Geotech Engineer Leland Walker, ASCE President and 1960s ENR Awardee

Leland J. Walker, who led efforts beginning in the 1960s to raise engineering education standards and boost the influence and image of civil engineers through industry group collaboration, died on Dec. 31. He was 91.

The founder of a predecessor of geotech engineer Northern Engineering and Testing, he was the first in that sector to become president, in 1977. of the American Society of Civil Engineers. According to ASCE, he helped spearhead formation of what would become the American Association of Engineering Societies "to spread the word to the public about what civil engineers did ... and build a coalition that would wield influence on Capitol Hill."

As president of the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET) in the early 1980s, Walker also called attention to signs of the deteriorating quality of engineering education evidenced by faculty shortages and outdated equipment, according to a 1981 story in ENR. The article noted that ABET granted a full six-year accreditation to only 56% of the school curricula it evaluated in the year before, adding that the remaining 44% received a conditional three-year accreditation or were denied it.

Walker was cited by ENR in 1966 for his role in organizing a conference on interprofessional problems of architects, engineers, landscape architects and planners that addressed such real-world problems as redevelopment of ghetto areas, and for serving as a “promoter of professional ecumenism.”

Georgia-Based George Black, 69, Was First Highway Engineer Named to NTSB

George W. Black Jr., a Georgia regional transportation agency leader and first practicing highway engineer named to the National Transportation Safety Board, died on Jan. 18 at age 69. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Black died in Atlanta of Alzheimer's complications.

Black was a 22-year veteran of the Gwinnett County, Ga. transportation department and its former director. He was named twice by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s to NTSB, and continued to serve the agency as a senior civil engineer, according to an obituary by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

ASCE says Black was cited by Aviation Week magazine for his role in two NTSB probes of air crashes in 1999. NTSB told the Atlanta newspaper that his expertise in highway engineering and transportation safety boosted its ability to "decipher" highway accidents and "provided a unique perspective" to probes in other transportation modes.

John E. Olsson, 88, Grew a Nebraska Designer and Led Two State Groups
John E. Olsson, who founded what became top-ranked Nebraska design firm Olsson Associates and led state chapters of two different engineering groups, died on Jan. 28 in Lincoln, says the company. 

Olsson Associates, which was formed in 1970 from a two-person operation, now has 900 employees in eight states and ranks at No. 139 on ENR’s list of The Top 500 Design Firms, with $90.4 million in 2013 revenue, mostly in building and water sectors.

He retired in the early 1990s but remained on its board until death. Olsson also was past president of Nebraska chapters of the American Council of Engineering Cos. and of the American Water Works Association, of which he was a 50-year member.

Olsson “had an ability to see the potential in people that others may have missed. He held everyone to high standards, but he was there to help if you stumbled,” says Roger Severin, who succeeded him as CEO. “I feel lucky to have been one of his early ‘projects.’ ”