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Dr. Richard Wayne Skaggs, William Neal Reynolds and Distinguished University Professor was on the faculty of the NC State University Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering for 42.5 years. hr retired in 2012. He has made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of Agricultural and Biological Engineering as a teacher, mentor, researcher, and national leader.  He is recognized globally as the expert in drainage and subsurface water management.

Skaggs was born and reared on a farm in eastern Kentucky. He attended the University of Kentucky where he received the BS and MS degrees in Agricultural Engineering in 1964 and 1966. He joined NC State University in 1970 after earning the PhD from Purdue University.  Wayne advanced quickly through the ranks to Professor before being named William Neal Reynolds Professor in 1984.  He was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1991 and named Distinguished University Professor that same year. N.C. State presented Skaggs its highest faculty recognition in 1994, the Alexander Quarles Holladay Award; and in 1997, he received the University of North Carolina’s highest award, the O. Max Gardner Award. He received the Alexander von Humboldt award for contributions to U.S. agriculture in 1997, one of only two engineers to ever receive that award.

During his professional career, Skaggs made pioneering contributions to the understanding and utilization of complex soil, water, and plant systems. His work includes the 1978 development of the water management model, DRAINMOD, which effectively combines fundamental methods derived over several decades by soil physicists and engineers to create a tool that quantitatively relates drainage design parameters to the actual objective of the water management system.  This model has effectively bridged the gap that existed between theory and practice and is now used globally by consulting engineers, researchers and government agencies to predict the performance of drainage and related water management systems. The model has been extended by Skaggs, his students, and colleagues to predict the movement and fate of nitrates, salts and other solutes in the soil profile; to evaluate and assess the hydrology of wetlands; and most recently to predict soil carbon, nitrogen dynamics, and plant growth in drained forests and agricultural ecosystems.

Dr. Skaggs has made contributions to international development of agricultural water management and hydrology.  He has held short-term research, teaching and consulting positions in 10 countries (e.g., Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Turkey), and presented invited lectures and keynote addresses in many others.  The research project he initiated in Uruguay on hydrologic impacts of afforestation is ongoing and was recently expanded to include bio-energy crops.

A dedicated professor who has exemplified the highest spirit of teaching and mentorship, Skaggs has served as major professor for 24 masters and 40 doctoral students who have gone on to highly successful and productive careers.  He has served as technical consultant on drainage and water management issues for numerous state and federal agencies and foreign governments. He has authored or coauthored more than 420 refereed journal articles, book chapters, conference proceedings, extension publications, and technical reports, as well as 2 books. He co-edited (with Jan van Schilfgaarde) the American Society of Agronomy 1328 page, 42 chapter monograph, Agricultural Drainage, which serves internationally as a principal reference for drainage theory and practice.  Among Wayne’s many significant publications are those that have won 7 ASAE Paper awards, with the most recent being named in May of this year, and 3 ASAE Honorable Mention Paper awards.   He has been invited to share his expertise and research findings at hundreds of invited lectures and keynote addresses.

In addition to those already named, Skaggs has received numerous national and international recognitions of his meritorious contributions to the advancement of soil and water engineering. These include the ASAE Young Researcher and Hancor Soil and Water Engineering Awards; 3 USDA Superior Service awards; membership in The Ohio State University’s Overholt Drainage Hall of Fame, University of Kentucky Engineering Hall of Distinction, and Purdue University Distinguished Engineering Alumnus. He was presented the Gamma Sigma Delta International Distinguished Achievement in Agriculture award (1999), and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) Charles A Black award in 2009. Wayne is a Fellow of ASABE, and has received two ASABE Gold Medal Awards, the John Deere Gold Medal (1993), and the Massey Ferguson Educational Gold Medal (2009). Skaggs served as President of the ASAE (currently ASABE) for 2001/2002.


Ph.D. Agricultural Engineering Purdue University 1970

M.S. Agricultural Engineering University of Kentucky 1966

B.S. Agricultural Engineering University of Kentucky 1964

Area(s) of Expertise

Soil and Water Enginering


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  • Member of National Academy of Engineering
  • President of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE)
  • Massey Ferguson Gold Medal Award, Am. Soc. of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
  • Charles A. Black Award, Council Agricultural Science and Tech. (CAST)
  • O. Max Gardner Award, University of North Carolina System
  • Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence, N. C. State University
  • Distinguished Engineering Alumnus, Purdue University
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Award
  • Member, Engineering Hall of Distinction, University of Kentucky
  • John Deere Gold Medal Award, ASAE,
  • Distinguished University Professor
  • Fellow, American Society of Agricultural Engineers
  • Hancor Soil and Water Engineering Award, ASAE