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Remembering Chuck Salmon, 1930-2014

The UW-Madison civil engineering community lost one of its most accomplished and fondly regarded members when Charles “Chuck” Salmon passed away on April 28, 2014.

During his nearly 60-year career in the department, Salmon built a formidable legacy both as a researcher in the field of structural engineering and as an extraordinarily dedicated teacher. Many of his students went on to distinguished careers in academia and industry, fueled by his close mentorship, his encouragement of analytical thinking in the classroom, and his unmatched enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Salmon was born in 1930 in Detroit, and first came to the department as an instructor in 1956. Throughout his time here, Salmon led the way in building UW-Madison’s reputation for excellence and innovation in structural engineering. He authored and co-authored many texts that had significant influence on the concrete and steel industries, including Reinforced Concrete Design, co-authored with fellow CEE Professor C.K. Wang. 

His work and influence resonates throughout the field, showing up everywhere from building codes to engineers’ handbooks to the designs of steel structures and highway bridges. Alongside these research accomplishments, Salmon was active in numerous professional societies, including the American Society of Civil Engineering (of which he was made an honorary member in 1993) and the American Society of Engineering Education. He was an advisor for the UW-Madison chapter of Chi Epsilon, and served as its national president from 1994 to 1996. In 1990, he established the Bette and Chuck Salmon Student Activities Fund.

It was as a teacher, though, that Salmon touched still more lives. He earned a reputation not only for brewing a big pot of coffee for students in his early-morning classes, but more importantly for inspiring students with his friendly, yet challenging style and the breadth of his knowledge. His students credited him with providing the rigorous foundation that enabled future generations of structural engineers to keep building on research advances and applying them in the real world. The College of Engineering honored his dedication as a teacher in 1998 by establishing the Charles G. Salmon Professorship, with support from many of Salmon’s colleagues and former students.

He is survived by his children, Margaret (Hans) Eusch, David (Ellen Kodis) Salmon and Martha (Robert) Witt; and a sister, Laura Berg. He is further survived by his grandchildren; Peter Eusch, Sara Eusch, Zachary Salmon, Katherine Salmon, Aaron Witt, Taylor Witt and Kailey Witt. He was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Gwendolyn Salmon and his wife Elizabeth "Bette" Salmon.

Scott Gordon