Peck the Teacher:
A Commanding Presence
Pursuing a BS in Civil Engineering from Illinois (1974) and looking for an interesting geotechnical course for spring semester, I found CE 484, Case Histories. Still a senior undergraduate, I needed department approval to take this class. Professor Ireland, who taught the course with Professor Peck, granted my approval and I soon became very "aware" of the reputation and stature of these two great instructors. I was awe-struck, not just by the opportunity and the subject matter, but also by the sudden realization that I was the only undergraduate in a class of about 20 Ph.D. and M.S. candidates!
I remember well one particular class session. We were nearing completion of our first case study, which had been presented by Dr. Ireland. As we were finishing discussion, Professor Peck walked in and stood ... patiently waiting to begin presentation of his case history. The "buzz" that had been almost palpable prior to Dr. Peck's arrival ceased abruptly when he entered the room. Literally, you could have heard a pin drop. With no one uttering another word, Ireland left and Peck began his case history as only he could. Little did I know then that this watershed moment, which would mark the end of Dr. Peck's classroom teaching, would be the beginning of my career as a geotechnical engineer.
Mike Lewis, P.E., F.ASCE
This letter is an excerpt from the Geo-Strata Feature on Professor Peck, Geo-Strata September/October 2008.