Ben Gerwick Jr.
17 January 2007
Ben C. Gerwick Jr., a professor emeritus of civil engineering known for his pioneering contributions to deep-foundation construction and for making heavy-construction engineering a part of scholarly research, died Dec. 25 at his Oakland home of complications from a lung infection. He was 87.
Gerwick helped develop the use of prestressed concrete in bridge piers, foundation pilings, and marine structures. His concrete-foundation work included North Sea oil platforms, highrise buildings, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, and a number of bridges - including the Bay Area's San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and San Mateo-Hayward Bridge as well as the Columbia River Bridge in Oregon and an over-water extension of New York's La Guardia Airport.
In 2000 he was named among the 125 "Top People of the Past 125 Years" by Engineering News Record, the most widely read magazine in civil engineering. The list also included Berkeley professor emeritus T.Y. Lin as well as such well-known figures as Thomas Edison, Henry J. Kaiser, Frank Lloyd Wright, and R. Buckminster Fuller.
Gerwick was born in Berkeley on Feb. 19, 1919. He earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Berkeley in 1940 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1940 to 1946. In the 1950s he developed an interest in innovative applications of prestressed concrete, especially in marine, deepwater, and arctic regions.
He joined Berkeley's civil-engineering department in 1971, where he co-founded its construction engineering and management program and was instrumental in developing the interdisciplinary program in ocean engineering.
Gerwick, who was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1974, earned numerous honors over the years, including the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from the College of Engineering in 1990 and the Outstanding Projects and Lifetime Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2001. He received the Berkeley Citation, the campus's top honor, in 1989, the year he retired.
Gerwick authored more than 200 technical papers and two books (the widely used textbooks Construction of Prestressed Concrete Structures and Construction of Marine and Offshore Structures).
He is survived by his wife, Ellen Chaney Gerwick of Oakland; children William Gerwick of La Jolla, Beverly Brian of St. Joseph, Mo., Virginia Wallace of Bainbridge Island, Wash., and Clifford Gerwick of Indianapolis; four stepchildren; and seven grandchildren. His first wife, Martelle Beverly Gerwick, died in 1995.
Contributions in Gerwick's memory may be sent to the Ben C. Gerwick Fellowship Award Fund, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley, 760 Davis Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710.
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m., Feb. 3, at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way.
- Kathleen Maclay