Jeffrey Koseff to receive Stanford's 2015 Richard W. Lyman Award

Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and founding co-director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, will be honored at a Jan. 20 award dinner.

L.A. Cicero Jeffrey Koseff

Professor Jeffrey Koseff is being honored by the Stanford Alumni Association for his "extraordinary service."

Since Professor Jeffrey Koseff gave his first Classes Without Quizzes lecture in 1999 at Stanford Reunion Homecoming, he has addressed alumni audiences near and far – on the Farm, in cities across the nation and in countries around the world.

Over the years, Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, has spoken at alumni clubs from California to Connecticut; at Leading Matters, an international road tour that was part of The Stanford Challenge fundraising campaign; at Stanford Sierra Camp at Fallen Leaf Lake near the southern shore of Lake Tahoe; and at Beyond the Farm, the annual day of volunteer service for Stanford alumni.

Koseff's talks focus on pressing environmental issues: Water, Water Everywhere, But Will We Have Enough to Drink?, Water: The New Oil? and Economy of Scales: Can We Feed the World Without Wrecking the Oceans?

He has also led alumni on Stanford Travel/Study trips to the Great Lakes and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and his native South Africa.

The Stanford Alumni Association (SAA) is honoring Koseff for his "extraordinary service" to the alumni community with the 2015 Richard W. Lyman Award. He will receive the award on Jan. 20 at the Lyman Dinner, an invitation-only faculty appreciation event.

The SAA established the award in 1983 to honor Richard W. Lyman (1923-2012), Stanford's seventh president.

Koseff, who is the founding co-director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, said he was surprised, honored and happy to be chosen for the award.

"What I like the most about talking to alumni is that I learn something new every time – that makes it fun – and I feel energized and invigorated afterward," he said. "Our alums are incredibly smart. After all, they went to Stanford. They often bring new and unanticipated perspectives that give me food for thought."

Koseff is himself an alumnus of Stanford, where he earned a master's degree (1978) and doctorate (1983), both in civil and environmental engineering and water resources engineering.

His research area falls in the interdisciplinary domain of environmental fluid mechanics and focuses on the interaction between physical and biological systems in natural aquatic environments. Long-term research projects include understanding estuarine systems, such as San Francisco Bay, and understanding how water flow affects California kelp forests, coral reefs in the Red Sea and Hawaii, and sea-grass communities in the Florida Keys.

"Jeff Koseff's dedication to alumni education is manifest in myriad ways, shapes and forms," said Howard Wolf, president of SAA. "Our alumni are lucky to have such a mensch willing to give so unselfishly of himself. And they are smarter for it!"

Cindy Pearson, director of alumni communities and alumni education at SAA, said Koseff has been a stalwart faculty speaker for many years.

"Jeff says yes whenever he can," Pearson said. "He understands the alumni audience and has helped us identify new faculty speakers as well as hot topics that will appeal to alumni. He is a terrific ambassador for Stanford, winning friends everywhere he goes."

During a 2013 Stanford Travel/Study trip to New Zealand, Koseff gave an impromptu lesson on the game of cricket, complete with a rundown of the rules and a demonstration of how to bowl a cricket ball, said Leslie Kim, a senior manager in Stanford Travel/Study.

"I'm not sure any of us were any more clear on how cricket actually works, but we were a lot more excited to watch a game the next time we saw one," Kim said.

During a 2010 Stanford Travel/Study trip to South Africa, Koseff drew on a wealth of personal, academic and professional experiences to talk about the country's history, culture and environment, said alumnus Jim Ukropina, who took the trip with his wife, Margaret Duckhorn.

"Jeff is a treasure," they wrote in a joint tribute to Koseff. "His lectures on South Africa and environmental issues were superb, as were all of his presentations. He combines thoughtfulness with a charming sense of humor and well-informed graphic presentations. He is an outstanding representative of Stanford University."

Recent Lyman Award winners include Margot Gerritsen, an associate professor of energy resources engineering, and director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering; and Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, and director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.