Memorial Tributes: Volume 27
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  • CLYDE N. BAKER JR. (1930-2022)



    CLYDE NELSON BAKER JR. passed away on Aug. 26, 2022. He will be remembered as a brilliant and visionary geotechnical engineer who achieved national and international recognition for his work in deep foundation design. His contributions to the geotechnical field are legion, and his leadership and mentorship will be greatly missed.

    Clyde was born in Flushing, New York, on May 6, 1930, the son of general surgeon Clyde Nelson Baker Sr. and Muriel Estes Baker. Clyde earned his pilot’s license at age 16. His path to engineering was somewhat circuitous, and he called himself an accidental engineer. After graduating from Flushing High School in 1947, he earned a B.S. in physics from the College of William and Mary in 1952 and then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to focus on electrical engineering. His rheumatoid arthritis caused him to drop out for a semester. After experimental cortisone treatments led to improved health, he resumed his education and changed his focus to civil engineering when re-enrolling. In 1954 he received an M.S. in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working in the Soils Stabilization Laboratory and taking classes with luminaries such as Karl Terzaghi, known as the father of soil mechanics. He met his wife, Jeanette Harcourt, on a blind date in 1949, and they married on Oct. 9, 1955, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

    Clyde joined the staff at STS Consultants Ltd. (formerly Soil Testing Services) in the fall of 1954, where he stayed for more than 50 years, ultimately serving as chairman, chief engineer, and senior vice president before the firm was purchased by AECOM. During the later years of his career, he was a senior consultant and a subject matter expert for AECOM, GEI Consultants Inc., and Skidmore Owing and Merrill. Clyde served as geotechnical engineer for many high rises built in Chicago, including the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), the John Hancock Building, the Aon Center (formerly known as the Amoco Building), and Trump Tower. He also served as geotechnical engineer or consultant on some of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which held the title of the world’s tallest building from 1998 to 2004; the Taipei 101 tower in Taipei City, Taiwan (2004); and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper (currently the tallest in the world at 2,716.5 feet, also known as the Burj Dubai) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (2010). Mr. Baker also consulted on the Doha Convention Center and Tower in Doha, Qatar, and the Incheon 151 Tower in Incheon, South Korea.

    As a result of his experience, Clyde developed an international reputation in the design and construction of deep foundations. He was a leader in using in-situ testing techniques correlated with past building performance to develop more efficient foundation designs. In the Chicago soil profile, this technique facilitated economical use of belled caissons on hard pan for major structures in the 60- to 70-story height range built during the 1970s and 1980s, such as Water Tower Place, 900 North Michigan, and the Franklin Center (formerly known as the AT&T Corporate Center), which normally would have required extending caissons to rock at a significant cost. Clyde played a significant role in increasing the foundation bearing capacity allowed by Chicago’s building code by more than a factor of 50 since the 1950s.

    Clyde was very active professionally on both the local and national levels. He was named an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1996 in recognition of his many contributions to the society. He served as president of the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois and of the Chicago Chapter of the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers. At the national level, he served as chair of the Geotechnical Engineering Division of ASCE; editor of the Geotechnical Engineering Journal; chair of the American Concrete Institute Committee 336 on Footings, Mats, and Drilled Piers; member and trustee of the Deep Foundations Institute; and chairman of the Caisson Drilled Shaft Liaison Committee. Back home in Chicago, he co-chaired the subcommittee that rewrote Chapter 18 on “Foundations for the Chicago Building Code.”

    Mr. Baker shared his knowledge and experience with his peers through numerous lectures at conferences and universities, as well as technical articles, papers, and other publications. His contributions were recognized by the Deep Foundations Institute’s Distinguished Service Award (1987), the Association of Drilled Shaft Contractors’ Outstanding Service Award, the ASCE Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award for Contributions to the Field of Soil Mechanics and Foundations Engineering (1972), the Martin S. Kapp Foundation Engineering Award (1995), and the Ralph B. Peck Award (2000). He was also named ASCE Chicago Civil Engineer of the Year in 1989. His numerous recognitions from the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois included the John F. Parmer Award (1995), Distinguished Service Award in Structural Engineering (1990), and first place publication awards for History of Chicago Building Foundations 1948-1983 (with John P. Gnaedinger; Chicago Committee on High-Rise Buildings, 1984) and History of Chicago Building Foundations 1948–1998 (with Charles W. Pfingsten and John P. Gnaedinger; Chicago Committee on High-Rise Buildings, 1998). He was the author of The Drilled Shaft Inspectors’ Manual sponsored jointly by the Deep Foundation Institute and the Association of Drilled Shaft Contractors-International Association of Foundation Drilling. In 2008, he received the 2007 Engineering News Record Award of Excellence and the 2011 ASCE Opal Lifetime Achievement Design Award. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the recipient of the ASCE Ralph B. Peck Award in 2000 and the Terzaghi Lecture Award in 2009, and he was selected as a Hero of Geotechnical Engineering by the Geo-Institute in 2009. Also in 2009 he won the Washington Award of the Western Society of Engineers for “his international reputation in the design and construction of deep foundations.”

    Clyde became a Quaker in 1957, and his faith was seen as part of his even temperament as an engineer, as well as contributing to his other outstanding attributes. He loved hiking the Adirondacks with his nieces, nephews, and cousins. He enjoyed running throughout his life and completed 40 marathons, finishing his last at age 70. He ran 60 miles on his 60th birthday, raising more than $10,000 for Alzheimer’s disease.

    Clyde and his late wife Jeanette are survived by their sons Mark and Glen, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. They were predeceased by their daughter, Lynn Baker Diers, and one grandchild.

    Those who knew him were impacted not only by his expertise and insight but also by his generosity, kindness, and outlook on life.