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ASEE Prizewinner "Gerry" Fleischer Passes Along Prize to Viterbi Students

Emeritus Epstein Department Professor establishes green technology research award
Eric Mankin
October 27, 2010 —

In April 2010, Gerald “Gerry” Fleischer, a distinguished Viterbi School emeritus professor, was the very first winner of the National Engineering Economy Teaching Excellence Award, a new American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) honor. 

"Gerry" Fleischer: engineering prizewinner establishes student engineering prize
Six months later, Fleischer is establishing his own prize: a green technology competition for Viterbi students paying winning individuals or teams a cash honorarium. Fleischer returned to USC from his present home in Colorado to make his donation.

"With this gift, Gerry Fleischer once again demonstrates the commitment to engineering education that was demonstrably evident throughout his long career in our school," said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. "The gift, at the intersection of engineering and economics, will spur student's interest and excellence in this crucial interdisciplinary area."

The new Fleischer Prize will “recognize student contributions to the application of the methods and principles of engineering economic analysis to green technology… those plans, programs, mechanisms and devices intended to improve the environment,” according to the gift agreement. “Examples include windmills and wind farms, solar panels, nuclear power plants, and other technologies related to energy consumption or adoption of renewable energy sources.”

It is Fleischer's hope and expectation that the prize will serve in some small way to illuminate rational decision-making relative to this area of critical importance to the nation's future. It is his view that the consequent economic costs, both direct and indirect, of investments in green technology are too-often ignored or little appreciated by the general public as well as corporate entities and governmental agencies.

He believes the current situation is not unlike the mid-1950's when there was an explosion of interest in the multi-billion dollar federal interstate highway system and, with the guidance of the Bureau of Public Roads, the rapid development of benefit-cost analyses was applied to transportation systems in general.

A 3-member prize committee will oversee the administration of the prize, and select winners.

Dean and Donor: Yannis Yortsos with Professor Emeritus Gerry Fleischer.
Graduate and undergraduate students are eligible.

Fleischer’s long and distinguished career at the Viterbi School's Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering was marked by the publication of more than 100 articles and five texts. One of the texts, Introduction to Engineering Economy (1994) became a standard in Fleischer’s specialty, rational economic decision making in systems engineering contexts.

"Anyone who has touched the arc of USC Professor Emeritus Gerry Fleischer's contribution to the field of industrial and systems engineering knows Gerry's passions for engineering economy, and for quality teaching," said James E. Moore, at the time chair of the Epstein Department, speaking about the ASEE honor.

"Over a span of 35 years, from 1964 until his retirement from USC in 1998, Gerry Fleischer's instruction on the fundamentals of rational, economic decision making has touched the lives of thousands of Viterbi students, and shaped their collective ability to identify and respond to opportunities,” Moore continued. “His uncompromising commitment to the subject has colored the intellectual culture of the Epstein Department, the Viterbi School, and our field."

Two businessmen who gave their names to Viterbi School departments, including one former student, added their praise.

“Gerry’s reputation in the professional community for his accomplishments in advancing the principles and methodologies of engineering economy, both nationally and in Southern California in particular, deserve special mention," said Daniel J. Epstein, founder and chairman of the board of the ConAm Group of Companies. "Gerry is very well thought of by the hundreds, if not thousands of his students over more than three decades as an engineering economy educator.”

"He was and remains legendary," said Sonny H. Astani, Chairman of Astani Enterprises, Inc. "It is no exaggeration to say that he was the paramount personality in economic analysis and was (and remains) an inspiration to many. I note the profound effect that Dr. Fleischer had upon me as I developed professionally in subsequent years.

“Fueled in part by what I had learned in his class, I have been successful in business in Los Angeles. As I told a reporter for a 2008 Viterbi Engineer Magazine story, ‘Gerald Fleischer’s Engineering Economics course introduced me to the world of finance and investments and changed my life.’”

Fleischer received his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1962 and joined the USC faculty two years later.