GEOSTRATA, 2016, September/October, 82-83
Robert W.Thompson, PE, D.GE, F.ASCE
Robert Thompson is a senior consul-tant at CTL/Thompson Inc. in Denver, CO. A graduate of Oklahoma State University, he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1962 and his master’s in 1965. Currently, he works only on special assignments for CTL/Thompson and coaches younger engineers about technical issues. His practice focuses primarily on partially saturated soils. Thompson’s professional experience includes many technical papers and presentations on expansive and col-lapsing soils. He has given considerable effort to analysis and solutions for slope problems and retained excavations. He helped found and served as the first president of the Colorado Association of Geotechnical Engineers and was president of ASFE from 2003-2004.
He was very active in ASCE education efforts as an ABET evaluator for about 20 years and served on the Committee on Curricula & Accreditation (CC&A).
He was also a founding board member of the Academy of Geo-Professionals (AGP). He is still active in tennis and ski racing. At this point in his career, Thompson is able to enjoy a relaxed schedule, travel, and his grandchildren.
What class did you enjoy the most while in school?
A six-week summer surveying camp near Buena Vista, CO; we had to map 40 acres and lay out a road in a mountain location.
What was your favorite project?
My firm was involved with design and quality assurance during construction of Denver International Airport — a completely new airport on a site selected because of noise issues. The near-surface soils were expansive, and design of the pavements was heavily influenced by potential expansion.
What item did you always want to have?
An early 1950’s J 2 Allard, primarily designed for racing, but street legal. I currently own a 1963 356 B Porsche (restored and runs up to 90 mph) and a 2004 40th Anniversary 911 Porsche coupe (approximately 13,000 miles). I need more garage space!
What’s your favorite song and artist?
“Together Again,” by Emmy Lou Harris
Where did you spend most of your childhood, and what was it like for you to grow up there?
My father was a career military officer. I lived in many different places, including Hawaii and Germany. I went to ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades in high school at Wurzburg, Nurnberg, and Frankfurt, Germany. The schools were run by the U.S. government for military and diplomatic dependents. We were sent from Germany to Cedar City, UT, where my father was in charge of all Army Reserve units south of Provo. This was a major cultural change, as many of my classmates had not been out of Utah.
When did you realize that you wanted to study civil engineering? What were the key factors in your decision to become a civil engineer?
I started as a mining engineering student and then worked underground between my sophomore and junior years. I decided to change majors and became very interested in structural engineering. I worked for two years in structural design before graduate school, where I focused on geotechnical engineering.
How do you feel about the state of civil engineering and the profession as it is today?
The profession as a whole provides wonderful service to the public. Unfortunately, the public really does not know who or what the civil engineering profession provides.
What do you personally feel are the biggest challenges on the horizon for the profession?
The continual pressure to provide services based on low-cost bids. The low-bid mentality is king. Most people cannot tell the difference between a cheap bid and the services necessary to perform truly good professional ser-vices. They become much better clients when they have serious problems with a project.
Do you have a message about specialty certification that you’d like for professional engineers to be aware of?
Speciality certification is widespread within the medical field. We need to actively promote the idea of requiring more comprehensive skills to be certified. This should result in clients selecting an engineer with proper skill rather than low bid.
As an original AGP board member, why did you want to get involved with helping create board certification for geotechnical engineers?
I believe in the concept. I have spent many years giving my time to efforts that advance either professionalism or education of civil engineers.
You’ve poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into helping launch AGP – do you like what you see
NO. ASCE needs to spend some money and advertise our profession on TV, similar to what I see from AIA.
What are some of your personal hobbies and interests?
I enjoy cars. I compete in Masters-level ski races and USTA tennis leagues. This keeps me healthy.
For the complete interview, please visit geoprofessionals.org.