Joe received the university’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 1983.
In 1999, Engineering News Record selected Joe one of the 125 most significant people of the previous 125 years; all of the individuals on the list were honored for “pioneering, often in uncharted territory, [and] developing new analytical tools, equipment, engineering or architectural designs. Their efforts, singularly and collectively, helped shape this nation and the world.” Joe was honored for developing “the total environmental concept, aiming to reduce wastes in the manufacturing process itself.”
Joe and Rose raised three daughters born in China and a son born in Minnesota to value education and service. Two became teachers, and two are physicians. He traveled for business and pleasure and enjoyed talking to people all over the world. His hobbies included fishing, walking, eating Chinese food, and giving advice. .
Joe is survived by his wife, Rose, and his children, Lois Olson, Rosa Ahlgren, Lorraine Laroy, and Louis Ling and 12 grandchildren, Susan and Sandra Olson; Micah, Aric, Theresa, and Jason Ahlgren; Jennifer, John, and Caroline Laroy; and Eric, Alison, and Amanda Ling. One of the grandchildren has followed in his footsteps to become an environmental engineer. He is also survived by six great-grandchildren
With his vision, tenacity, and diplomacy, Dr. Joseph T. Ling was an irresistible force that moved many an immovable object as he strove for fundamental changes in environmental approaches—from pollution control to pollution prevention to sustainable development and growth. His effect on the environment can best be measured by how many others worldwide have followed in his footsteps.
Although short in stature, Joe was a giant who argued tirelessly and compellingly, in his quiet way, for groundbreaking concepts. Colleagues in the National Academies and elsewhere looked to him as a friend and mentor, and he will be greatly missed.