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WILFRED McGREGOR HALL 7894-1986 BY CHARLES C. NOBLE WIEFRED MCGREGOR HALL one of the world s great engi- neers anc! construction managers, diec] in Boston on Novem- ber 5, 1986, two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was ninety-two and hac! been professionally active almost until the time of his death. He retirect as chairman of the Chas. T. Main Corporation and the Chas. T. Main Engineers, Inc., in 1985, when the corporation anc! its subsidiaries were sold to Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, California. Mac Hall was born in Denver, Colorado, on June 12, IS94, anct was reerect in New Hampshire. He returned to Denver to attenct the University of Coloraclo, earning his B.S. in civil engineering in 1916. This event marked the beginning of a long and distinguished career of almost seventy vears in the fields of engineering and construction. ,, With his sheepskin packed away, Mac Hall joined Chas. T. Main, a Boston-basecl engineering company, as a fielcl and research engineer in 1916. His service with Main was inter- rupted by WorIc! War I; he left the company in 1917 to join the U.S. Army. With the war ended, he rejoined Main in 1920. After two years, he again left to become project super- visor for various construction companies on a number of hy- clroelectric projects in Puerto Rico and Brazil. In 1941 Mac Hall returned to Chas. T. Main to help the company with its World War IT workload. Within two years, 179
180 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES he hack been named one of Main's directors, a signal accom- plishment in this closely held private firm. In 1957 he be- came its president; this achievement was followed in 1971 by his election as chairman of the board, a position he held until his retirement in ~985. Mac Hall's career extended considerably beyond the length of two normal careers. He clid not believe in retire- ment so long as his mind remained sharp anc! clear but held to the oIcI tradition that a man shouIcI "die with his boots on" which he essentially did. His record of notable engi- neering achievements formed a chronicle of the growth and development of the engineering field and contributed mate- rially to the recognition and acceptance of the engineering profession's role as vital to the welfare of man and his envi- ronment. His accomplishments in the field of physical works ant! their conception ant! realization spanned a wide spectrum of large-scale engineering projects and programs throughout the developed and developing worIcl. Typical are the St. l~aw- rence ant! Niagara hydroelectric projects, which were the worId's largest at the time anct for which he had major re- sponsibility for engineering and construction management. Of these, Robert Moses wrote to Mr. Hall that they were "a tribute to the quality of leadership in your organization anct the excellence of your design and supervisory forces." In the fiel(1 of management and administration, he broa(l- enect the scope of Chas. T. Main; through innovation and the leadership and inspiration of his subordinates, he led the company to a position as one of the ten largest engineering and construction management firms in the United States. At the time of its sale to Parsons, Main employed more than 3,000 employees and was recognized worldwide as a leading design, engineering, and construction firm. Main provident a full scope of project and construction management, as well as construction and support services. It provided these services through a multidisciplined group of professionals using the latest advances in engineering, con-
WILFRED MCGREGOR HALL 181 struction, and computer technology in pursuing the clients's objectives. Under Mac Hall's stewardship, Main expanded its fields to include projects involving thermal power genera- tion; hydroelectric power generation and a full scale of water resources; power systems transmission and distribution; in- dustrial processes and manufacturing facilities covering pulp, paper, and forest industries, printing and publishing, chemicals, plastics and textiles, light and heavy manufactur- ing, and electronics and electrical equipment; total-plant en- ergy systems; and environmental compliance, conservation, and controls. Mac Hall drummed the firm's philosophy into his subor- dinates: "Do it well, on time, within budget." He engendered pride in the fact that since its incorporation, Main had served more than 3,000 clients worldwide and completed more than 14,000 assignmentsa long step from one of its earliest pro- posals ~ January 2S, IS93), for the design of an electric plant for the Lynn, Massachusetts, Gas and Electric Light Com- pany. Looking back on Mac Hall's long career, one recognizes that, in the area of engineering contributions to society, he warrants a ranking among the top individuals in the world, having earned wide recognition for his significant engineer- ing accomplishments. Mac Hall was a fierce achiever, one of those towering giants who appears on the world scene all too infrequently. The litany of his activities and awards attests to his wide-ranging interests and prestige. He was registered as a professional engineer in forty-two states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He was a fel- low of the American Society of Civil Engineers; a past presi- dent of the U.S. Committee on Large Dams, the U.S. Com- mittee on Irrigation and Drainage, and the Northeastern Chapter of the American Institute of Consulting Engineers; a director of the American Consulting Engineering Council of New England; a member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the Massachusetts Society of Professional Engi- .
182 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES neers, the Society of American Military Engineers, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Com- merce; a past director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Blindness ant! the Gooc~will Industries; a member of the Beavers and the Moles construction societies; and a director of the Newcomen Society of North America. His awards were many. Among them were an honorary doctorate of engineering from Tufts University (1955), the American Society of Chemical Engineers' Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Awarcl (1960), the University of Colorado Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award (1967), the Ralph W. Horne Award from the Boston Society of Civil Engineers (1970), the George Westinghouse Gold Medal Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engi- neers (1971), the George Norlin Silver Medal by the Univer- sity of Colorado (1972), the Newcomen Society of North America Award for Distinguished Service (1975), and the Engineer of the Year Award from the Engineers Club of Bos- ton ~ ~ 9771. In 1983 Wilfred McGregor Hall was honoree} by being se- lected for membership in the National Academy of Engi- neering. His election to the academy was the capstone of a long, distinguishecI, ancI honored career as a leader, an en- gineer, and an administrator. With his death in 1986 came the passing of the Grant! Old Man of Engineering.