Lief J. Sverdrup
Lief J. Sverdrup
Soldier – Professional Engineer – Military & Civil Constructor – Civil Leader
Consulting – Air Base Construction – Government Boards – Bridge & Tunnel Building
Thirty-ninth National Honor Member Nominated by the University of Missouri-Rolla
Lief J. Sverdrup was born in Sulen, Norway, on January 11, 1898, the son of John Edward and Agnes (Voland) Sverdrup. He immigrated to the United States in 1914 and four years later became a naturalized citizen. He graduated with a B.A. Degree from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1918, and with a B.S. in C.E. from the University of Minnesota in 1921, after serving with the United States Army during World War I.
Following graduation in 1921, he worked as a bridge engineer for seven years with the Minnesota and Missouri State Highway Departments. In 1928, he entered into a consulting engineering partnership, Sverdrup & Parcel, with John I. Parcel. Several firms were outgrowths of the original partnership and the Missouri Sverdrup Corp.
At the outbreak of World War II, he was in the Pacific as a civilian, supervising the construction of a chain of air bases for a plane ferrying route to the Philippines and Australia which his company designed under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Commissioned a Colonel in the Corps of Engineers in 1942, he served continuously in the Southwest Pacific area until the end of 1945, when he returned to the United States with the rank of Major General. During the Leyte and Luzon invasions of the Philippines, he held the post of Acting Chief Engineer to General MacArthur’s command and later became Commanding General of the Engineer Construction Command in the Southwest Pacific. He was responsible for the building of 200 airstrips and airfields, numerous military roads and bridges, as well as hospitals, docks, and other installations needed in a theater of war. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and four foreign decorations, being the first American in the Luzon campaign.
General Sverdrup took and active part in many civic and professional organizations and served on numerous government boards and agencies. Much personal time and effort was devoted to securing passage of the Missouri registration law for architects and professional engineers.
His varied activities included serving as Norwegian Consul for the States of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, after having served as Vice-Council for Missouri for several years. In 1953, Norway conferred upon him the highest decoration which that government can bestow on a non-citizen, the Order of St. Olaf, grade of Commander with Star.
General Sverdrup’s major engineering achievements are reflected in the work of the consulting organization he headed. A considerable part of the work done under his leadership has involved pioneering in new fields of technology. One of Sverdrup & Parcel’s most celebrated projects is the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, a unique 17 ½-mile open-water crossing involving the construction of several different types of bridges, miles of underwater tunnels, and artificial islands to serve as approaches for the tunnels. The unique $200 million project received the ASCE Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award in 1964.
His numerous other honors include: the Outstanding Achievement Medal of the University of Minnesota (1950); the Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering from the University of Missouri (1952); the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (1952); the AISC’s Lloyd Kimbrough Medal (1959); an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Washington University (1960); Honorary Membership in ASCE (1966); the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from Norwich University (1969); and the Silver Buffalo Award, Boy Scouts of America (1974).
General Sverdrup was first elected to Chi Epsilon on December 5, 1952, at the Missouri School of Mines (now known as Missouri University of Science & Technology) chapter no. 35, chartered in 1950, as Chapter Honor Member with a general number of 9031 and an individual chapter number of 127. The Supreme Council elevated him posthumously to be the 39th National Honor Member at the University of Missouri, Rolla on April 4, 1976, during the 24th National Conclave. Mrs. Lief J. Sverdrup accepted the honor on the behalf of her beloved husband.