Tarek Al-Shawaf, a 1955 graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the founder, president, and chairman of oldest and largest engineering and architectural firm in Saudi Arabia, will receive the university's Presidential Medal during Commencement on Saturday, May 17.
Established in 2001, the Presidential Medal recognizes outstanding individuals from all walks of life who, through their professional or personal accomplishments, exemplify the ideal of the "technological humanist," a notion that has been at the heart of WPI's approach to education since its founding in 1865.
Tarek Al-Shawaf enrolled at WPI in 1952 as part of a program that sought to build the technical capabilities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and help the nation meet its extensive needs for developing its infrastructure by awarding scholarships for overseas engineering education. After earning his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering, he returned to Saudi Arabia and took a position as a junior engineer for the region’s largest contractor, a job that required that he live and work in remote areas of the desert.
He went on to serve as director general of projects for the Kingdom and advisor to the minister of agriculture and water before realizing his goal of establishing his own business. In 1965 he launched Saudi Consulting Services (better known today as Saudconsult) in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. From modest beginnings, the company has grown to employ more than 2,000 engineers, architects, consultants, designers, technicians, and other staff and to operate out of six offices in Saudi Arabia and overseas offices in London, Cairo, and Bahrain.
Over the years, Saudconsult has constructed numerous industrial projects, transportation systems, modern housing facilities, schools, medical facilities, power plants, water and waste water projects, harbors, marinas, and airports. It has participated in various water desalinization projects along the west and east coasts of Saudi Arabia, which has the largest water desalinization program in the world, and it has 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. The company has also completed architectural and engineering projects in a long list of nations, including Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali, Djibouti, and Azerbaijan.
In addition to leading Saudconsult, Tarek Al-Shawaf plays an influential role in the 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.
In service to his alma mater, he has been a longtime member of the WPI Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Advisory Board and as a member of the President’s International Advisory Board. In addition, he has sponsored five scholarships for students from the Middle East to attend WPI. The university has recognized Tarek Al-Shawaf's leadership and service by presenting him with an honorary doctorate in engineering in 1990 and the Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement in 1995.