UofL Speed School dedicates state-of-the-art testing and research lab for civil engineering

Sept. 27, 2021

By Betty Coffman

Major upgrades have been completed to the structural testing lab at the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering, creating a state-of-the-art facility for research, testing and education. The newly renamed Dahlem Infrastructure Structural Testing Lab Facility, as well as renovated lobby and first-floor hallways of the J.B. Speed Building, were named in honor of the late Bernard A. Dahlem and his wife, Debby, in recognition of a $1 million gift that made them possible.

The testing lab, located in the W.S. Speed Building, now is a significantly improved facility for testing the performance of large-scale structural systems including bridge and building components. The lab renovations enhance learning experiences for Speed School students in the civil engineering program as well as research and testing that will provide community, state and federal entities important information for infrastructure needs.

“This is a wonderful addition to Speed School,” said Emmanuel Collins, dean of Speed School. “Facilities like this can really enhance our research and we appreciate that the Dahlem family worked with us to make this happen.”

The donation was the final gift from Dahlem, a UofL civil engineering alumnus who met his wife, Debby, while they were students at UofL. The couple’s children and grandchildren attended a ribbon cutting for both the lab and lobby on Sept. 17.

“Knowing my mom and dad, they would have been absolutely thrilled to have this type of state-of-the-art equipment for students,” said Charlie Dahlem, the couple’s son. “My mom and dad appreciated their experience at UofL. They were very, very thankful for the education they got at UofL and they wanted other people to have that opportunity.”

The Dahlem family has provided a total of $3.5 million to UofL, supporting the Ralph Wright Natatorium, the Paris Simulation Center in the School of Medicine, athletics, scholarships and other programs in addition to the Speed School upgrades.

“Mr. Dahlem’s commitment to the university was significant, and yet he never sought personal recognition for his generosity,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “What an incredible way to give, to uplift other people, to honor other people, because none of us gets where we are without the help of family, friends, coaches, teachers and mentors.”

The centerpiece of the Dahlem Infrastructure Structural Testing Lab Facility is an actuator system manufactured by MTS with the ability to test up to 25-foot spans for bridge girders, building girders and more, both horizontally and laterally with loads of up to 248,000 pounds each for the two actuators.

“This testing system is the main feature of the laboratory, but the gift also helped us renovate our construction laboratory and build a testing system for torsion, along with a new environmental chamber and an overhead crane to service this area,” said Mark McGinley, professor and Endowed Chair for Infrastructure Research in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We very much appreciate the gift.”

Dahlem Gift Dedication & Ribbon Cutting

Through the generous support of Bernard A. Dahlem, Speed School was able to upgrade our civil engineering equipment, providing a safer learning environment, optimized structural efficiency, and opening the space for more opportunities to collaborate.