Za-Lee Moh

For his outstanding record of achievement in the teaching and practice of structural engineering, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Za-Lee Moh.

Chairman of the Board,
Moh and Associates
MSCE '53, PhD '60


On choosing a career

I was born and grew up in Shanghai, China, which in the 1930s was a well-known cosmopolitan, international city. There were many beautiful buildings and bridges that I was fascinated with, so even when I was a kid I thought I should become a structural designer. I started my education at Chiao Tung University in Shanghai, a well-known technical university and the alma mater of my father, who was a civil engineer. In 1949 the civil war broke out, so I left Shanghai and went to Taiwan, where I finished my degree.

On his Purdue years

In 1951 I went to the United States. At that time not many students came from Taiwan to Purdue. I was one of a few. Most people did not even know where Taiwan was! Some professors wondered whether or not I would be able to make it in the program.

I was always interested most in being a good structural engineer. In 1953, after I got my master's degree, I started working for the Indiana State Highway Department as a bridge engineer. In 1955 Professor Goldberg suggested I return to school to pursue my PhD. But every summer I still worked for the State Highway Department. From 1958 to 1960 I worked full-time for the state while I finished my degree.

On those who influenced him

There were a lot of professors who helped me. When I first came to Purdue, Professor L. T. Wyly had confidence in me. He was very kind to me and became my major professor. My PhD adviser was Professor Goldberg, and I had a great student-teacher relationship with him. Professors J. M. Hayes and Joe Waling were very helpful. I also cherished the friendship of Professor and Mrs. P. T. Yeh and Professor and Mrs. S. S. Shu. And outside Purdue, I enjoyed working under Mr. Marshall Dukes of the Indiana State Highway Department.

On starting his business

I never thought about starting my own company until I began to do part-time consulting work. Before that I had taught for several years and learned some business in the United States. In 1975 my brother and I started our company. He is a geotechnical engineer and received his degree from MIT. At that time he was the vice president of the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. So he was geotechnical, and I was structures, and we decided, "Okay, it's time we formed a company of our own." At that time we had about five people; now we have about 500-350 in Taiwan, and 150 outside Taiwan. We have companies in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and mainland China. The areas we cover are structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, civil engineering, and engineering construction management.

On teaching

I was a professor at West Virginia University and later at the University of Hawaii. It was satisfying for me to be a teacher. I thought it was important not only to teach the students engineering and technology, but also to care for them and understand them. In 1965 the graduate students at West Virginia voted me the most effective teacher, which I considered to be very satisfying. People in my business still tell me that I act like a professor!

On his Purdue education

My Purdue education gave me a lot of good things-especially a good engineering sense. Because I have a solid background in engineering, I can make good judgments based on what I've learned. Technology is advancing every day, and I am always seeing new things that I never learned about. But the basic sense is still there.

His advice for students

It is important to learn as much as you can today, because while you are in school you have the chance to absorb so much. You can learn almost 100 percent of the time, from this professor and that professor and from fellow students. It is important to take advantage of that, because later on, after you graduate, you will never have as much time to learn as you did when you were a student.

1975- :
Chairman of the Board, Moh and Associates, Taipei, Taiwan. Provides award-winning consultation for civil engineering design and construction. Moh and Associates is the largest wholly privately owned consulting company in Taiwan.
1972-75:
Managing Director, Hong Kong Teakwood Works, Singapore.
1969-72:
General Manager, National Material Corp., Chicago.
1967-69:
Associate Professor, University of Hawaii.
1966-67:
Visiting Professor, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan.
1961-66:
Assistant and Associate Professor, West Virginia University. Taught structural engineering courses and won teaching award.
1953-55:
Structural Designer, Indiana State Highway Department.
1958-61:
Designed bridges and oversaw electronic data processing for bridges.

BSCE '50, National Taiwan University; MSCE '53, PhD '60, Purdue.