The Ten-Minute Walk that Changed My Life
In 1965, walking out of a conference hall in Montreal, I saw Professor Peck walking away on the sidewalk. I rushed a little to catch up with him, only hoping to have a casual conversation. I told hime I just met Dr. Bengt Broms and expressed my wish to spend one year at the Swedish Geotechnical Institute, of which Dr. Broms was the director. Surprisingly, Dr. Peck not only indicated his approval that I took the initiative, but also added that Terzaghi has started a field consolidation study in 1946. He suggested the study would probably require a follow up, which could be my thesis subject.
After a crash course in Swedish, I found myself in Sweden in 1966. As the result of the Swedish Institute's fine tradition of record keeping, the data were voluminous and overwhelming. At Ralph Peck's instigation, Dr. Bjerrum of NGI came to my rescue. I went to Oslo several times to receive his inspiring and critical input.
Returning to the U.S. in 1967, I continued my thesis work while keeping a full time job. Dr. Peck often gave his Saturday time to help me in my thesis work. He guided me ever so gently with his impressive clarity. Each time I saw him, I came away with a greater realization of the reasons why he earned the reputation as the most persuasive person among my colleagues who worked with him. Dr. Peck's keen insight and his art of plain talk has been a model that I have tried to follow all my life.
Y.C. Gene Chang, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE
This letter is an excerpt from the Geo-Strata Feature on Professor Peck, Geo-Strata September/October 2008.