Chancellor's Friday Letters

The Brothers Yeager

The Brothers Yeager

May 21, 2010

Dear Friends,

Today, I share a story of two brothers and a conference room.

From the pouring of the large “C” on the hills above the campus, to the creation of multiple endowments at the University, these brothers are permanently linked with UC Riverside.

The brothers were instrumental in establishing the Bourns College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research & Technology. CE‑CERT, as it is known, is nationally recognized for being at the leading edge where academia, industry and government come together through science and engineering in matters of transportation, energy, and the environment (http://www.cert.ucr.edu/ ).

Earlier this week we honored these two inspirational fellows. Who are they?

University, industry, and community leaders gathered to thank Jacques and Eugene Yeager for their vision, commitment and generous philanthropy to UCR by dedicating a conference room in their honor. It was a standing-room-only event – a powerful testament to the affection and appreciation we hold for Jacques and his late wife Helen, and for Gene and his wife Billie.

The Yeagers aligned their passions with worthy initiatives at UCR, including generous philanthropic support of medicine, engineering, athletics, business, arts, and the Alumni and Visitors Center.

The Yeager brothers are natives of Riverside and attended local schools.

UCR did not exist when they graduated from high school, so they studied at UC Berkeley until the interruption caused by WWII.

Jacques served in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy Seabees. In 1945, he returned to Berkeley and graduated in 1947 with a BS in civil engineering. Gene entered officers’ training at Annapolis, Maryland. After serving his country, he also graduated from UCB with a BS in civil engineering.

The Yeager brothers brought the power of their UC educations to the family business, E.L. Yeager Construction Company. This company began laying the foundations and building the infrastructure of California’s cities and towns nearly 100 years ago.

Jacques and Gene recognized the importance of improving air quality and developing future transportation technologies, such as emission controls, roadway sensors, navigation assistance and new ways of designing transportation systems. These technologies formed the vision for, and launching of, CE-CERT.

At this week’s celebration and dedication of the Yeager Conference Room, CE-CERT’s founding Director Joe Norbeck, and the current Director Matt Barth, asked whether the Center achieved the vision laid out by the Yeagers, and whether it all really mattered.

To answer those questions, they recalled the contentious relationship that existed between academia, government and industry in the 1980s. Back then, automakers were under attack from environmentalists and safety activists, and regulation was an adversarial situation.

During the 1980s, states began to set up their own environmental protection agencies. Just as CE-CERT was being launched in Riverside, new air quality regulations were being enacted in California, many of which formed the basis for the Federal Clean Air Act amendments in the 1990s.

The official histories of both California EPA and the U.S. EPA begin with timelines that summarize environmental protection achievements by decade. For the 1990s the histories contain two entries in which CE-CERT played a major role – a role that was discussed extensively in the very conference room now named in honor of Jacques and Gene:

  • “California pioneered advances in vehicle emission controls, air toxics, and control of stationary sources before federal efforts in these areas.”
  • “EPA partners with companies to explore and test innovative, voluntary approaches to environmental protection.”

The clarity of these two statements as part of the permanent record cements the place and achievement of UCR’s CE-CERT in the history of California and this nation.

Good for the Yeagers. Good for our faculty and center directors. Good for the environment. Good for us, and inspiring to all.



Tim White, Chancellor

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Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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