Cal Poly Environmental Engineering Celebrates 50th Anniversary and Dr. Hal Cota

February 27, 2018

The Environmental Engineering Department is commemorating their 50th Anniversary with a weekend celebration May 4 – 6 and renaming of the Air Pollution Control Lab in honor of former Cal Poly Environmental Engineering professor Dr. Hal Cota. Dr. Cota was one of the original founders of Cal Poly’s environmental engineering program and has made a profound impact on the department.

Dr. Hal Cota was hired in 1966 and taught advanced courses in the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Department (AC&R). Dr. Cota helped spearhead the addition of the Air Pollution Control Concentration in the department which would later become an important part of the curricula for the environmental engineering program. With the help of Dr. Hal Cota, then AC&R department head Jim McGrath, and Cal Poly President Robert Kennedy, the Environmental Engineering Department was started in 1968.

       Dr. Hal Cota explaining equipment to student in the air pollution laboratory.         

Dr. Cota believed that a curriculum that combined chemical and environmental engineering was best for equipping students with the training they needed to tackle real environmental problems in the country.  At the time, there were no undergraduate environmental engineering programs in the country, making Cal Poly’s one of the first of its kind. The first environmental engineering class of 14 students graduated in 1968. Between 1968 and 1982, environmental engineering was its own department until civil engineering was added.

First Environmental Engineering Department graduating class in 1968.           

Dr. Cota was heavily involved in the department until his retirement a few years ago. His contributions to the department have made an impression on countless students for the past 50 years. Over 1,500 alumni have graduated from the environmental engineering program to date and have benefited from Dr. Cota’s work. By renaming the new lab in honor of Dr. Cota, the department hopes to keep his memory alive for generations to come.

“He had such a big impact on my life because he created this program in a way that fits me personally. He created something very unique – a combination of environmental and chemical engineering,” said Dr. Yarrow Nelson, Cal Poly Environmental Engineering professor.

The Environmental Engineering department is hoping to collect $100,000 for an endowment to modernize the Air Pollution Control Lab. The funds will be used toward the purchase of new equipment including a NOxBOX and sound pressure level meters. For more information on donating, please visit the donation page.

All Environmental Engineering alumni and their guests are invited to the 50th anniversary celebration. The weekend-long celebration will include a variety of activities including socials, networking, and a banquet dinner. The Air Pollution Control Lab will be renamed in honor of Dr. Hal Cota during the 50th anniversary weekend.

The anniversary celebration will include:

  • Friday, May 4th, 6 pm—9 pm - Evening Social and Networking Gathering — Local San Luis Obispo Establishment, No-Host Bar and food, TBD
  • Saturday, May 5th, 8 am—10:30 am - Morning Hike Throughout Poly Canyon and The “P” - Free!
  • Saturday, May 5th, 8:30 am—11 am - Golf Tournament at Dairy Creek Golf Course ($35 per person)
  • Saturday, May 5th, 12 pm — 3 pm - Engineering Building 13 Tours and Social w/ Refreshments provided- Free!
  • Saturday, May 5th, 5pm—9 pm - Banquet Dinner and Presentations at the SLO Botanical Gardens. Dinner, drinks, and merriment!

For the most recent information or to RSVP, please visit the event page.

To view the ENVE Alumni Association page, click here.

 Written by Ilianna Salas