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PHIL MOSS FERGUSON 1899-1986 BY EARNEST F. GLOYNA AND JOHN E. BREEN PHIL MOSS FERGUSON a leading pioneer in developing the basic theory of design procedures for reinforced concrete structures, died at the age of eighty-six on August 28, 1986. An outstanding civil engineering educator, Professor Fergu- son was the Dean T. U. Taylor Professor Emeritus in Engi- neering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught until his retirement in 1976. His distinguished scholarship and his leadership in devel- oping an internationally recognized structural engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin were fittingly recognized in 1979 when the University of Texas System Board of Regents named the large structural engineering re- search facility at the university's Balcones Research Center the Phil Moss Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory. In the hundred-year history of the university, only two other buildings had ever been named for living faculty. Phil Moss Ferguson was born on November 10, 1899, in Bartlett, Texas, a small mid-Texas town. After his high school education in Waco, he entered the Civil Engineering Depart- ment of the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his B.S. in civil engineering in 1922 and a C.E. in 1923. His interest in structural engineering and especially in re- inforced concrete resulted in his enrolling for graduate stud- ies at the University of Wisconsin, which was then one of the 165
166 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES best-known American centers of plain and reinforced con- crete higher studies. He received an M.S. from Wisconsin in 1924 and subsequently joined Dwight P. Robinson & Com- pany of New York as a structural engineer. His experience in the design of power plants and industrial buildings and in the construction of high-rise buildings was an important in- fluence on his teaching and research at the University of Texas. Professor Ferguson always approached the most theo- retical problems within the general framework of practicality that was established during this design phase of his career. For more than two clecades after he joined the University of Texas faculty in 1928, Professor Ferguson devoted his energies principally to the teaching programs at the then predominantly unclergra(luate institution. He served as chairman of the Civil Engineering Department from 1943 to 1957 and played a leading role in establishing the depart- ment's graduate engineering programs. He supervised the first doctoral student in civil engineering at Texas. In contrast to many academic researchers, Phi! Ferguson's personal research ant! writing career did not bloom until he had passed his fiftieth birthday. His first serious, original pa- per at the national level was publishect on three-climensional structural analysis in 1950. This was followect by a number of papers exploring shear and cliagonal tension in reinforced concrete, which were recognized by the American Concrete Institute's prestigious Wason Medals in 1954 and 1958. Once unfettered, his research career rapidly cleveloped, and his writings became internationally acclaimed. Through- out this period, he attracted a number of fine students to Austin and encouraged many of the junior faculty to seek cloctoral degrees. His international stature as a leader in structural engineering research ant] his development of de- sign procedures led to his election to the National Academy of Engineeringin 1973. Phi] Moss Ferguson was the driving force in the clevelop- ment of the internationally recognized structural engineer- ing program at the University of Texas anal, as a senior fac-
PHIL MOSS FERGUSON 167 ulty contributor, provider! leaclership anti stimulus for the (development of the highest ranked graduate program in civil engineering in the South and Southwest. He cleveloped a reputation as a splendid! engineering teacher, and his teaching ability was recognized by a General Dynamics Awarc! for Teaching Excellence in 1962. Students from all over the United States and many foreign countries attenclec! his advanced courses on the behavior and design of reinforced concrete structures and conducted re- search uncler his supervision. Many of these students have assumed leadership roles in structural engineering. In developing the structural engineering research pro- gram, which won wide acceptance and backing from govern- ment, industry, foundations, and tracle associations, Phi} Fer- guson provi(lec! leadership in promptly translating research data into design practice. His research accomplishments in- volved many Pelvis, but most noteworthy were the series of original contributions that acivanced comprehensive design recommendations for reinforced concrete structures. Each of his research programs reflected extensive knowI- edge of the specific problem as well as the impact of the problem on the total design and behavioral considerations of the member in question. His keen sense of engineering de- sign construction practice and structural behavior, which he clevelopect as a practicing designer and nurtured with years of consulting and technical committee work, provider! a breadth of view that led to many of the significant break- throughs in modern concrete research, especially in such areas as cliagonal tension, torsion, slender columns, and re- inforcement development. Professor Ferguson's famous text, Reinforced Concrete Fun- damentals, was initially published soon after the American Concrete Institute took the first step toward allowing ulti- mate strength design. It has been revised three times; the fourth edition was published in 1979. The Ferguson text is a digest of available research, (resign aids, and philosophy. Careful inclusion of a balanced and unbiased evaluation of
168 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES current design procedures, comprehensive and forceful em- phasis on fundamentals, and incessant urging that tradition give way to truth and logic justified his emphasis on ultimate strength procedures. The unusually wicle acceptance of his work by the designer as well as the teacher stands as a lasting measure of his work. His texts were influential in bringing about the acceptance of the new procedures that have led to far-reaching economies. His books ant] papers clemonstrated his creative farsighted- ness anti deep unclerstanding of structural engineering and technology. His research writings were recognized three times by the American Concrete Institute's Wason Mecial, a ctistinction accorclec! only one other author in the institute's history, and by the Raymond C. Reese Structural Award. No professional service gave Professor Ferguson more sat- isfaction than his more than forty years as a member of the American Concrete Institute Building Code Committee. He was an extremely influential member of that committee, which formulates the basic standards for design ancI con- struction of reinforced concrete structures in the United States as well as in many foreign countries. The energies he devoted to professional and technical or- ganizations culminatect in his serving as president at the na- tional or state level in several important societies (e.g., the American Concrete Institute, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers); he was also a U.S representative to several active Comite Eu- ropeen clu Beton commissions and headed the U.S. liaison delegation to international meetings. He was named an hon- orary member of both the American Concrete Institute anct the American Society of Civil Engineers in recognition of his long and distinguished service to those societies. Both the University of Texas anc} the University of Wisconsin recog- nized him as a distinguishecT gracluate. In ~ 976 Phi} Moss Ferguson was appointed professor emeritus at the University of Texas, signaling the end of forty-eight years on the active faculty. Although no longer
PHIL MOSS FERGUSON 169 involved in the active teaching and research program, his in- volvement and service to the university continued through his course! to the faculty and students and his involvement in professional and technical affairs. Declining health finally forced him to move from Austin to be closer to his son, Yale H. Ferguson, a Rutgers faculty member. These last years immediately before his death were spent in close contact with his son, his daughter-in-law Kitty, and his three grandchildren. Their loving support brought much comfort in his declining years. Far beyond his many technical contributions, Phi} Fergu- son will be remembered for his spirit of uncompromising in- tegrity, his dedication to the application of fundamental en- gineering principles, and his stimulation of young minds. A dedicated church member and a highly respected political conservative, Professor Ferguson was also a faculty leader in questioning the right of the state of Texas to require a~r- mation of belief in a Supreme Being as a condition for uni- versity employment in the 1950s. He championed the right of individuals to differ in a pluralistic, constitutional society. A seemingly stern and demanding teacher, he inspired his students to strive for excellence but never to compromise their personal integrity or neglect their family and civic re- sponsibilities. His passing brought forth countless students and associates, each with a story of a special encouragement or some special assistance, often financial, offered by Profes- sor Ferguson at trying times in their careers. He was a small, quiet, and gentle giant, who left behind him a totally changed approach to teaching, research, and graduate education in the two corners of his world that were dearest to himhis native Texas and the special world of reinforced concrete.