugurating the updated UC San Diego earthquake simulator, supported in part by The Charles Lee Powell Foundation. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

“The initial contribution of the Charles Lee Powell Foundation was critical to the formation of the Powell Structural Engineering Laboratories,” said Gilbert Hegemier, distinguished professor emeritus of structural engineering, and founding director of the Powell Structural Engineering Laboratories. “This contribution was made after I approached Joel Holliday and briefed him regarding the importance of establishing a large-scale testing facility in the US. Fortunately, Joel saw our vision and trusted UC San Diego to make that vision a reality. We greatly appreciate his initial and continuing support over the years. Joel’s leadership will be greatly missed”.

“The Charles Lee Powell Laboratories in UC San Diego's Structural Engineering Department provide researchers with unique capabilities for testing the safety and resilience of full-scale structures, and developing new materials and design guidelines for building safer bridges, buildings, and more,” said Benson Shing, professor of structural engineering and director of the Charles Lee Powell Laboratories. “I am grateful to Joel and the Foundation for all the support they have provided to the laboratories, which have played a significant role in enhancing public safety. This would not have been possible without their generous support.”


Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering