Always Ready to Listen and Learn

Dr. Peck worked for some 40 years as an expert consultant on hydro projects in Quebec. In particular, he worked on the La Grande Project in Northern Quebec for the last 30 years. There are many incidents showing his kindness, warmth, and keen interest in advancing knowledge in his profession which come to mind when thinking of Dr. Peck over those years. He took time from his busy schedule to give talks to the geotechnical groups in Montreal and elsewhere and was always ready to listen and learn.

Filters in earth fill dams and dikes were a hot topic in the 1970s during the construction of the La Grande Project. Filter testing was done on the project to ensure that the filter criteria used at the time were adequate because leakage had occured on other projects and the supposed loss of filter material was thought to be the cause. Also, the permeability of the filters was being questioned because piezometric levels in the filters were higher than expected during reservoir filling.

All kinds of theories were being put forward to explain the high piezometric levels; however, a young engineer at Hydro Quebec had his own idea. He explained that the high levels could be due to air entrapment in the filters and that once the air was expelled from the filters, piezometric levels would become normal. At the time, this was a novel idea and many in the profession, as well as many of the young engineer's co-workers, ddn't think much of it, to say the least.

Dr. Peck was asked if he would like to discuss the idea with the engineer and meeting was arranged between them at James Bay Headquarters. Dr. Peck had just gotten back to Montreal after spending some ten grueling days on the La Grande project, but still took the time to listen to the idea. After a few hours of patient back and forth discussion, Dr. Peck thought that the idea had much merit and encouraged the young engineer to pursue his work. This was the first bit of encouragement that the engineer had received in some time and he left the meeting full of renewed energy.

This small incident is only one of many that occured over the years that illustrate the type of man Dr. Peck was. He was kind, considerate, a professor, ever ready to listen and learn and a professional, in every sense of the word.

Jerry Levay

This letter is an excerpt from the Geo-Strata Feature on Professor Peck, Geo-Strata September/October 2008.