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December 2007

Peter J Bosscher
 
“Clearly he was a person that impacted many peoples' lives and will be greatly missed.” ~ Andrew Heydinger, University of Toledo

When Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Peter J. Bosscher was young, his family provided him opportunities to participate in projects involving care for children in inner cities, recycling, and teaching English to Vietnamese refugees.
 
Throughout his life, he has continued such activities and today, as the founder and advisor of UW-Madison’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Bosscher used that instilled sense of social integrity and responsibility to educate engineering students about the global effects of their work. “Just doing the best technology is not sufficient,” he said. “You have to think about larger issues.”
 
The group, he said, provides students with a new context in which to do engineering in which they have to think outside the boxes of the developed world. “At the same time, it brings good things to the lives of the people in the communities in which they’re working,” said Bosscher.”
 
For the past three summers, he and other EWB members have traveled to the war-torn African country of Rwanda to help residents build sustainable basic infrastructure systems, including a gravity-fed system that supplies water for Muramba, a community of about 9,000 villagers and 3,000 schoolchildren. The group added water sources to community, improved the quantity of water, and improved the quality of water through solar pasteurization. Members demonstrated solar food cookers (a simple box lined with aluminum foil and covered with glass—a system that takes advantage of the area’s high altitude and intense sunlight) and showed residents how to make fuel out of discarded organic materials like paper and garden waste. They also helped to open markets for Rwandan products such as handcrafts, baskets and artwork.
 
Bosscher encouraged his students to consider the societal, ethical, environmental, economical and other impacts of the products they engineer. There are products, he said, for the developed world. “But I think we’ll have a much larger impact for the plight of those five billion poor people who truly need the products we have at the moment,” he said. “It’s not like we’re developing brand-new technologies. We’re literally bringing the very simplest, but the most profound, gifts to them that we can: gifts of clean water, clean air, health, diminishment of deforestation, transportation, markets for their products—the very basics of life. To sort of ignore that and just continue to live in our own small worlds, where resources are plentiful—I think that is not a sustainable or just practice.” 
  
 

 

 
Community EWB-USA 
1811 Lefthand Circle, Suite A-1 
Longmont, CO 80503 
 

Engineers Without Borders - USA 2008 International Conference
March 27-30, 2008

SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING &
GLOBAL HEALTH
 
HOSTED BY:
University of Washington, Seattle
Seattle University
EWB-USA Puget Sound Professional Chapter


Dear Members and Friends,
 
On Sunday morning, November 18, 2007, our dear friend and colleague, Peter Bosscher passed away. In addition to serving on the EWB-USA Governing Board, Peter was a much-loved teacher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the advisor to the EWB-USA chapter there. Peter was an inspiration to us all with his compassion, his generosity, his enthusiasm, and his spirit. He will be sadly missed here at EWB-USA and in the communities in which he served.
 
Father John Bosco, formerly of Muramba, Rwanda, remembered Peter in this way, “It was inspiring to see Peter, a high profile person always seated on the verandah in a yoga style every morning reading his Bible…. He was a man with a big heart of mercy. He always talked about eradicating greed, arrogance and illiteracy to pave the way for sustainable development.”
 
The Peter J. Bosscher Engineers Without Borders Fund has been established at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Contributions may be sent to the UW Foundation, 1848 University Ave., Madison, WI, 53708-8860 with the fund name noted. The fund will follow the mission embraced by Peter by assisting disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life through implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects, while developing internationally responsible engineering students.
 
Please join me in expressing our condolences to Peter’s family and friends. He leaves behind him an inspiration for us all and we will miss him.
 
Cathy Leslie
Executive Director
 

As I sat listening to presentations by some engineering student organizations my freshman year, I knew this presentation was different. Instead of offering free food at every meeting or a great connections to industry (which are all great of course), I knew right away this organization called “Engineers Without Borders” had depth. The speaker, Professor Bosscher, talked of actually making a difference in the world, using our engineering gifts sacrificially to help out in places from Rwanda to El Salvador to right here in Madison. Planning to go into Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics and work for NASA, I didn’t really see how this fit in to my major, but it challenged my mindset as an engineer about how we use our knowledge and what impact we will have in our future. Peter's talk my freshman year had been tugging at me for the past two years.  He reminded me to keep in mind the face of the people you are helping and sustaining the beauty of creation. At the end of the conversation he added that he would be teaching an Engineering Sustainability class in the spring, a polite invitation for the next step in the journey.
 
Many people call him Professor Bosscher or even Peter, but within EWB people sometime call him the “Miracle Man”. Always calm and full of wisdom even in the worst projects, his presence always seemed to make projects work out. ~ Kevin Orner, EWB-WI, Madison

Kevin and I went over to visit the morning of Friday, November 16 - 36 hours before he died. We knew his health was declining rapidly, so we planned to say our goodbyes. Even though he had great difficulty speaking, he still wanted to know how the el salvador project was going. He asked probing questions about our progress, about where we were having trouble, and he recommended actions we should take and people we should contact to get help. This didn't surprise me - it's totally in Peter's character - but it makes me admire him all the more that in his final hours he's still trying to get things done and build God's kingdom. We took the time to express our heart felt thanks for all he's taught us. I told him he was the greatest teacher I'd ever had. We told him what a large hole he was leaving behind in the hearts of his family, friends, and students, to which he wryly replie d "Well, there's nothing I can do about that". He kept his sense of humor right up until the end. ~Jonathan Blanchard, EWB-UW Madison


To recognize his work in sustainable engineering around the world, the College of Engineering awarded Bosscher its Ragnar E. Onstad Service to Society Award this May. His EWB group also received the Mondialogo Engineering Award for their work in Rwanda. This award is part of a joint initiative for the promotion of intercultural dialogue, launched in October of 2003 by UNESCO and DaimlerChrysler.  Young engineers from developing and developed countries were invited to form teams and cooperate through intercultural dialogue towards the development of project proposals addressing Millennium Development Goals, particularly those of poverty eradication and sustainable development.
 

 
 
 
 
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