Obituaries: February 2013

February 1, 2013

WILLIAM “BILL” BYERS,

P.E., F.ASCE, who worked in the rail industry for more than 50 years, passed away on December 21 at the age of 84. Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1928, Byers obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master’s degree in 1956, both in civil engineering and both from Iowa State College (today Iowa State University). While earning his undergraduate degree, he worked for the Santa Fe Southern Railway for four years. He then began his graduate studies and while pursuing his master’s degree he taught engineering graphics to undergraduates. After graduate school he became a structural engineer for the Convair division of the General Dynamics Corporation and later worked at the research center operated by the Association of American Railroads. In 1959 he returned to Santa Fe Southern (which merged with Burlington Northern in 1996), where he held the positions of assistant engineer, regional bridge engineer, director of structures, and general director of structures, retiring in 2003. Byers served on committees for ASCE, the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, ASTM International, and the Transportation Research Board. Over his long and distinguished career, he authored 14 peer-reviewed articles as well as 15 papers for technical meetings. He had a particular interest in the effects of earthquakes on rail infrastructure, and at the time of his death he was working on another article.

ROBERT T. CHUCK,

P.E., F.ASCE, who represented District 11 on ASCE’s Board of Direction from 1988 to 1991, served as president of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and worked on water resource management issues in Hawaii, passed away on December 27 at the age of 89. Born in Honolulu in 1923, Chuck attended the University of Hawaii and Michigan State University, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the latter in 1948. The following year he obtained a master’s degree, also in civil engineering, from Cornell University. After completing his education he worked as a bridge design engineer for the Hawaii Department of Transportation. He later became an assistant airport engineer for the department and worked on highway design and construction, and in 1960 he was promoted to manager and chief engineer of the state agency in charge of Hawaii’s water resources. In this position, which he held until 1984, Chuck was responsible for initiating and directing the planning, development, regulation, and conservation of Hawaii’s water resources. In 1985 CH2M HILL hired Chuck to serve as its office manager for the Pacific, and he remained in that position for 10 years, subsequently working part-time for the firm. Chuck was active throughout his career in professional engineering societies. Prior to serving on ASCE’s Board of Direction, he was active in the Hawaii Section, serving as chair in 1977. In 1986 he was elected the national president of the AWWA, and he also served as the national president of the National Water Resources Association, the Association of Western State Engineers, and the Hawaii Water Works Association. Committed to contributing to his community, he served as an instructor at the University of Hawaii, teaching evening courses in civil and structural engineering for 25 years. In 2000 he received an appointment from the State of Hawaii to serve as the first chairman of the certification board for operating personnel at water treatment plants. Among his many professional honors, Chuck received the Hawaii Engineer of the Year Award in 1966, the AWWA’s Fuller Award in 1981, the National Water Resources President’s Award in 2003, and the Hawaii Council of Engineering Societies’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

KENITH H. MILLER,

M.ASCE, a champion of dam safety reform, passed away on December 22 at the age of 86 from complications from pancreatic cancer. A graduate of Auburn University and a U.S. Navy veteran, Miller was a regional civil engineer for the Federal Power Commission (which in 1977 became the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). A native of the Sand Mountain region of Alabama, Miller moved to Atlanta in 1956, when he accepted a position with the Federal Power Commission. On November 6, 1977, heavy rains caused the 39 ft high, 394 ft long Kelly Barnes Dam, located outside of Toccoa, Georgia, to suddenly burst, taking the lives of 39 people and causing $2.8 million in damage. An investigation carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Federal Investigative Board cited no specific causes for the failure. However, to avert similar tragedies, Miller began working with the Georgia legislature to craft a bill on dam safety, and the bill was eventually passed and became law. In a letter from Tom Phillips, a George legislator, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Miller was praised “for his dedication and the several hours of his personal time, which he spent in trying to prevent the disaster we experienced.” Miller retired from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 1982 and then put his skills to work for the Georgia Baptist Convention, where he remained until 2006.

MARGARET S. PETERSEN,

P.E., D.WRE, Dist.M.ASCE, who had a long and distinguished history of committee leadership within ASCE and its Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) and was one of the nation’s leading hydraulic engineers, passed away on January 19 at the age of 92. As a testament to her exemplary service to water resources, hydraulic and environmental engineering, and the engineering profession, in 2010 the EWRI established the Margaret Petersen Outstanding Woman of the Year Award (last month made a Society award by the Board of Direction). Born in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1920, Petersen attended Augustana College for a year and then studied part-time before joining the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in June 1942. Her position was that of a draftsman, and at the end of 1942 she was selected as 1 of 10 draftsmen to go to Panama to complete contract drawings for a locks project. While in Panama she saved enough money to return to school and in 1947 obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Iowa, followed in 1953 by a master’s degree in mechanics and hydraulics. Before obtaining her graduate degree, Petersen obtained a position as a hydraulic engineer at the Corps’s Waterways Experiment Station, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1947, becoming one of the first women in the field of hydraulic engineering. In her 35 years with the Corps, Petersen held positions dealing with research, the design of hydraulic structures, channel hydraulics, and water resources planning, and she worked on some of the nation’s largest water projects, including flood control and navigation endeavors affecting the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas rivers. In 1981 she began a second career as an engineering professor at the University of Arizona, where she developed graduate courses in hydraulic engineering based on her experience. Her first book, Water Resource Planning and Development (New York City: Prentice-Hall, 1984), was used in a number of countries. She lectured outside the country and in 1996 completed a monograph on inland navigation and canalization for the International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation. An active member of ASCE at the section, branch, and national levels, Petersen served for two years as chair of the Hydraulics Division’s Executive Committee. In 1991 ASCE named her an honorary member (the title now known as distinguished member), and in 2001 it recognized her many contributions with its Hunter Rouse Hydraulic Engineering Award. The following year she became the first person ever to receive a lifetime achievement award from the EWRI. Petersen also served on the advisory board for the Trent Dames Fund for the Heritage of Civil Engineering, part of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, California.

PETER B. TAYLOR,

P.E, CPEng, F.ASCE, who worked for more than 45 years to advance the engineering profession in Australia and served as the chief executive officer of Engineers Australia, passed away on January 21 at the age of 69. Engineers Australia, which has approximately 100,000 members from all engineering disciplines, is a professional body and nonprofit organization that serves as a national forum for engineering issues. Born in 1943, Taylor obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Queensland. He was also a graduate of the Royal Military College–Duntroon and of India’s Defence Services Staff College, and he held a number of engineering positions in the Australian army from 1968 to 1976. He later began a career in local government, initially in Hobart, then in Launceston, and finally in Toowoomba, where he rose to become chief executive on the city council. The Australian government recognized Taylor’s distinguished service to the engineering profession with a medal.

BERNARD A. VALLERGA,

P.E., L.S., Hon.M.ASCE, an internationally recognized author of more than 200 peer-reviewed research papers and investigative reports and a partner of the highly successful private consulting firm Woodward Clyde Consultants (today part of URS Corporation), passed away on January 5 at the age of 77. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Vallerga attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and was also a member of the honor societies Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi. During World War II he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Europe as a captain in the U.S. 3rd Army. From 1953 to 1960 he was the managing engineer for the Asphalt Institute’s Pacific coast division, and in 1961 he became the vice president of the Golden Bear Oil Company, in Bakersfield, California. He returned to Oakland in 1964 to become the president of Materials Research and Development, Inc., and in 1972 he cofounded Woodward Clyde Consultants. Among his many honors, Vallerga was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987 “for unique achievements and novel applications in asphalt technology and pavement design,” and his contributions continue to see extensive use in roads and airport runways. A founding member of the International Society for Asphalt Pavements and an honorary member of the Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists, Vallerga was elected to the Asphalt Institute’s Roll of Honor in 1990.
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