Penzien also was founding director of the Berkeley Earthquake Engineering Research Center, which later became the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center. "More than any other individual, Joe was responsible for EERC's rapid rise to eminence," said the history. "He created a research environment that put EERC on the map as the world's foremost institution for earthquake engineering research."
Penzien's development "was profoundly significant to our ability to advance seismic design," said Chopra. "Dedicated in 1972, it was the first modern servo-controlled shaking table of significant size, and was the forerunner of the many shaking tables now in various countries."
The researcher also co-founded, with a former Bechtel Corp. executive, a Berkeley-based consulting firm called International Civil Engineering Consultants Inc. that was widely sought for seismic advice on Pacific Rim projects. The firm "has been called upon to do the most challenging engineering analyses for some of the most important projects of the past decade," said Chopra.
Penzien was among Caifornia-based earthquake engineering researchers who were dismayed in 1986 when the National Science Foundation opted to site a $50-million national quake research center on the Buffalo, N.Y. campus of the State University of New York, according to a Sept. 4, 1986, article in ENR.
“Joe was a great leader who gave generously of his time and intellect,” says UC-Berkeley structural engineering professor Stephen Mahin, who also is director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center. "He is one of the key individuals who profoundly influenced the course of my own career."