Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 21
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  • Aldrich, Harl P. , III
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  • HARL P. ALDRICH, JR. 1923-2014


    HARL PRESLAR ALDRICH, JR., cofounder of the Boston- based consulting engineering firm of Haley & Aldrich Inc., died November 24, 2014. He was 91. He was born in Spokane on June 21, 1923, son of Harl and Lucy (Cooley) Aldrich. From an early age, he wanted to become a civil engineer. After attending the University of Idaho for two years, he enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his BS and ScD degrees in the Department of Civil and Sanitary Engineering in 1947 and 1951. He served on the MIT faculty for six years and was a visiting lecturer on soil mechanics at Harvard University in 1955–1956.

    He was proud to be a civil engineer and, among young engineers in particular, promoted the importance of active participation in professional organizations. He was a leader in professional societies in Boston, serving as president of the Massachusetts Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1964 and president of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers in 1968–1969. He was an honorary member of the Boston Society Section of ASCE, a national distinguished member of ASCE, and a life fellow of the American Council of Engineering Companies.

    He authored numerous technical papers in national and international journals and conference proceedings related pri- marily to soil mechanics and foundations, groundwater, frost penetration, and dam safety. He received several awards for papers published in the Journal of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers.

    In 1957 Dr. Aldrich and James F. Haley founded Haley & Aldrich, a firm of geotechnical engineers, geologists, hydro- geologists, and environmental scientists, originally based in Cambridge. During his 35-year career with the firm, Aldrich served as principal on numerous major projects and as presi- dent and chairman. His dedication to teaching was one of the hallmarks of his leadership style, creating a mentoring and learning culture at the company that continues to this day. The Boston-based firm now has many employees located in 27 offices throughout the United States.

    In 1969 Haley & Aldrich was one of 10 founding firms of ASFE, the Geoprofessional Business Association (at the time known as the Associated Soil and Foundation Engineers). Dr. Aldrich had been active from the outset, one of several members who served on the board of directors and led the development of ASFE’s highly successful peer review pro- gram. In addition, he was president of Terra Insurance Ltd. and a member of the board of the Design Professionals Financial Corporation, both professional liability insurance companies.

    After the failure of Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho in 1976, Dr. Aldrich chaired the National Research Council Committee on the Safety of Dams, which reviewed US Bureau of Reclamation practices and procedures for ensuring the safety of water storage dams for which the bureau was responsible. Among his many honors, Dr. Aldrich was elected to the NAE in 1984, and in 2004 he was selected for ASCE’s OPAL Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Management. He was also a member of the honorary societies Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, and Chi Epsilon.

    He was active in creating The Engineering Center (TEC) in Boston, having chaired the fundraising committee for TEC Education Trust (TECET) and serving as TECET founding trustee in 1989. The Trust purchased One Walnut Street, the Phillips-Winthrop House on Beacon Hill, for the TEC home. In recognition of his leadership, the TEC Aldrich Conference Center was dedicated in 1998, when he and Charles H. Spaulding received the first TEC Leadership Awards.

    Throughout his career, Dr. Aldrich was a devoted alumnus­ of MIT. He was president of the Alumni Association in 1980– 1981 and served on the MIT Corporation in 1980–1986; for three of those years he was on the executive committee. He was a member of the Corporation Development Committee and received its Marshall B. Dalton ’15 Award in 1996. He chaired gift committees for his Class of 1947 reunions and held the Bronze Beaver, the highest award the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae bestows on its volunteers.

    A resident of Concord, Massachusetts, for 62 years, Aldrich was active at the Trinitarian Congregational Church, where he served in many roles, from chair of the building committee for a church school wing in 1955 to moderator, deacon, and chair of the Stewardship, Property, and other committees. For the town of Concord, he was a member and chair of the Public Works Commission.

    After his retirement from Haley & Aldrich in 1992, he became interested in the genealogy of his family and authored two books published by Penobscot Press, A Branch of the Aldrich Family in America (1996) and George Lathrop Cooley and Clara Elizabeth Hall: Their Ancestors and Descendants in America (2001). At one time, he played tennis and was an avid ­gardener. He and his wife were frequent travelers.

    Aldrich was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Navy V-5 Flight Training Program in 1944 and 1945. During his training at the University of Iowa in 1944 he met his wife, the former Lois A. Grissell of Cedar Rapids, where they mar- ried on February 23, 1946.

    In addition to his wife of 68 years he is survived by daugh- ters Katheryn Aldrich of Talent, OR, Barbara Robb of Calais, ME, and Jean Barrett Somerville of Alpharetta, GA; sons Harl Aldrich III of Kalispell, MT, and Kent Aldrich of Tigard, OR; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.


    Adapted from the Concord Journal, November 29–December 6, 2014 (online at aspx?pid=173312846).

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