Cover photo for Harl Preslar Aldrich's Obituary
Harl Preslar Aldrich Profile Photo
1923 Harl 2014

Harl Preslar Aldrich

June 21, 1923 — November 24, 2014

Harl P. Aldrich, Jr. co-founder of the Boston-based consulting engineering firm of Haley & Aldrich, Inc., died on Monday, November 24, 2014. He was 91.

Born at Spokane, Washington on June 21, 1923, Mr. Aldrich was the son of the late Harl and Lucy (Cooley) Aldrich. From an early age, he wanted to become a civil engineer. After attending the University of Idaho for two years, he enrolled at MIT where he received a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Science degrees in the Department of Civil and Sanitary Engineering in 1947 and 1951, respectively. He served on the MIT faculty for six years and was Visiting Lecturer on Soil Mechanics at Harvard University during the school year 1955-1956.

Among young engineers, in particular, Dr. Aldrich promoted the importance of active participation in professional organizations. He was proud to be a civil engineer and was himself a leader in professional societies in Boston, having served as President of the Massachusetts Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1964 and President of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers in 1968-1969. He was an Honorary Member of the Boston Society Section of ASCE, a National Distinguished Member of ASCE, and a Life Fellow of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

Aldrich authored numerous technical papers in national and international journals and conference proceedings related primarily to soil mechanics and foundations, groundwater, frost penetration, and dam safety. He received several awards for papers published in the Journal and the Boston Society of Civil Engineers.

In 1957, Dr. Aldrich and James F. Haley founded Haley & Aldrich, a firm of geotechnical engineers, geologists, hydrogeologists and environmental scientists, originally based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his 35-year career with the firm, Aldrich served as principal on numerous major projects, as president and chairman. His dedication to teaching was one of the hallmarks of his leadership style, creating a mentoring and learning culture at Haley & Aldrich that continues to this day. The Boston-based firm now has many employees located in 27 offices throughout the United States.

In 1969, Haley & Aldrich, Inc. was one of ten firms of ASFE, the Geoprofessional Business Association. Dr. Aldrich had been active from the outset, having been among several members who led the development of ASFE's highly successful Peer Review program. He served on the board of directors and as president of Terra Insurance, Ltd., and on board of the Design Professionals Financial Corporation (DPFC), both professional liability insurance companies.

Following the failure of Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho in 1976, Dr. Aldrich chaired a National Research Council "Committee on the Safety of Dams" which reviewed the Bureau of Reclamation practices and procedures for assuring the safety of water storage dams for which the Bureau was responsible.

Among his many honors, Dr. Aldrich was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1984, and in 2004 was given ASCE's OPAL award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Management. He was also a member of the honorary societies of Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, and Chi Epsilon.

Aldrich was active in creating The Engineering Center (TEC) in Boston, having chaired the Fund Raising Committee for The Engineering Center of Trust (TECET) and serving as founding trustee of TECET in 1989. The Trust purchased One Walnut Street, the Phillips-Winthrop House located on Beacon Hill, for the home of The Engineering Center. In recognition of his leadership, The Aldrich Conference Center was dedicated at TEC in 1998. In that year, he and Charles H. Spaulding received the first TEC Leadership Awards.

Throughout his career, Dr. Aldrich had been a devoted alumnus of MIT. He was president of the Alumni Association in 1980-1981 and served on the MIT Corporation from 1980 through 1986; for three of those years, he was on the Executive Committee. He was a member of the Corporation Development Committee and was given its Marshall B. Dalton '15 Award in 1996. He has chaired gift committees for his Class of 1947 reunions and holds the Bronze Beaver, the highest award the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae bestows on its volunteers.

A resident of Concord for 62 years, Aldrich was active at the Trinitarian Congregational Church where he served in many roles, from chairman of the building committee for a church school wing in 1955, to Moderator, Deacon and chairman of the Stewardship, Property and other committees. For the Town of Concord, he was a member and chairman of the Public Works Commission.

Following retirement from Haley & Aldrich in 1992, Dr. Aldrich became interested in the genealogy of his family. He authored two books published by Penobscot Press, A Branch of the Aldrich Family in America (1996) and George Lathrop Cooley and Clara Elizabeth Hall, Their Ancestors and Descendants in America (2001). At one time, he played tennis and was an avid gardener. He and his wife were frequent travellers.

Aldrich was veteran of World War II, serving in the Navy V-5 Flight Training Program in 1944 and 1945. During his training at the University of Iowa in 1944, he met his wife, the former Lois A. Grissell of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They married in Cedar Rapids on February 23, 1946.

In addition to his wife of 68 years he leaves three daughters, Katheryn Aldrich of Talent, OR, Barbara Robb of Calais, ME, and Jean Barrett Sommerville of Alpharetta, GA; two sons, Harl Aldrich, III of Kalispell, MT and Kent Aldrich of Tigard, OR; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Family and friends will gathered for Harl's life celebration on Saturday, December 6 at 1:00 pm in the Trinitarian Congregational Church, 54 Walden St., Concord. Interment was private in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.

Gifts in his name may be made to:
Trinitarian Congregational Church
54 Walden Street
Concord, MA 01742
MIT Alumni Fund
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
600 Memorial Drive, W98-200
Cambridge, MA 02139-4822

Service Schedule

Past Services

Life Celebration

Saturday, December 6, 2014

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)


54 Walden St, Concord, MA 01742

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