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Backus to Lead Clarkson University Construction Engineering Management Program

Clarkson University alumnus Erik C. Backus has been named the new director of the Construction Engineering Management (CEM) Program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University.  

Erik C. BackusErik will replace Adjunct Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Spencer F. Thew, who directed the program for many years and will continue to serve in the department.

The hiring of Backus as the first full-time director of Construction Engineering Management was made possible due to several generous donations, including that of alumnus Ron Wells ’67, who is passionate about construction education.

Thanks to Wells’ initial gifts, several critical efforts were accomplished, including the hiring of Thew as the first CEM Director, expansion of the curriculum, a new emphasis on internships and placement, establishment of the CEM Advisory Board and corporate sponsors, and recognition of the Clarkson CEM Program throughout the construction industry. Clarkson has also been a trend setter in Building Information Modeling (BIM) education.

Backus brings to the position extensive experience in all varieties of construction engineering from residential/commercial to military/institutional. He comes to Clarkson most recently from George Mason University, where he served as the engineering planner. He was previously a project manager at Mason Facilities. Backus, a professional engineer, graduated from Clarkson in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

A U.S. Army veteran who is now an Army reservist, Backus served at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall as the engineering division chief and as the lead design engineer for all military forces during the “surge” in Iraq, as part of one of two tours during the conflict.

He is married to Clarkson chemistry alumna Jackie Backus ’96, who joins the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a research associate.

Spencer Thew -- or “Spence," as he is fondly remembered by hundreds of students -- began teaching at Clarkson 1966. He is an award-winning professor, who started his own business, Atlantic Testing Laboratories, in 1967 and has provided students with critical, practical knowledge from his day-to-day work. Thew's knowledge of construction materials, geotechnical engineering, plus connections to engineering and construction firms throughout the Northeast, were beneficial to the University when the Construction Engineering Management concentration was created in 1998.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

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[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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