WPI Presidential Medal

Tarek M.A. Al-Shawaf '55
Recipient, WPI Presidential Medal

In the early 1950s, as technical engineering skills were in great demand worldwide, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had extensive needs for developing its infrastructure. In 1952 the Kingdom sent a young student named Tarek Al-Shawaf to study civil engineering at WPI; he was one of the first to benefit from government programs that sought to build the nation’s technical capabilities by awarding scholarships for overseas engineering education.

During his time at WPI, Tarek Al-Shawaf demonstrated true leadership in intellect, civics, and athletics, serving in student government and joining the debating club, the varsity soccer team, and the tennis team. He was also vice president of WPI’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.

Having earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, he returned to Saudi Arabia in 1955 and immediately put his skills to work. He got his start as a junior engineer for the region’s largest contractor, living and working in remote areas of the desert. In 1965 he put on hold his lifelong dream of establishing his own business to serve his country as director general of projects and advisor to the minister of agriculture and water. In 1967 he was ready to launch his own consulting engineering firm in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. He named it Saudi Consulting Services, better known today as Saudconsult.

Saudconsult is now the oldest and largest engineering and architectural firm in Saudi Arabia. It has grown along with the Kingdom, constructing numerous industrial projects, transportation systems, modern housing facilities, schools, medical facilities, power plants, water and wastewater projects, harbors, marinas, and airports. It has participated in various water desalinization projects along the west and east coasts of the Kingdom, which has the largest water desalinization program in the world. It has also taken the lead on an array of oil and gas projects that continue to help the nation capitalize on the world’s largest oil reserve.

From a modest start, Saudconsult has grown to employ more than 2,000 engineers, architects, consultants, designers, technicians, and other staff. The firm’s influence has also grown well beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia, as it has completed architectural and engineering projects in a long list of nations, including Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali, Djibouti, and Azerbaijan. It now has six offices in Saudi Arabia and overseas offices in London, Cairo, and Bahrain.

In addition to acting as founder, president, and chairman of Saudconsult, Tarek Al-Shawaf plays an influential role in his community, where he has held such titles as director of the International Road Federation; vice chairman of the Federation of Consultants from Islamic Countries; founding member of the Steering Committees of the U.S. Saudi Arabian Business Council; and a founder of the prestigious Saudi equestrian club, which he has served as a member of the board of directors and secretary general of the board. He also continues to propel WPI’s influence across the globe. He has so far sponsored five scholarships for students from the Middle East to attend WPI; all of the recipients have excelled at WPI and gone on to successful careers.

The university has recognized Tarek Al-Shawaf’s leadership several times through the years. In 1990, in recognition of his professional and civic achievements, it awarded him an honorary doctorate in engineering. Five years later, as he celebrated his 40th anniversary, he received the WPI Alumni Association’s Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement. He has expressed his gratitude to his alma mater through service, in particular as a longtime member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Advisory Board and as a member of the President’s International Advisory Board.

For his extraordinary career as an entrepreneur and business leader, his global contributions as an engineer and pioneer in urban development and infrastructure, and his generous service to his alma mater, the Institute is proud to present the WPI Presidential Medal to Tarek Al-Shawaf.

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