Civil engineering research facility at UA to be named for Little Rock businessman Grady Harvell

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 680 views 

Photo courtesy of the University of Arkansas.

The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville will name a new civil engineering facility for a former student.

The Grady E. Harvell Civil Engineering Research and Education Center is a 37,400-square-foot facility in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park. Harvell, a Little Rock-based businessman, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1972 and is the president of Little Rock-based W&W|AFCO Steel.

An undisclosed estate gift commitment from the Harvell family, one of several gifts the family provided toward the capital project, helped the project reach its final fundraising goal, and the facility is now under construction.

“I’ve had a successful career because of my engineering degree,” Harvell said in a statement. “I got my degree through the efforts of people who were engineers decades before me. I had a scholarship from a gentleman in the College of Engineering Hall of Fame who graduated in 1910 – the Sam and Mary Blair Scholarship. I’m trying to give back to the organization that helped me realize the success I’ve had.”

The Grady E. Harvell Civil Engineering Research and Education Center will include a high-bay structural testing facility with a four-foot thick “strong-floor” capable of testing large-scale structural systems and components. It will also house a 25-ton rail crane to move heavy materials and will allow students and faculty members alike to conduct research.

Harvell said the space will improve faculty research capabilities and will prove attractive for future students and faculty as well as industries and organizations supporting research projects.

“This will allow our excellent professors – people like Micah Hale and Gary Prinz and all our faculty throughout the department – to excel,” he said. “We want to do our part to make sure they aren’t left out in the competition to attract good students, faculty and research opportunities.”

Grady Harvell

Harvell said that as the state’s steel industry has grown so has the need for a facility like this one.

“When I was at the U of A in the late ’60s and early ’70s, in the structures field, the program we looked up to was Lehigh University in Pennsylvania,” he said “It’s my hope that, with the professors we have and the facilities we’re able to give them, our civil engineering program will be considered one of the elites so people will want to come here to get their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.”

Harvell has been engaged with the University of Arkansas through the Arkansas Academy of Civil Engineering since the 1990s. Harvell praised John English, who was dean of engineering from 2013 to November 2020, for his commitment to the project.

“I’ve had a lot of good friends join me in this pursuit, not the least of which is John English as dean of engineering,” he said. “Had he not been engaged, it wouldn’t have happened.”