Charles “Chuck” Cushing Ladd III, Renowned Educator and Researcher in the Field of Geotechnical Engineering; Dies at Age 81

August 13, 2014

Ladd, CharlesCharles “Chuck” Cushing Ladd III, Sc.D., P.E., D.GE, NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, internationally known for his outstanding contributions to the teaching, research, and practice of geotechnical engineering, passed away on August 4 at the age of 81. Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Emeritus at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the time of his death, Ladd was honored by ASCE in 2013 with its Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Lifetime Achievement Award in education, “representing a model of achievement to which future generations of engineers aspire to match or exceed.” Born November, 23, 1932, Ladd received his bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in mathematics and physics from Bowdoin College in 1955, and in the same year a bachelor’s degree in building engineering and construction from MIT. He continued on at MIT to earn both his master’s degree in civil engineering in 1957 and his doctoral degree in soil engineering in 1961. Ladd joined the MIT faculty in 1961 and served until he retired in 2001. During that time he also served as instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, visiting consultant, acting head of the Geotechnical Division, chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering Committee on Graduate Studies, visiting senior scientist, director of the Center for Scientific Excellence in Offshore Engineering, graduate admissions officer, and member of the Civil Engineering Council. According to his many students and peers, Ladd was one of the most devoted teachers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and took great pride in the comprehensiveness of his lectures in soil mechanics and soil behavior. His notes have been used worldwide by other professors to teach these subjects. Over the years, Ladd served on many ASCE committees, including as chairman of the Committee on Curricula and Accreditation (1981-1982), and on the Professional Activities Committee (1982-1986), the Geotechnical Engineering Division Publications Committee (1969-84), the Awards Committee (1975-1982; chairman, 1984-1988), and the Soil Properties Committee Executive Committee (1989-1996; secretary, 1990-1992; chair, 1993-1994), as well as serving on the Board of Governors for the Geo-Institute (1996-1998). His work earned Ladd many distinguished honors from ASCE, including the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize (1969), the James R. Croes Medal (1973) for his paper titled “Initial Settlement of Structures on Clay,” the Norman Medal (1976) for his paper “New Design Procedure for Stability of Soft Clays,” the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award (1996) for “Reliability Applied to Slope Stability Analysis,” and the Karl Terzaghi Lecture (1986). Other honors include Chi Epsilson, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta, and Who’s Who in America. In 1983 Ladd was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

  • I am saddened to hear of his passing.
    It was a pleasure to have known him.
    We first met in 1961, at MIT, when I attended a summer program dealing with the “Shear Strength Behavior of Cohesive Soils”.
    He was one of a group of renowned lecturers.
    We talked at conferences and at Committee meetings.
    Chuck was a lead researcher on “Varved Clays” and I had the privilege of reviewing his work for FHWA. As part of my review responsibilities I communicated with him regularly and met with him at MIT.
    Years later we sent, one of our employees, Surendra Saxena to MIT, for one year, to do research with him.
    Surendra subsequently left the Port Authority to head the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Unfortunately Surendra also passed away.
    I miss them both.

  • Avatar Joseph A Valdes, PE

    What an outstanding, full life! Dr. Ladd leaves behind a great body of knowledge and a great example for us all.

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