Texas A&M University’s Ron Lacewell, Ph.D., and Utah State University’s Mac McKee, Ph.D., are the 2021 recipients of the Warren A. Hall Medal presented by the Universities Council on Water Resources, UCOWR, for lifetime achievement in water resources. Texas Water Resources Institute, TWRI, a unit of Texas A&M AgriLife, jointly nominated both men for their lifetimes of collaboration.
UCOWR is a consortium of academic institutions and affiliates invested in water resources research, education and outreach. Its mission is to expand the capacity of universities and their partners to address current water resources challenges through sharing expertise, fostering leadership and developing interdisciplinary collaborations.
The prestigious award is named after Warren A. Hall, one of UCOWR’s founders. Hall is known worldwide for his active involvement in water resources research and education. The Warren A. Hall Medal is a memorial award established by friends and family to recognize exceptional accomplishments and distinction of individuals in the water resources field.
The recipient has traditionally been an individual educator devoted to the advancement of knowledge in water resources through teaching, research and/or public service and with a strong commitment to the education and welfare of their students. This is the first time in the award’s history that it has been jointly awarded.
UCOWR commitment to research, collaboration
The Warren A. Hall Medal is the most prestigious UCOWR award. It highlights a lifetime’s contribution to water resources research and participation in the council. Both Lacewell and McKee have served as UCOWR president and many years as board members.
According to John Tracy, Ph.D., TWRI director and past UCOWR president, the council is unique among academic societies.
“UCOWR has created a collaboration space for water resource management researchers,” he said.
Tracy added that, by honoring both men jointly, it furthered this tradition of collaboration.
“This was an opportunity to highlight the value of collaboration,” Tracy said. “Mac is great. Ron is great. But their work together was fundamental to making their contributions much more significant than if they had simply worked independently.”
UCOWR announced the award in February. Lacewell and McKee will receive the award and present on June 9 at the UCOWR annual conference.
Lacewell’s commitment to water
Lacewell, formerly an assistant vice chancellor in Texas A&M AgriLife’s Office of Federal Relations and a retired professor of water resources economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, called the award an incredible honor.
“There are some people I have the utmost respect for who have gotten the Warren Hall medal,” Lacewell said. “To be among those and to be associated with Mac McKee is a highlight of my career.”
Lacewell’s interest in water resources management began early. At age 5, his parents brought irrigation to their dryland farm in the northern plains of Texas. He learned the Ogallala Aquifer, on which the farm’s irrigation depended, was declining. That began a lifetime of fascination with water resource management. He studied at Texas Tech University and Oklahoma State University, focusing on groundwater and surface water management. When he came to Texas A&M’s Department of Agricultural Economics, he was drawn to TWRI and became involved with UCOWR.