Dr. Kenneth D. Kerri, CWEA Past President and WEF Fellow Passes Away – In Memoriam

Dr. Kenneth D. Kerri: Photo courtesy of Bruce Corwin, president of The Corwin Group Inc. (Fresno, Calif.).

A new In Memoriam update was recently published on the WEF Highlights page and can be found here: Ken Kerri, CWEA Past President and WEF Leader.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of CWEA Past President, Dr. Kenneth D. Kerri on December 15, 2014, mentor and friend to so many in our field.

Dr. Kerri was recently inducted into the WEF Fellows Program for his impact on our profession and his long tenure as a professor at the Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento. His contribution to the “Ken Kerri books” for providing critical training for wastewater professionals, and his analogous series of texts for water supply systems have been critical to wastewater education. As Professor Emeritus from Cal State Sacramento, he continued his efforts to promote wastewater treatment and to reduce water pollution worldwide.

He was active in leadership roles of CWEA and WEF for decades. He was CWEA (then California Water Pollution Control Association) President from 1983-84, was a member of the WEF (then Water Pollution Control Federation) Executive Committee from 1986-87, and was active on the WEF Collections System Committee since the early 1980s. He remained active with WEF and CWEA training events, both via presentations and in networking activities. His professional association mentoring included work with student groups, as he inspired new generations of wastewater professionals.

Ken Kerri’s work for WEF was recognized with numerous honors and awards, including honorary WEF (then WPCF) membership, the Gordon Maskew Fair Medal Award, the Arthur Sydney Bedell Award, and Collections Committee awards. His long-term work with CWEA also garnered special recognition and numerous awards.

Dr. Kerri’s contributions to professional associations and to overall advancement of the water environment went beyond the wastewater field. He received awards from and honorary membership in the American Water Works Association. He was also given the President’s Award for Outstanding Service by the Association of Boards of Certification.

His support for CWEA’s mission to enhance the education and effectiveness of California’s wastewater professionals through training and certification was inspirational. As a mentor to generations of new leaders, a role model of professional achievement and contribution to WEF and CWEA, and an icon for his invaluable series of books for wastewater professionals, he will be greatly missed.

Services are scheduled for December 27 at 11:00 am at the Fremont Presbyterian church, Carlson and H street, Sacramento, California.

If you care to share your memories and condolences, please do so in the comments section below or email them to ebulletin@cwea.org and we will share with Dr. Kerri’s family.

The Office of Water Programs is sharing the following obituary at the request of the Kerri family.

Kenneth Donald Kerri, Ph.D., age 80, passed away suddenly after a brief illness with his beloved family at his side. He is survived by his loving wife Judy, son Chris (Anne), daughter Kathy Krizl (Norman), two grandchildren, Justin and Sarah Kerri, brother Richard Kerri, and devoted dog Angel.
Ken Kerri was born April 25, 1934, in Napa, California. He graduated from Napa High School in 1952, attended Napa College, and Oregon State College (BSCE, 1956); University of California, Berkeley (MS in Sanitary Engineering, 1958); and Oregon State University (Ph.D., Sanitary Engineering, 1965).

He started working as a professor teaching civil and sanitary engineering classes at Sac State in 1959. He became an emeritus professor in 1997. During his teaching career Ken mentored hundreds of civil engineering students and received several awards, including the Distinguished Faculty Award.

In 1968, he started working on operator training programs, establishing the CSUS Office of Water Programs in 1972. He served as the Project Director for projects that developed and implemented training programs for the operators of water treatment facilities, water distribution systems, wastewater collection systems, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment and reclamation facilities, pretreatment facility inspection, and utility management. In 2005, over 1 million operator training manuals had been sold and more than 250,000 operators from all over the world had enrolled in the training programs. The manuals have been adopted as textbooks in over 300 colleges and universities and have been translated into 12 different languages. The operator training programs provided Ken and Judy the opportunity to travel all over the world. Most recently, he was the senior advisor on a project to train and license operators of water and wastewater plants for the country of Jordan; this project has been expanded throughout the Middle East.

As a professional consulting engineer he provided professional consulting services for cities, counties, special districts, states, federal government, universities, industries, and consulting engineering firms. Throughout his career he received many awards, including the top honors by the Water Environment Federation and the American Water Works Association.
He enjoyed hunting, fishing, skiing, walking his dog by the American River, hiking, playing bridge, and spending time with his wife, children, their spouses, and grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 27, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at Fremont Presbyterian Church, 5770 Carlson Drive, Sacramento, CA 95819.

In lieu of flowers, Ken requested that donations be made to the Ken Kerri Endowment Fund, which was established in 2009 to build a foundation for the education of future engineers.


Checks may be sent to:
Department of Civil Engineering
Attention: Ms. Neysa Bush California State University, Sacramento
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819-6029

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14 comments on “Dr. Kenneth D. Kerri, CWEA Past President and WEF Fellow Passes Away – In Memoriam

  1. Gayle Tupper says:

    Ken Kerri did more to save the Earth than any other individual I have ever known. There is no one who has brought more technical knowledge to generations of people who work in the water environment field. What a legacy! Yet Ken’s 60 years of technical work represent just one aspect of the great man he was.
    Ken brought light to every room he entered, with his joy at seeing old friends and meeting new people that continued throughout his life. He was a teacher of teachers, he was a great man and a truly good man. His focus was on the people he was with, not on himself. The compound interest of his teaching, his mentoring, his generosity, and his caring is infinite.
    Those of you who are new to the field, or considering working to protect our water environment, I hope you will pick up this very large torch and carry it forward.
    Ken, you made a difference. You and your countless good works will be with us forever. We will miss you.

  2. Sam Rose says:

    Simply the best. Though I did not know Ken well, I feel like I have known him all my career. I’ve been using the “Ken Kerri” books since 1986. I can think of no person who has had a greater impact on my career than Ken. Sincere respect.

  3. Rachel Lather and myself are saddened at the loss of Ken to our industry. We both have had the pleasure of talking to him and his wife at various WEF and CWEA functions. I personally will miss his guidance and he was one of the reasons I pursued my movement through our local section to the TCP Chair and the CWEA Board.

  4. Chet Anderson says:

    It is a sad day for the world of the “water environment”! Ken did so much to help train and educate so very many people in the safe and clean water profession. I had the pleasure of having Ken as the first VicePresident of the Calif Water Pollution Control Assoc in 1982-83 when I really got to know him better. He was a tremendous asset to me and to CWPCA as evidenced by his very successful term as President in 83-84 and his 30 more years of service after that! I have a set of his Drinking Water training videos which he gave me as a gift for some token service I rendered and I loan them to any young water folks who are looking to improve their knowledge. My thoughts are with Ken’s family.

  5. Mike Neri says:

    To my friend and mentor,
    I will miss the wealth of knowledge that you brought to the industry.

    I felt like the luckiest person in the world when I could set with you at our SAS board meetings. Just knowing that I was your friend and how I looked up to you. To see you at the Rivercats game with your wife and to see you smile at her was a joy. This past year my mother in law met you and asked you for your autograph because I told her how much I cared for you. She knew how much you meant to all of us and you will be missed.

    When I was the TCP chair you called me to ask if I would be interested in presenting the CWEA certification program to the Jordan OMT. Chris Lundeen outlined CWEA’s collection system certification program and other disciplines certified by CWEA. I don’t know how Chris felt, but I was proud that you asked.

    My friend you will be missed by thousands and your legacy will live strong.
    My deepest sympathy to your wife and family,

  6. Gary Lynch says:

    It was my pleasure to write and submit the nomination of Dr. Kerri to AWWA (through the CA-NV Section) for his induction into the AWWA George Warren Fuller Society. This was long overdue recognition for, as the award states “for distinguished service to the water supply field in commemoration of the sound engineering skill…the brilliant diplomatic talent…and the constructive leadership which characterized the life of George Warren Fuller”. Few have had a greater impact on the water profession in California than Dr. Ken Kerri. RIP

  7. CWEA Staff says:

    The following additional comments and memorials have come through via email or posted on Facebook:

    I offer my condolences to Ken’s family. Having served with Ken on the Sacramento Area Section Board, the WEF Collection Systems Committee and attending his charity lunches I will miss his knowledge and ideas. He was a committed volunteer and someone I deeply admired.

    Bruce Corwin

    Hi friends,

    This is a very sad for our world, water operators, and all the water related companies, organizations, staffers, and operators. I know for a fact that Ken’s passing will affect all of us personally and professionally. Years ago, when he was at the Office of Water Programs, Ken would answer his own phone and talk to you directly when you would call the CSUS water Program Line regarding questions. My favorite vision of Ken is etched in my mind forever, was when he sat in (as a student) at our annual Tahoe Conference session on Sanitary Sewer Overflows. As we went around the room introducing ourselves before we started, the operator who was seated just prior to Ken, asked the room “if anyone in the room had ever taken a Ken Kerri Course, please raise their hands”, (when the entire room had their hands up), he said It gives me great pleasure to sit next to our fellow student and ambassador of water… Professor Kenneth Kerri”. The room went wild! It was an amazing moment in time. Ken was a bit embarrassed, and everyone lit up like a roman candle asking questions, someone asked if he was a Grade 5 in everything? , he humbly said he didn’t have any certifications at all, but did enjoy putting certified people together to promote clean water for the world. Pretty cool stuff, I am smiling now, as I can see him in my memory like it was yesterday. His mild demeanor & smile would brightened any room he was in! I will toast him every time I drink a glass of water!

    Pat Conway

    WW Circuit Rider & Utility Specialist

    This is very sad news. Dr Kerri was wonderful to talk with and always made you feel like your contribution mattered. His name is synonymous with training and his influence has helped build many blue collar careers. Very thankful for his life.

    Hugh Logan

    An amazing man with profound impact on so many lives. He will be greatly missed.

    Fran Burlingham

    What a loss and legacy. He will be greatly missed.

    Pei-Chin Low

  8. Mark B. Gingras says:

    I am greatly saddened at news of the passing of Kennith Kerri. As so eloquently stated in these posts, Mr. Kerri was a truely great man and his countless contributions to the water and wastwater industry are unmatched. My first association with Ken Kerri the “myth” was not unlike most of you, with the opening of Ken Kerri Wastewater Treatment, Volume 1 back in 1976 or so. It was a few years later when I first met Mr. Kerri, the man behind the myth and what a delight. What I remember most about that first meeting was Ken’s confident humility and how he made me the most important thing at that moment. I was reminded every year after that first meeting of Ken’s selflessness and humility when I would run into him at the annual conference. No matter what he was engaged with at the time, not matter

  9. Mark B. Gingras says:

    what was happening around us, Ken would offer his hand, address me by my first name and say hello. We would chat about the most recent issue facing the water world or just talk about our families. Ken, I will miss you as will anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeing and knowing you.

    Thank you Ken for all you have offered. To me the inspiration, the mentoring, the example. To the water and wastwater industry, the engineers, operators, and to the world way too much to list! Thank’s Ken for everything!

  10. Matthew Kisak says:

    Dr. Kerri was an inspiration to all who attended his classes and sought to pursue a career in the Civil Engineering Profession. His dedication and thoughtfulness while instilling sound values that I practice today are unmeasured. I have been afforded the opportunity to work across the country, using the resources and education that this gentleman instilled in all who attended his classes. He not only taught us the basics but how to think and be upstanding individuals in our profession. He will be sorely missed but his legacy will go on through the people he mentored.

  11. Tim Sullivan says:

    Ken was part of a very special time in my life from student to practicing engineer. If not for Ken I would likely not be an engineer. I graduated from CSUS in 1987 BSCE, Ken was one of my professors. One of the most practical and down to earth engineers I have ever known. Anytime someone needed help with school, work, or personal improvement in the field of water or wastewater, Ken was there. I will miss seeing him at WEFTEC, CWEA events and the annual fundraiser luncheons in April. Just about every operator owes him a debt of gratitude for putting together the OWP which developed the manuals that most have used to study for their certifications. Ken was a great mentor, a good friend and a truly good person. Ken… Thanks for being you.

  12. Sandeep Karkal says:

    Ken was my graduate advisor, my mentor, and my friend. Similar to Tim Sullivan below, he was a shining influence at a very special time of my life, and for that I am forever grateful. Thanks for everything, Ken…I will miss you…

  13. CWEA Staff says:

    Barbara and I were very saddened by this news. We can think of no better role model for all water professionals than Ken Kerri. The impact he has had and will continue to have on each of us in this business is testimony to his great influence on this profession and on the development of so many of us. He will certainly be missed. Our sincere condolences go out to his family.

    Jim and Barbara Langley

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