Delon Hampton and Stephen Bechtel Jr. helped shape and impact Purdue University for generations to come
In 2021, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering lost two of its greatest alumni and friends — Delon Hampton and Stephen Bechtel Jr. Here, we honor and remember their tremendous contributions to Purdue University, civil engineering and society as a whole.
Delon Hampton (MSCE ’58, PhD ’61, HDR ’94), was the founder and chairman of the board of Delon Hampton and Associates (DHA), a professional engineering and consulting firm specializing in civil and structural engineering. He also taught at Kansas State University and oversaw research at the University of New Mexico before joining the faculty at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., in 1968, where he would teach, conduct research and publish papers for 25 years.
“Delon was a wonderful man and both liked and respected by a great many people,” said Kumares Sinha, the Edgar B. and Hedwig M.Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering. “When I think back on my earlieryears at Purdue, I have fond memories of working together with him. He would often writeto me on how he was doing and would alwaysinsist that whenever I was in Washington, D.C., that I should stop by his office and catch up.”
Founded in 1973, DHA won contracts for such high-profile projects as the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, international airports in Atlanta and D.C. and metrorail projects in D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta. Key to its profile were the driving principles and traditions established by Hampton, who obtained professional engineering registrations in 18 states plus the District of Columbia.
He was elected ASCE president for the year 2000. He also served as president of ASCE’s National Capital Section and as district director of the ASCE Board of Direction. The society honored him with the Edmund Friedman Professional Recognition Award and the James Laurie Prize. He also was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
In 2012, in honor of his achievements and loyalty to Purdue University, Purdue’s civil engineering building was renamed the Delon and Elizabeth Hampton Hall of Civil Engineering.
He died on January 14, 2021, at his home in Potomac, Maryland.
Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. (BSCE ’46, HDR ’72), led Bechtel Corporation from 1960 to 1990. He was the patriarch of the Bechtel family and a third-generation CEO. Known as Steve Jr., he was a global figure in business, public affairs and philanthropy. He oversaw the company’s growth into a world leader in the construction industry, building iconic infrastructure on six continents and pioneering new technologies, engineering and construction methods.
“Stephen — and Bechtel Engineering as a whole — were known throughout the world as one of the central figures in civil engineering,” said Kumares Sinha, the Edgar B. and Hedwig M. Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering. “For many years, it seemed, practically any major development project around the world was tied to Bechtel. Everyone in the industry knows and respects the name and their global impact is something that cannot be ignored.”
The firm’s sales grew 11-fold, its employee population five-fold and major projects from 18 to 119 during his tenure.
The Bechtel Innovation Design Center on Purdue’s campus was named to honor Steve Jr.’s leadership gift through the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation. Other significant Foundation investments in Purdue to foster educational innovation helped launch the School of Engineering Education, the world’s first academic program in the discipline; the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering; and the Ideas to Innovation (i2i) Learning Laboratory.
Highly recognized, Steve Jr. was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (of which he later served as chairman) and the French Legion of Honor; was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; and received a Purdue honorary doctorate, the Hoover Medal, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
He died March 15, 2021, at his home in San Francisco.