Professor Mel Lees is the 2023 recipient of the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award, the first international recipient of this prestigious award. It is richly deserved.
Mel has spent more than 40 years developing, teaching, and leading Construction Management education at premier UK academic institutions – the University of Salford and Birmingham City University (BCU).
During his time in academia, Mel has influenced the local and international education of thousands of students and hundreds of Faculty. He has made a significant impact on the research of construction management education throughout his career with industry links providing support to teaching as well as research.
Although Mel has never served on the board of the ASC his influence in the setting up of Region 8 was pivotal. From attending his first ASC conference (the 41st in Cincinnati) in 2005 formal links with US Universities begin. Attendance at the 42nd conference led to the first UK / ASC collaboration with Texas A&M in the autumn of 2007. In 2008, following a strong UK presence at the 48th Conference in Auburn, discussions for setting up an 8th Region begin. In 2009, Mel was instrumental in organizing a joint conference with the ASC and the CIB (Conseil Internationale du Bâtiment) and becomes the Dean of Faculty at Birmingham City University. 2009 was a busy year with Mel presenting his vision for a conference outside the US at the University of Florida. The Board, at its mid-term meeting in September 2009, took the bold step to agree to an overseas conference and the decision was made for Birmingham City University to host the annual conference in 2012.
Professor Richard Burt from Auburn University recollects Mel’s achievements since first meeting Mel in Cincinnati in 2005 and concludes that “…there is now a functioning ASC International Region 8 with a student competition in its 8th year…” because of Mel. The competition is now open to all ASC Regions 8. Richard continues “…as a witness to this growth in international collaboration I am convinced it could not have happened without Mel’s vision and commitment to advancing construction education on a global scale…”.
Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering, and the Built Environment at BCU, Professor Hanifa Shah describes Mel’s career as “…being founded upon an exceptional record of leadership within the built environment subject area. So many of his achievements – in developing outstanding professional networks, in mentoring and developing colleagues, and above all in delivering transformational educational opportunities for the benefit of students – are exemplified in his work with ASC…”.
One of the original delegation to join Mel in Cincinnati in 2005 was Professor Aled Williams, now Executive Director, of Innovation and Partnerships at the University College of Estate Management describes Mel as “…demonstrating strategic leadership and championed learning, teaching, and scholarship in construction and built environment education…”. Aled particularly highlights Mel as “..always leading from the front setting an example for others to follow and a reputation for delivery, has provided opportunities for wider influence…”. Mel’s achievements are best summed up by these words from Aled:
“…Mel has maintained his commitment to ASC over a sustained period of time through his drive, innovation, and passion. He demonstrates all the attributes and characteristics of a true leader in his dedicated service to education, industry, and the wider sector over 40 years. His own growth is complemented by a passion for developing others and he has enabled students and academics to become more reflective practitioners through engagement with ASC…”
It is hard to judge how a person from outside the USA can be compared to those in the USA and their influence on the ASC. Without Mel there would be no international participation in the ASC and Region 8 would not exist. It is only through Mel’s vision and tireless hard work that we have the international richness in the ASC today. Mel has made a significant impact and has been a strong leader in construction management education throughout his career.
All of us would agree that it is entirely appropriate that this lifetime of exceptional work be formally recognized on the return of the conference to the UK shores in 2023.