Former Ph.D. Students Return to Celebrate Chuck Eastman

Students and staff line up at reception for Chuck Eastman.

By Isra Hassan Atlanta, GA

They came from around the world, dozens of former Ph.D. students to honor their former professor.

Chuck Eastman, also former director of the College of Design's Digital Building Lab (DBL), retired from his professorships late last year and from the DBL in 2016. Eastman, who held professorships in the School of Architecture and the School of Interactive Computing, had a long research and academic career and mentored hundreds of graduate students.

He and his research have changed the way in which architecture functions and his contributions to design computing have created a massive following. He is known as the “Father of BIM.”

BIM, or building information modeling, is a computer-based process for the generation and representations of physical and functional characteristics of places/facilities. BIM files can be extracted, exchanged, or shared during the planning and construction process.

Chuck Eastman and Dennis Shelden.

Eastman came to Georgia Tech in 1996 as a professor in the College of Architecture (now the College of Design) and the College of Computing. In 2000, he became the director of the Ph.D. programs in the College. In 2009, he started a research lab, the Digital Building Lab, at Georgia Tech. It is now run by current director, Dennis Shelden (above right with Eastman).

Many of his former Ph.D. students returned to the Georgia Tech campus in March to celebrate the man who they say influenced them and still influences them. Many have taken what Eastman taught them and apply it to their careers today.

The evening brought out about 120 faculty, staff, and industry professionals to pay tribute to a fulfilling, inspiring, and groundbreaking academic career.

The crowd watches a video presented by students.

As a surprise, some of Eastman’s former Ph.D. students made a video to show their appreciation and say thank you. The footage revealed how Eastman not only shaped their minds, but also touched their hearts.

Former Ph.D. student Yong Lee made the video. He holds an assistant professorship at the Department of Construction Management at Louisiana State University. The former students in the video were filmed from as far away as California and South Korea.

Dean Steven French speaks at the recepton for Chuck Eastman.

During 21 years at Georgia Tech, Eastman witnessed the creation of the School of Architecture and the evolution of the College of Architecture into the College of Design.

The dean of the College, Steve French, at the reception highlighted not only Eastman’s legacy in the college but also to Georgia Tech. He noted Eastman’s involvement in creating the School of Architecture, his research in building information modeling and design computing, the hundreds of research articles he has published, and textbooks written on BIM.

Architecture Chair Scott Marble speaks at the reception for Chuck Eastman.

Professor Scott Marble, chair of the School of Architecture, commented on the massive influence that Eastman has in the world of architecture.

Marble said that when he looks out of an airplane window and sees all of the buildings below, he thinks to himself how most of these buildings were constructed using BIM and design computing.

Marble said when he came to work for Georgia Tech he knew he would be working with Eastman. He talked about how nervous he was to meet such a legendary figure. Marble said that he thought Eastman might be challenging to work with it, but was surprised at how modest and kind of a scholar Eastman turned out to be.

Both Marble and French both talked about Eastman as a research professor and how he has paved and guided so many Georgia Tech Ph.D. students.