August 31, 2016

Professor Cartwright – Until the Next Time

So, I just got some sad news. Found out that one of my favorite professors from Carnegie Mellon passed away last weekend.

I’ve often told coworkers and friends stories about Mr. Larry Cartwright being one of the most influential people in my life. Outside of the complex mathematics, moment arms and force calculations Larry taught me that we as engineers don’t all have to be stuffy, high & mighty and elitist.

Once I found out ‘The Dude’ was retiring I decided to write him a letter telling him how I felt about him and his influence on the professional Me. That letter is attached below.

The thing that I (and all of us loved about you) was your accessibility both during and after our CMU years. On my many return visits you’d joke about my hair getting longer as I pointed out the right angle sideburns accompanying that one of a kind stash getting sharper.

True to form, you wrote me back a couple days later. Your reply is not attached because it was between two engineers/friends. One with a little experience under his belt now and one with enough experience to fill a classroom full of engineers.

Except for those end of the year Civ E challenges and hands-on senior projects (ahem, which my group won my senior year…) I know you weren’t one for the fanfare so I’ll wrap this up.

Professor Cartwright, I hope you know how lucky I feel that we had the chance to reconnect one last time before your Transition. And I hope when we meet again on the next level that I get to be the one giving out the impossible-to-solve problem sets…although probably not.

You’ll always be The Dude in my eyes and I love you bro.

Enjoy the Island.


Subject: A letter from Brooklyn’s own

April 25th, 2014

First things first, congratulations!! You, along with anybody else who has reached that retirement milestone, are now officially my hero.

As such, I wanted to take the time out to send you a good old fashioned Brooklyn type shout out and let you know how much you meant to me and I’m sure the countless scores of new (and now old) Civ E’s out there.

As is too often the norm, we don’t keep in touch with most of the people that we probably should as “real life” gets all in the way but know that I do hold a special room in my heart and memory that I visit periodically for mirth, guidance and most of all, many stories.

Over the course of my almost twenty years (whoa.) working post-Carnegie-Mellon, I’ve often rehashed the legendary tales of the “lumberjack-looking Professor” from back in my school days. I tell the “young ones” that every great Civil Engineer I’ve met along the road has been a little…well, off the beaten path. Specifically, I mean you and Sunil Saigal, probably two sides of the same coin.

Both great teachers who have had profound influence on my life as a civil engineer and as a human being.

In addition to calculating static & live loads and learning how to build a bridge without adhesives or nails, one of the other things I took from my years at CMU was to always walk to the beat of your own drum. I want to thank you for always letting me be me without pause, without sideways glances, and without prejudice.

Even after graduation when I’d stop by and visit, you’d pause your graduate class and let those guys know “this is what happens to your hair when you work too long on bridges”. Of course, the only possible reply was “this is what happens to your beard when you work too long with grad students…” The warm and enthusiastic handshake and hug that always followed was entirely genuine and something I hope you felt in return.

The way you are able to move through the most complex calculations while making our craft fun, exciting and endlessly interesting is something that I strive for every day when I find myself in a teaching capacity for some of the budding new generation of “whatever they want to be’s”.

Hopefully, I can continue to uphold the tradition of teaching with patience, passion and dedication to the art of learning.

Big man (a sincere compliment around these parts), enjoy your Island!!!


J. “Wild-Man” S.

And yes, the dreds are still here, just a little grayer…attached is the reason I couldn’t make it out to the Burgh for your retirement party – a new Civil Engineer on the block??? Maybe…