Hawkesly was a pioneer of water engineering which is still a very strong part of the MWH business along with its growing brief in environmental engineering.
MWH global president Bob Uhler used the celebratory dinner as an opportunity to praise Hawksley for his vision and to compare his determination and pioneering spirit regarding clean water supply to that required of engineers today in dealing with climate change.
"At the time Hawksley was advocating the importance of a constant water supply in the fight against disease he was actually being controversial. Not everyone believed the money should be spent," Uhler said.
"It reminds me of how we are today when talking about global warming. Whether you believe the cause of climate change is man made and the result of excessive production of carbon or not, is not the issue. Uhler suggested.
"It may be disputable that the cause is carbon, but we do know the earth is warming. We can mitigate for that, adapt to it, or suffer. I believe we will spend more on adaptation that mitigation and even more on dealing with suffering. So let us mitigate, now."
MWH four years ago was one of the first engineering companies to nail its colours to the cause of sustainability, particularly in the US, Uhler said. It is one of only two engineering firms involved in former US president Bill Clinton's Global Initiative which focuses on climate change and poverty.
Uhler said he had been told – wrongly as it turned out - when the firm opted to pursue sustainability at all costs that it could lose 25% of its clients many of whom are in the mining and heavy industry.
"I was asked: are we going to stop working with those firms? I replied 'No'. Those are the ones we want to work with, the people who need our help the most."
MWH, he said, is leading from the front. The business normally allows its local firms to operate in a way that suits local markets – some of which are more up to speed on sustainability and low carbon than others.
"But in this case we opted for universal policy and are applying it around the world.
"We are establishing a carbon measuring formula to apply around the world.
"Once we can measure our own carbon emissions we can set targets for lowering them, and take the tool to our clients and apply that to projects."
Succeeding ICE vice president Paul Jowitt proposed a toast to MWH and to Hawksley after Uhler's speech under the painting of the great engineer that normally hangs at the National Portrait Gallery. Hawksley would have risen to the challenges of climate change with relish it was agreed.