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Richard “Dick” Lanyon has had a life-long association with the waterways in and around Chicago. He grew up along the North Branch, attended the University of Illinois Navy Pier campus, worked as a beginning engineer on the Lake Diversion legal controversy, and capped his working life with a 48-year run with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Lanyon retired as executive director of the MWRD in 2010, a position he held for 4.5 years.


As Executive Director, Dick directed the day-to-day operations of the MWRD, which included 2,100 employees providing sewage treatment and stormwater management services for five million people in Cook County, Illinois.


His first book, Building the Canal to Save Chicago (2012), received the 2013 Abel Wolman Award from the Chicago Metro Chapter of the American Public Works Association Chicago Metro Chapter for best new book in public works history. His second book, Draining Chicago: The Early City and the North Area (2016), won a National Indie Excellence Award and a Next Generation Indie Book Award for regional nonfiction.


An accomplished professional, Dick has received several awards including: American Society of Civil Engineer’s National Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award in 1999, Distinguished Alumnus of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003, Edward J. Cleary Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists in 2011, and Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) in 2011. Lanyon is a past president of the Illinois Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and holds Bachelors and Masters of Civil Engineering degrees from UIUC. In 2013, he was inducted into the NACWA Hall of Fame.


Lanyon has been involved in a variety of technical activities for the above and other organizations, and he has served in a number of leadership roles on environmental protection and water resource management matters for federal, state, and local agencies and organizations. Dick served on the Evanston Public Library Board of Directors and as alderman of the 8th Ward on the Evanston City Council. He recently completed an eight-year term on the Evanston Utilities Commission, including seven years as its chairman.


Calumet: First and Forever (2020) completes Dick’s four-book series, primarily a history of MWRD infrastructure engineering and construction, spanning 130 years since its founding in 1889. Beyond the works of the MWRD, Dick includes the history of Chicago area drainage from pre-settlement days through current times, covering a broad spectrum of urban water issues. His personal experiences, both local and national, add highlights to what the MWRD has achieved in meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act. His third book in the series was West by Southwest to Stickney: Draining the Central Area of Chicago and Exorcising Clout (2018).


Among his volunteer activities, Dick continues to be active in Evanston and MWRD public works and cares for the native habitat and rain gardens at the Oakton Elementary School in Evanston. He also enjoys biking, hiking, and travel with his wife, Marsha Richman.

Dick Lanyon is available for a range of

public speaking and slideshow programs. 

Please contact him for more information.


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