Raymond H.R. "Ray" Tide was the kind of engineer people could count on, says Michael Koob, who worked with him at engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. where both were principals. “If he said, 'I’ll do that job and I’ll have your report by Friday,’ It would be done by Friday,” Koob said..


Engineer's steel specifications have lasted decades, says industry trade group AISC.

Tide, 83, who died Oct. 7 in Arlington Heights, Ill. after a long illness, was an expert in structural problems including collapses, material deterioration and fatigue, brittle fractures and mill-rolling defects, fire exposure and other damage to steel buildings and bridges. Long after retiring in 2014, he maintained an office at the firm, took calls and shared his expertise. 

Richard Walther, another company principal who worked down the hall from Tide for more than 30 years, described him as "very smart, and able to translate difficult topics into common-sense language. He could speak to somebody who was really, really knowledgeable about the subject matter, but he also could talk to ... [those] working hard every day to build these structures.”

Both Walther and Koob remember being on a six-person team with Tide, assigned by WJE to provide on-site engineering expertise after the 1994 Northridge, Calif., earthquake—a 6.7 magnitude event in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles.

The team had offices in a building that appeared to be unscathed. But the elevator didn’t work, and nobody wanted to climb the steps. Tide inspected the building, seeing no cracks or other indications of earthquake damage. So he decided to test whether the building had been shaken and was tilting imperceptibly. Tide built a plumb bob out of fishing line and washers and dropped it down 16 floors, finding that the building was out of plumb. He and other team members also found compromised welds upon inspection.

Tide designed some of the very first repairs to correct such problems, which were common after the Northridge quake, Walther recalled. “He installed new welds and developed methodologies to confirm that the welds were adequate," he said. "Then the buildings were able to perform as originally intended.”

Walther and Koob also recall that Tide was taking random assignments in response to callers who had issues in their private properties, even noting a job done for the son of actor John Wayne that led to more work from friends and neighbors. “We called him 'engineer to the stars,'” Koob recalled.


Lasting Impacts

Tide earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba serving after graduating as an officer in the Canadian Army Corps of Engineers where he was assigned to the United Nations and stationed in the Middle East. Colleagues recall that he loved that experience and years later still talked about it. Tide also earned a civil engineering master's degree at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Tide worked for the nonprofit American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) in Minneapolis for seven years and received its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. He continued to be a volunteer for the organization long after he joined WJE in 1982. Cynthia Duncan, senior director of engineering for the organization, recalls Tide’s tenacious commitment to compiling the first version of the steel shapes database in 1980 in conjunction with release of the eighth edition of AISC's Manual of Steel Construction.

Tide had also proposed a draft for that edition on evaluation of existing structures. Duncan recalls that it failed to be approved by the committee, but the engineer's persistence resulted in the draft being approved nearly 20 years later in 1999.

“It's still the current specification as are his column formulas. They have lasted some 50 years. And the existing structures chapter, which is now in appendix 5, has endured almost 25 years,” she says.  

Duncan recalls that Tide frequently encountered colleagues who didn’t necessarily see things his way. “He did not back down easily,” she says. “One of my colleagues called him tenacious, which I think is a good descriptor for what Ray was like. If he thought he was right, he argued and he almost always won.” 

Tide was passionate about steel, says Duncan, earning a title at AISC as "the Renaissance Man of the steel industry."

Also an avid traveler, he visited every state and Canadian province and territory, as well as 41 countries.