Former Kansas Section President and ASCE Board Member Thorn Dies at 92

BY 
May 3, 2019

Distinguished Member Robert B. Thorn, a longtime bridge engineer, past president of ASCE’s Kansas Section, and member of the Board of Direction, has died. He was 92.

Thorn

Known as “Bob,” Thorn, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, served on the Board as vice president of Zone III in 2004-05 and Board director of District 16 in 1998-2000.

After some time in the U.S. Army Air Corps and earning a degree in civil engineering at Kansas State University (where he received five honorary keys), Thorn began employment with Finney & Turnipseed Consulting Engineers, a transportation and engineering firm in Topeka. He rose to partner in 1969, became sole proprietor in 1983, and a managing partner in 1995. During more than 60 years with F&T, the firm designed 17 bridges over the Kansas River, including the longest steel bridge in the state at 5,823 feet total length. A book by Thorn, History of Kansas River Crossings at Topeka, can be found online at ASCE Library.

Thorn remained active at Kansas State through his career. He received five honorary keys, a Distinguished Services Award in engineering, was inducted into the College of Engineering Hall of Fame in 1998, and served on the Advisory Council to the College of Engineering and the Advisory Council to the Department of Civil Engineering. He was the Kansas State ASCE Student Chapter’s Honorary Lifetime Contact Member for more than 50 years. The civil engineering department still puts on a Robert B. Thorn Lecture Series.

As an informal ambassador for ASCE, he spoke to civil engineering students at more 30 universities and to several state sections. He became a Life Member in 1991.

Thorn was involved for many years with Topeka-area health agencies, receiving the Outstanding Citizen Achievement Award from the Shawnee County Medical Society in 2000. He was a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, an elder in the Westminster Presbyterian Church, and a past president of Shawnee Country Club, where he achieved two holes-in-one. He and his wife established the Bob & Bernita Thorn Civil Engineering Excellence Fund at Kansas State.

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