Bernard Amadei

Engineers Without Borders logo








Country of origin: France

Year came to U.S.: 1982

Education: Engineering, Applied Geology, School of Applied Geology and Mining Engineering; MS, Civil Engineering, University of Toronto; PhD, Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

Organization: Engineers Without Borders – USA (2002), Engineers Without Borders International (2002)

Headquarters: Boulder, CO (EWB – USA)

2019 revenue: $10.7 million

An unlikely friendship between two immigrants, Bernard Amadei, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a landscaper, Angel Tzec, spawned an idea that has improved the lives of millions of people.

Amadei is no ordinary professor. He comes from a family of bricklayers in France, and he was the first in his family to go beyond a high school education. With engineering degrees from universities in France, Canada and the U.S., he believes that engineering can be a vehicle for peace, compassion and prosperity.

Tzec is no ordinary landscaper. He is a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in his home country, Belize. Tzec invited Amadei to visit his village in San Pablo, Belize, which had no electricity, running water or sanitation. When Amadei saw school-aged girls spending all day carrying water from the river to the village, he felt compelled to help.

He returned in 2002 with another engineer, eight engineering students and $14,000. Working with the community, the team installed a clean-water system powered by a waterfall. This laid the foundation for Engineers Without Borders (EWB) USA. Amadei then co-founded EWB International, a worldwide network of EWBs who share his vision of students, professionals and engineers planning and executing applied engineering projects toward sustainable community development and poverty reduction.

Through its network of volunteers, Engineers Without Borders USA changed the lives of millions of people with 651 projects in 45 developing countries in 2017 alone.

In 2005, Amadei stepped down from running EWB-USA full time to concentrate on two of his passions: creating a new curriculum for engineers and developing projects where engineering can promote peace. He now directs the Mortensen Center for Engineering in Developing Communities where students learn engineering technology as well as economics, public health, politics and social entrepreneurship. He has published several engineering textbooks and guides.

Through EWB International, Amadei is working to bring together EWB-Israel and EWB-Pakistan, and Turkish and Greek elements of EWB-Cypress, as well as several projects in Afghanistan that could help stabilize the country.

To learn more about how immigrant entrepreneurs give back, explore the blog post Immigrant Entrepreneurs Embrace Social Responsibility. To learn more about how immigrants contribute to STEM fields, read the report The Increasing Importance of Immigrants to Science and Engineering in America.

Updated July 2022