Quotes and recollections from colleagues of William J. Hall

William J. Hall The following is a collection of memories shared by colleagues of William J. Hall, who died on June 9, 2020, in Urbana, Ill. He was 94. (See his obituary here.)

If you would like to add your memories to this collection, please fill out this form: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/7615220



Youssef Hashash
Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BS 87, MS 88, PhD 92 MIT

I feel truly fortunate to have known Prof. Hall since joining the University of Illinois nearly 22 years ago. He was a wonderful mentor who always made sure I saw the bigger picture as I was making it through the trials of academia. More recently I was honored to be named the Hall Professor in our department. Prof. Hall and I had many a great conversation over lunch the last few years. He will be greatly missed. You can read more about Prof. Hall’s legacy at: https://www.eeri.org/2015/05/eeri-oral-history-on-william-j-hall/

David Lange
Emeritus Professor, University of Illinois
PhD Northwestern, MBA Wichita State U., BS Valparaiso

Bill will be fondly remembered as one of the most influential leaders in CEE history. I arrived in 1992, and he was so kind to reach out and encourage me in those early years. He represents the best of what CEE has been -- impactful in the profession, advisor of excellent students, supportive to other CEE faculty.

Celeste Bock
Senior Director of Advancement Operations, CEE at Illinois

When I started this position 18 years ago, I knew nothing about civil and environmental engineering, and yet it had become my job to write about it. In the office next door to me, on the third floor of Newmark Lab, sat three retired professors who shared an office. One of them was Bill Hall. Back then, I didn't know anything about his reputation -- that he was a famous structural engineer, that he was one of the youngest people to be named to the National Academy of Engineering, that through his work, much of which he couldn't discuss, he had probably saved countless lives throughout his career. All I knew was that he was a friendly face, happy to answer any naive question I had. He invited me to lunch at Beckman my first week, introduced me around and told me stories about the department. Over the years, he wrote for the magazine, shared alumni news with me, helped write the history of our department and brought me cashews every Christmas. He helped immeasurably in our advancement work by being a critical connection between the department and our alumni. His former students were always eager to visit with him, and even in very recent years when he was probably tired and not always well, he graciously received them. His death truly marks the end of an era for the department. Great researchers and teachers like Bill Hall established our reputation. He was a scholar and a gentleman, and I will miss him.

Jeff Kimball
Senior Seismologist, RIZZO International Inc.
BS 77, MS 79 University of Michigan

Bill was always generous with his time and had a keen interest in helping address and solve problems and advancing seismic safety. His engineering and scientific contributions were significant. He will be missed.

David Andersen
Senior Engineer, US Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
BS 04, MS 05 University of Illinois

Dr. Hall was such a kind and knowledgeable man. He was a major influence for me now working at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. He made many contributions to my agency throughout the years and his impact is long lasting. As a student, I sought academic and career advice from him and he always made the time to talk. He will be missed.

Guillermo Santana
MS 81, PhD 86 University of Costa Rica

I will never forget his Fall 1980 class on Earthquake Engineering. It help me define my career in Structural Engineering. During that semester I was hired as a Research Assistant to work on his NSF on going grant concerning seismic response of structures. I am truly grateful for his support and for his friendship. Dear Prof. Hall you will be missed by all of us your students. Best regards to Mrs Hall and the rest of his family.

Apurva Parikh
Director MMCPL
MS 96 University of Illinois

Prof. Hall was not teaching any courses when I was at U of I. Yet he had a tremendous presence in the department. I had the privilege of attending his Seminars and listening about his ideas and research. One of the memories I have is lecture by Prof. Pecknold in which Prof. Hall was present. Two stalwarts of the field standing next to each other. It is U of I and each of its students' privilege to be in the same school and room with Prof. Hall. May he rest in peace.

Thomas C.H. Lum
Thomas Lum and Associates; Consulting Engrs: President (retired)
MS 59 University of Illinois

I was one of Professor Hall's students and enjoyed his lectures. He was very gracious to his students; never angry even when we messed up our assignments. Also saw him in Talbot lab when doing research.

Mohammad Amin
Retired from Sargent and Lundy Engineers in Chicago
MS 60, PhD 66 University of Illinois (Left from Department as Associate Professor in 1971 to return to Iran)

In 1959 when I came to CE Department for MS degree, Professor Hall was the first Professor I met. He kindly received me and directed me. I took one graduate course from him. For the years I was in faculty at CE department, I had wonderful interactions with him. Through the years afterward, I enjoyed many nice and helpful interactions with Bill Hall. Very sorry for his passing. Moe Amin

Michel Khoury
CEO, Cal Engineering Co
MS 74 University of Illinois

Kind kind kind to the end of times. Professor Hall received me in his office as my advisor guiding me to start my MSCE. Always my problems were solved always my life transformed to production believing in me and following the advice of the best of the bests. He will always be a grand person in my mind and heart, I owe him my success, may his soul rest in peace.

Bill Zelnio
John Deere & Company
BSCE 1975 University of Illinois

Professor Hall was my instructor for two Structural classes. This was at the time when William Hall was the primary consultant for the Alaska Pipeline. He was quite an impressive professor with a host of valuable experiences. How many professors do you remember? William J. Hall was certainly one I remember. Rest in peace my mentor and my condolences go to the extended Hall family.

Adolfo Zeevaert Wolff
MS 70 University of Illinois, PhD 80 Georgia Institute of Technology

For the William Hall family: Our deepest condolences. Bill was truly a great man.
Adolfo Zeevaert Wolff & Family of Mexico City.

Brian Piper
Piper and Associates Consulting
BSCE 73/74 University of Illinois

I well remember Professor Hall as my instructor prior to him becoming Department Head. He absolutely knew his stuff and made sure that his students also knew their stuff. A great teacher!

Jim Willmer
Principal at Willmer Engineering
BS 71, MS 73 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Professor Hall was my freshman advisor. At that time, he was one of a few esteemed structural engineers on the U.S. government review committee for the Alaska pipeline. I was in awe of his accomplishments then and remember that he was always so humble and kind to me. We have truly lost a GREAT American, esteemed teacher and consultant. I will always have my memories though and pray for solace for his family.

Amadeus M. Burger
President, CSA, Inc.
MS 71 University of Illinois

Sorry to hear that Professor Hall died. When I started at University of Illinois at 1969, I was a fresh immigrant from Czechoslovakia. Barely speaking English. I took one of the Professor Hall courses on structural design. During the oral test I had difficulties to explain the solution in English, so he offered to me to continue in Russian. I was quite impressed. I passed on Russian, which was even worse than English. I was still wondering where he learned Russian.

C. Robert Ullrich
University of Louisville, retired
PhD 75 University of Illinois

Bill was an assistant department chair under Nathan Newmark when I was at U of I. He was a great guy and a champion of the students. I always appreciated his outlook on education, while I was at U of I and later in my career.

Raman Yousefi
Technology Alliances Director - Dell Technologies
BS Electrical Engineering 92, MS Civil Engineering 94 University of Illinois

Professor Hall was a true inspiration in the two classes that I had with him almost twenty years back and single handedly established what became a strong academic base for me in Steel Design, leading to successful and enjoyable design projects later on as a practicing engineer. Of course all of us enjoyed his many field stories, including those about the Alaska Oil Pipeline!

Bijan Mohraz
Professor Emeritus, Southern Methodist University
BS 61, MS 62, Ph D 66 University of Illinois

I had the privilege of working with Professor Hall on a department committee on graduate students and on a project with him and the late Professor Newmark. I learned a lot from Bill and consider him a mentor.

Armen Der Kiureghian
Taisei Professor of Civil Engineering Emeritus, University of California Berkeley
PhD 75 University of Illinois

I have very fond memories of Professor Hall. He was a man with dignity, profound knowledge and compassion. He was always attentive and kind towards students. May his soul rest in peace.

Ertugrul Taciroglu
Professor & Chair, UCLA
MS 95, PhD 98, University of Illinois

I am saddened to hear the passing of Professor Hall. His famous career and accomplishments have inspired many of us.

David Peters
BS 81, MS 89 University of Illinois

Bill was my first BS adviser. I had the opportunity to work with him on several programs including hardening missile launchers/silos, underground nuclear testing, the FDP Upgrade and CPP 666 reracking projects/programs. Bill was a star, whenever he was in the room he was paid great deterrence. He also had little patience for wasting time and money. On my trips home and across country, I would stop ocassionally to see him or John Haltiwanger. I considered them friends and miss them both.

Rich Erickson
Retired, CEO & President of W.E.O'Neil Construction Family of Companies
BS CEE Jan 1969 University of Illinois

I joined the CEEAA Board in 1984 - and I note from his bio that was his first year as Department Head. Bill Hall was the best. He welcomed me, he encouraged my participation on the Alumni Board, and he was an unbelievable advocate for the Department, COE, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign all through the years. Bill was always "going fast" - but always took time to listen and check in with you. I guess he "put up" with me because I ended up being a construction guy, but I had to remind him my major was in Structures and had Ralph Peck for CEE 284! Bill was a terrific story teller and I admired his interest in continuing to write and share biographical information about his department colleagues. Did you know that one of the reasons he came to Champaign goes back to growing up in the Bay Area? Bill said that he vividly remembers walking across the Golden Gate Bridge with his family the day it opened . I just looked it up so he was 11 years old> Bill said he was in awe of the Golden Gate's engineering feat. He later learned that leaders on both the construction and structural design teams were UIUC Graduates,. That was one of the reasons that lead him to study in Champaign. My condolences to his wife , children and family. He made a difference in my life, to the CEE Department, the structural engineering profession, and society in general.

Alfredo Ang
Professor Emeritus University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UC Irvine
PhD 1959 University of Illinois

Bill and Elaine Hall are very good and life-long friends of mine and my wife Myrtle Mae. We will miss Bill very much. He is very loyal to the University and provided strong leadership of the Civil Engineering Department.

Eugene Sevin
BSME 1948 Illinois Tech, MSME 1951 Caltech, PhD 1958 Illinois Tech

I first met Bill while working In Chicago on joint Air Force weapon effects projects with Nate Newmark's group at U of I. We remained good friends and colleagues to this (sad) day. Bill was a major contributor to a significant multi-year, multi-volume study of nuclear weapons effects technology (NWET) from both a survivability and vulnerability perspective, sponsored by the former Defense Nuclear Agency. Much of Bill's theoretical and practical structural engineering knowledge is captured in this significant work that will serve the profession for many years.

Al Valocchi
Interim Department Head, CEE@Illinois
BS 75 Cornell, MS 76, PhD 80 Stanford

I started as an Assistant Professor here fresh out of grad school in 1981. Jon Liebman was the Head who hired me, and Bill Hall became Head in 1984. I have to admit that I had some trepidation about the transition, going from a loquacious Head with an eccentric mustache to one of few words with a crew cut. In fact the assistant profs gave Bill Hall the nickname "The General." 

It turns out that Bill was a wonderful, nurturing Department Head. He certainly had the highest standards for the department and all the faculty. He would tell it like it was. With his support, I earned my tenure, and here I am after all these years in the role of Department Head. I will aspire to the Bill's high standards of excellence and his steadfast support of junior faculty.

Steven McCabe
NEHRP Director; National Institute of Standards and Technology
PhD 1987 University of Illinois

Bill was my Ph.D. advisor. I've known him for 40 years both at the U of I but also since I graduated. He remained my mentor and friend over all these years. I have worked hard to be a credit to him and to the legacy of UIUC. He made a huge difference in my life as an engineer, a researcher and a person. In March, I accepted the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Honorary Member award for Bill at their annual meeting. They asked me to write a remembrance of him when the news of his death was announced, available at https://www.eeri.org/2020/07/remembering-william-j-hall/. Bill was a remarkable person and came from a remarkable family. Illinois was the beneficiary of his long service to UIUC and to the Department.

Neil Hawkins
Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MS 59, PhD 61 University of Illinois

I remember Bill first from my student days when we were testing in Talbot Laboratory. I was a research assistant testing small scale prestressed concrete beams and Bill was young faculty member conducting large scale brittle fracture tests on steel plates in the large testing machine. In one of his tests, the plate did not fracture but the pulling jaws on the machine fractured. Thirty years later when I took over from Bill as Department Head, Bill was a great help in smoothing my way into how to operate. Bill told me he came to Illinois intending to stay only one year, but found the environment so exciting that he never left. I am sure he is still around motivating us all.

Jim Jirsa
Prof. Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin
BS 60 University of Nebraska, MS 62, PhD 63 University of Illinois

I first met Bill Hall when I started graduate work at the U of I in 1960. I checked in at the CE office and was told to see Prof. Hall regarding my appointment as a Research Assistant. I went to his office and after we visited for a while about my background and interests, he asked me if I wanted to be on a steel or concrete project. I said I was interested in both areas so he said "I think we'll assign you to a concrete project with Chet Siess and Mete Sozen. So Bill was responsible for my career in concrete structures and a lifetime association with Mete and Chet. And for that I will always be grateful to him and to the faculty in Civil Engineering for the education and mentoring I received at the U of I.

Sophie (Bell) Sacca
BS 90, University of Illinois

Professor Hall taught one of the most difficult civil engineering courses I took at the U of I, and I ended up in his office asking for help at least once a week. Patiently, he would explain and re-explain the material until I finally understood it. I was amazed that someone with his credentials could find the time to answer what must have been very basic questions to him again and again and again. I will always be grateful for what he taught me. He's one of the few professors I kept in touch with after I graduated, and whenever I think of the Civil Engineering Department he's one of the first people who comes to mind. Thank you, Professor Hall. Here's one student who will never forget you.

Harry H. West
Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at Penn State
Ph.D. 1967 University of Illinois

Prof. Hall was one of the most influential individuals in my four-year time of study at the U of I. He played a major role in my selecting the U of I, and he helped in my securing two NSF Science Faculty Fellowships. In my last year, I was appointed as a "visiting instructor" by Dr. Newark, and one of my duties was to co-teach with Prof. Hall an honors section of structural analysis for undergraduate students. After graduation, I had numerous phone conversations with Prof. Hall. Several years ago, I was able to visit Urbana, and Shirley Walker hosted a dinner for me and my wife, Laurel, and Prof. Hall and his wife were among those who attended for a very special evening of fellowship.

I always enjoyed his many contributions to the alumni newsletter--he could be counted on to report the historical significance of people and events in the life of the department.

Prof. Hall was a special friend to me, and a major contributor to the U of I's reputation as a premier university in Civil Engineering.

Joseph Geagea
EVP, Chevron Corporation
BS 81, MS 82

Bill was my graduate advisor almost 40 years ago. His guidance and counsel played a key role in my career decision, a choice that has afforded me tremendous personal and professional growth and satisfaction. Over the last seven years, I had the privilege of visiting the campus once a year and I made it a point to visit with Bill and Elaine and reminisce. The last time I saw Bill was November 1, 2019. Bill was his usual self. He was sharp, inquisitive, and engaged. I said to myself, I wish I grow old like him. He was larger than life and made an impact. I will miss him dearly.

Richard Plambeck
Site Operations Manager, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, retired
CE BS 63, MS 64 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

My favorite recollections of Professor Hall were our conversations on campus when he was Department Head and I was the Engineering Recruiting Team Captain for Exxon Corporation. We shared experiences about structural dynamics issues in the petroleum industry, including the Alyeska Pipeline and earthquakes, wind-induced vibrations and remediation methods, machinery foundations, and fluid-solids surge vibrations that acted like continuous earthquakes. He always encouraged me to look closely for candidates that were team players, well-rounded and able to look at the big picture, besides being excellent students. UIUC was always a great source for good recruits and over half the members of my Civil Engineering Section had at least one degree from Illinois.