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This is the third volume in the series of Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased.
BY CHARLES C. NOBLE
Wilfred McGregor Hall, one of the world's great engineers and construction managers, died in Boston on November 5, 1986, two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was ninety-two and had been professionally active almost until the time of his death. He retired as chairman of the Chas. T. Main Corporation and the Chas. T. Main Engineers, Inc., in 1985, when the corporation and its subsidiaries were sold to Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, California.
Mac Hall was born in Denver, Colorado, on June 12, 1894, and was reared in New Hampshire. He returned to Denver to attend the University of Colorado, earning his B.S. in civil engineering in 1916. This event marked the beginning of a long and distinguished career of almost seventy years in the fields of engineering and construction.
With his sheepskin packed away, Mac Hall joined Chas. T. Main, a Boston- based engineering company, as a field and research engineer in 1916. His service with Main was interrupted by World War I; he left the company in 1917 to join the U.S. Army. With the war ended, he rejoined Main in 1920. After two years, he again left to become project supervisor for various construction companies on a number of hydroelectric projects in Puerto Rico and Brazil.
In 1941 Mac Hall returned to Chas. T. Main to help the company with its World War II workload. Within two years, he had been named one of Main's directors, a signal accomplishment in this closely held private firm. In 1957 he became its president; this achievement was followed in 1971 by his election as chairman of the board, a position he held until his retirement in 1985.
Mac Hall's career extended considerably beyond the length of two normal careers. He did not believe in retirement so long as his mind remained sharp and clear but held to the old tradition that a man should ''die with his boots on''— which he essentially did. His record of notable engineering achievements formed a chronicle of the growth and development of the engineering field and contributed materially to the recognition and acceptance of the engineering profession's role as vital to the welfare of man and his environment.
His accomplishments in the field of physical works and their conception and realization spanned a wide spectrum of large-scale engineering projects and programs throughout the developed and developing world. Typical are the St. Lawrence and Niagara hydroelectric projects, which were the world's largest at the time and for which he had major responsibility for engineering and construction management. Of these, Robert Moses wrote to Mr. Hall that they were "a tribute to the quality of leadership in your organization and the excellence of your design and supervisory forces."
In the field of management and administration, he broadened the scope of Chas. T. Main; through innovation and the leadership and inspiration of his subordinates, he led the company to a position as one of the ten largest engineering and construction management firms in the United States. At the time of its sale to Parsons,
Main employed more than 3,000 employees and was recognized worldwide as a leading design, engineering, and construction firm. Main provided a full scope of project and construction management, as well as construction and support services. It provided these services through a multidisciplined group of professionals using the latest advances in engineering, construction, and computer technology in pursuing the clients's objectives. Under Mac Hall's stewardship, Main expanded its fields to include projects involving thermal power generation; hydroelectric power generation and a full scale of water resources; power systems transmission and distribution; industrial processes and manufacturing facilities covering pulp, paper, and forest industries, printing and publishing, chemicals, plastics and textiles, light and heavy manufacturing, and electronics and electrical equipment; total-plant energy systems; and environmental compliance, conservation, and controls.
Mac Hall drummed the firm's philosophy into his subordinates: "Do it well, on time, within budget." He engendered pride in the fact that since its incorporation, Main had served more than 3,000 clients worldwide and completed more than 14,000 assignments—a long step from one of its earliest proposals (January 28, 1893), for the design of an electric plant for the Lynn, Massachusetts, Gas and Electric Light Company.
Looking back on Mac Hall's long career, one recognizes that, in the area of engineering contributions to society, he warrants a ranking among the top individuals in the world, having earned wide recognition for his significant engineering accomplishments. Mac Hall was a fierce achiever, one of those towering giants who appears on the world scene all too infrequently. The litany of his activities and awards attests to his wide-ranging interests and prestige. He was registered as a professional engineer in forty-two states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
He was a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers; a past president of the U.S. Committee on Large Dams, the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, and the Northeastern Chapter of the American Institute of Consulting Engineers; a director of the American Consulting Engineering Council of New England; a member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the Massachusetts Society of Professional Engineers, the Society of American Military Engineers, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Commerce; a past director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Blindness and the Goodwill Industries; a member of the Beavers and the Moles construction societies; and a director of the Newcomen Society of North America.
His awards were many. Among them were an honorary doctorate of engineering from Tufts University (1955), the American Society of Chemical Engineers' Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award (1960), the University of Colorado Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award (1967), the Ralph W. Horne Award from the Boston Society of Civil Engineers (1970), the George Westinghouse Gold Medal Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1971), the George Norlin Silver Medal by the University of Colorado (1972), the Newcomen Society of North America Award for Distinguished Service (1975), and the Engineer of the Year Award from the Engineers Club of Boston (1977).
In 1983 Wilfred McGregor Hall was honored by being selected for membership in the National Academy of Engineering. His election to the academy was the capstone of a long, distinguished, and honored career as a leader, an engineer, and an administrator. With his death in 1986 came the passing of the Grand Old Man of Engineering.