Memoirs 7. Connecticut-Teaching

by Milo Ketchum
circa 1990

By 1962, I was getting restless. A number of isolated affects occurred that made me uncomfortable. Due to my constant traveling to give lectures on shell structures, I had lost touch with many of my clients, and my partner had taken then over. Also we had problems with our children in the Denver schools. Our eldest boy, then about 16, was in a high school where the academic and social conditions were unsatisfactory, and our daughter, aged 13, would have had to go to a junior high school where there had been racial incidents. All of these pressures made it evident to me that I should find somewhere else to live. One of our employees, Rudi Besier was familiar with the East, and we finally, after an exploratory trip, decided to locate in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. It was half way between Boston and New York, and a wonderful place to live.

The East was never the same as Colorado. We did find some well known clients, among them being Paul Rudolph, then at Yale University. However working for him did not give me the thrill I had with clients in Denver. My conclusion was that he had never had a good structural engineer, and no one had properly trained him in how to get the best service. He expected to make all the important structural decisions without calling in the engineer. We did some interesting work, however. The music building at Colgate College, was the most complicated structure I had ever designed. When we were well along on the plans, we found that a column was directly over the main lobby. In the auditorium, the girder over the proscenium was bent in the middle; luckily, there was a structural slab at the top that absorbed the thrusts. That was just before programs were available for accurate analysis, and we made small models to test our assumptions. The building stood up.

This office lasted for about 5 years, by then things were getting uncomfortable again. My partner in Colorado did not get registered in Connecticut, and it was necessary to change the name of the firm. The accounting problems gave me concern, and finally, we sold the office to Rudi Besier, and I looked for other things to do. In the spring of 1967, I spent one term a giving a course in shells at Pennsylvania State University, and in the fall I accepted a position as Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where I spent the next 11 years, retiring in 1978.

I enjoyed teaching, and I tried to bring to the classroom some of the philosophy of the design office that the students would not otherwise get. In particular, I developed a course for the senior structural engineers in which they choose their own structure to design. They were free to do anything they liked and to be creative, an aspect of engineering to which they never had been exposed. The halls of the building were filled with models of shells and other structures. I had only a few graduate students that were interested in shells, but among then was an Egyptian, by the name of Ahmed Shaaban, and we wrote a paper on hyperbolic paraboloids. After retirement, I talked myself into the editorship of one of the pamphlet publications of Marcel Dekker in New York, which we named Structural Engineering Practice. This lasted for about two years. In 1981 we moved back to Denver to be with my old firm, Ketchum, Konkel, Barrett, Nickel, Austin.

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