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Leisen Memorial

The Nebraska Section established the Colonel Theodore A. Leisen Memorial and Training Endowment Fund in 1993 to encourage water industry professionals to obtain additional training and encourage graduate students to choose the water industry as their field of work.

The section awards three $500 scholarships at its annual fall conference. Deadline for applications is September 1.

About Colonel Theodore A. Leisen

Colonel Theodore Alfred Leisen was one of the incorporators of AWWA and served as president from 1917-1918. He also chaired several national committees on public health and pollution.

Leisen completed high school in his native Philadelphia and received only private engineering instructions. His father had been an engineer and his grandfather, an architect in England.

The Omaha World-Herald, November 1, 1923, described him as "rather thick set and about five feet six inches tall." Soft-spoken and very dignified, he was all business.Leisen began his involvement with the water industry in 1886, at age 21, as a chief engineer for a South American construction project.

He later designed the Wilmington, DE waste water system and served as superintendent of the city's water department.

In 1908, Leisen was named superintendent of the Louisville, KY Water Department. Six years later he moved to Detroit, MI as superintendent of its water department where he supervised the construction of the world's largest filtration plant (350 MGD).

During World War I, he held the rank of a major in charge of construction and utilities officer at Camp Custer, MI. Leisen was named general manager of the Metropolitan Utilities District, Omaha, NE, in 1923 at age 59, at a salary of $12,500 a year.

From Trial and Triumph: The First 100 years of the Metropolitan Utilities District, by David F. Barber (1989):
Colonel Leisen lost no time making sure that "mud fiasco of 1923" could never happen again. On May 8, 1924, he informed the (M.U.D.) Board that the Florence plan now had a different method of disposing of sedimentation in the settling basins. "Instead of emptying the basins and washing them out," he said, "the mud is now being run out during the operation...Mud valves are opened for a short period at frequent intervals and the mud is flushed from the bottom...Daily turbidity tests show this process has worked satisfactorily thus far and will undoubtedly result in a material saving in labor and cost of pumpage during the year."

Maintaining his reputation as a builder, General Manager Leisen directed the construction of the Downtown Headquarters Building at 18th and Harney Sts., and the Service Building on 20th St., north of Center St. Each cost approximately $275,000. The new office building opened in early 1927.During his 16-year tenure at M.U.D., the water and natural gas utility also began the changeover from manufactured gas to natural gas. The process started November 5, 1934.

When he announced his retirement July 19, 1939, at age 74, both gas and water rates had been drastically reduced. Bonded indebtedness was down to $1.6 million for the water department and $1.5 million for the gas department. The District had improved its physical facilities as well as its financial standing.
Leisen returned to Detroit and died in 1944. In 1993, AWWA inducted him into the AWWA National Hall of Fame.


Questions about the grant or scholarship? e-mail the chair of the committee, Jon Zellars.