Ellis L. Armstrong


Ellis L. Armstrong

International Consultant – Builder – Administrator – Civil Engineer

Reclamation – Construction – Railroads – Dams – Highways

Twenty-ninth National Honor Member Nominated by the Newark College of Engineering Chapter

The twenty-ninth National Honor Member exemplifies all the finest attributes of a professional man, and particularly the Fraternity’s tenet – practicality. He has presented graduate lectures at the University of Colorado on earth dam design and construction and on the development of basic resources. He has contributed many articles to technical journals. Still and all, one does not think of him primarily as a teacher, in the formal sense, but his career is one long-lasting implement of “visual education”. He is a “do-er,” and one learns by watching him perform.

Born in Cedar City, Utah, on May 30, 1914, Ellis Leroy Armstrong received his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Utah State University in 1936, followed by graduate work at Colorado State University. For the next eighteen years (June, 1936-February, 1954), he was with the United States Bureau of Reclamation on the design and construction of water development projects in the western United States, involving dams, water systems, railroads, highways, and appurtenant works. These projects included Midview, Pine View, Moon Lake, and Deer Creek dams in Utah (1936-41); field and office engineer on the Anderson Ranch Dam in Idaho, at that time the world’s highest earth fill dam; project engineer in charge of the Trenton Dam on the Republican River in Nebraska (a $25,000,000 project); and three years in the Denver, Colorado office of the bureau, where he was responsible for the design of twenty-seven dams (1948-53), and where he reviewed and cleared project feasibility reports and subsequent construction operations.

In 1953, he was engineer member of the Egyptian-American rural development of land, water transportation, and community facilities on the Nile River, while serving as special consultant to the Egyptian government on the formulation of plans for the high Aswan Dam project. During this period, Mr. Armstrong was on loan from the Bureau of Reclamation. Between 1954 and 1957, he was project engineer, construction manager, and assistant project manager for Uhl, Hall & Rich, Consultants, on planning, designing, supervising, and managing the United States part of the $700,000,000 St. Lawrence Power and Seaway Project for the Power Authority of the State of New York. This project included construction of power plants, four major concrete dams, twelve miles of earth embankments, 140,000,000 cubic yards of excavation, relocation of railroads and highways and three towns, with their water supply, sewer systems, and related work.

In 1957-58, Mr. Armstrong served as Director of Highways, Utah State Road Commission. From 1958 to 1961, he served as Commissioner of Public Roads, U.S. Department of Commerce. As such, he was the operations head of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, responsible to the Federal Highway Administrator. He was in charge of the Federal-Aid Highway Program, with a budget of more than three billion dollars annually.

During 1961-62, he served as president, Better Highways Information Foundations, at Washington, D.C. In the following year, he became a senior partner in the firm of Porter, Armstrong and Ripa Associates, Consulting Engineers in Newark, New Jersey, engaged mostly in highway work, with Mr. Armstrong traveling all over the world as a consultant in this field. In July, 1969, he accepted a post with the Bureau of Reclamation as assistant regional director, with headquarters in Salt Lake City and has served as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation during part of President Nixon’s first term in office.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a life member of the American Road Builders Association, a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, the United States Committee of the International Commission of Large Dams, and the Board of Consultants of the ENO Foundation for Highway Traffic Control. He also belongs to the American Concrete Institute and the American Association of State Highway Officials. He has been actively identified with the Boy Scouts of American, the Rotary Clubs of Salt Lake City, Utah; Trenton, Nebraska (president, 1952-53); Massena, New York (director, 1955-56); and a deputy director of the Utah Defense Council. He also served as a member of the Utah State Park and Recreation Commission. He is a past director of the Greater Newark Chamber of Commerce and a member of the advisory committee on civil engineering to the Newark College of Engineering board of trustees.

In June, 1966, Mr. Armstrong was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of engineering by Newark College of Engineering and is an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. His entire career has been characterized by a rare degree of dedication enthusiasm, and interest in people, which has made him a true and effective ambassador of good will for the engineering profession. He has a most dynamic personality and is a most animated speaker.

On June 8, 1937, he married Florine Clark of Tooele, Utah, and they have six children – four boys and two girls. A former colleague who is also a National Honor Member, states concerning Ellis Armstrong: “…he can by pointed to as a fine example of a husband and father. He is devoted to his family and they to him …in spite of the enormous demands upon his time by his active professional life. Probably very few men travel more extensively than Ellis; but in spite of this, he has been an exemplary head of the Armstrong family.”

He “…can take personal physical problems in stride with no complaints and with few of his associates being able to detect his discomfort. He has had a serious back problem for years which creates excruciating pain; …yet he continues his business activities as usual. He just grits his teeth and grins and bears it. Similarly, he has had some serious health problems in his family which have caused him enormous concern. He has devoted his personal love and attention necessary to aid in the recovery of the ill, and at the same time bears up under this responsibility without faltering in his business and professional life…”

Ellis Leroy Armstrong is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and the Chi Theta Iota fraternities, and holds the Utah State University Distinguished Service Award, 1959. He is the author of numerous articles on dams, highways, and related subjects.

He was elected a Chapter Honor Member of the Newark College of Engineering chapter of Chi Epsilon in 1965 and elevated by the Fraternity to its highest honor at the Robert Treat Hotel, Newark, New Jersey, on May 3, 1968.

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