Every year, the Professor Dr. Karl-Heinrich Heitfeld Foundation honours Master's graduates and doctorates of the Faculty of Georesources and Materials Engineering at RWTH Aachen University for outstanding achievements. The foundation was established in 1995 by Professor Heitfeld and his wife.
Professor Heitfeld was born in 1924 in Hamm (Westphalia). From 1946 to 1951 he studied geology at the University of Münster, where he received his doctorate in 1952–just one year after his diploma. Until 1970, while he was working in the private sector, he produced a considerable scientific œuvre, with which he habilitated in 1966 at the former Faculty of Mining and Metallurgy of RWTH Aachen University. In 1970, Professor heitfeld was appointed professor for engineering geology and hydrogeology, a position he held until his retirement in 1990. Since 1990 he has been co-owner and consultant of the engineering office Heitfeld-Schetelig in Aachen.
As a recognition for his outstanding scientific life's work, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Freiberg Mining Academy in 1999 and 2003 he was appointed Honorary Senator of RWTH Aachen University. In the same year, he also received the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class. In 2004 he was awarded the Hans Stille Medal (for his outstanding achievement) by the German Society of Geosciences.
Professor Heitfeld is considered the founder of the area of engineering geology in Germany; as Chair of Engineering and Hydrogeology at the RWTH he was the first in this field in Germany. Professor Heitfeld has gained an international reputation especially in the field of dam construction and contributed significantly to the development of engineering geology in Germany.