A tribute to Prof. Don Deere (1922-2018)
Regrettably Prof. Don Uel Deere left us on January 14th at the age of 95. He had hardly recovered from a fall a few months earlier. His passing, however, leaves very good memories for his former students, assistants, colleagues and clients. Five years ago, when he was celebrating his 90th birthday, we were invited by his son Don W. Deere and daughter to Gainesville, Florida, to a memorable ceremony, while Prof. Deere was still very active. His last years after he recovered almost totally from a stroke were spent golfing, dancing, etc. at his glamourous retirement resort.
He represented a very important milestone for Engineering Geology and Rock Mechanics in his activities at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana Campus, in the 60s and 70s. Together with Prof. Ralph Peck, they led and pioneered Geotechnics and Rock Mechanics in the USA. His area of expertise covered Civil Engineering (Ph.D), Mining (B.S.) and Geology (M.Sc.). My own impression is that Prof. Deere was a man who was very kind and respectful of his students and colleagues whom he encouraged the most. Moreover, he was a man who knew how to utilize the potential of his assistants to make them grow together with him. This resulted in a formation of a group of very talented colleagues, such as Ron Heuer, Alfred J. Hendron, Ed Cording, Frank Patton, and later Gabriel Fernandez, among others who were not of my time. Among his former students, you can find many engineers and geologists who reached senior and influential positions, like Andy Merritt (his consulting partner), Ray Miller, Harvey Parker (President of ITA), Jim Coulson (Chief Engineer at TVA), Ray Benson and Bob Conlon (Both Geotechnical Department Heads at Acres), Brian Sinclair, Sergio Brito, Alan Smallwood, Jim Gamble, Alberto Nieto, Jim Mahar and many others including the author of these lines. After many years at the
University of Illinois, he moved to the University of Florida where he could devote more time to his consulting practice.
He was a recognized expert in Engineering Geology and Rock Mechanics and has the great merit of integrating Geology in Geotechnical and Geomechanical projects. He consulted on numerous dams, mining, tunnels and other underground projects for the US government, contractors and design engineering companies all over the world. Many of these projects involved precedent structures such as the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada and the World Trade Centre in New York city. He also acted as a member of the Board of Consultants in many other large projects around the world. In Brazil he made very important contributions as a member of Board of Consultants for the following hydroelectric projects: Itaipu, Água Vermelha, Sobradinho, Itaparica, Paulo Afonso, Itumbiara, Sao Felix, Altamira and others. His first mission in Brazil was to help me on the design of the final slopes of the Cauê Open Pit Mine, in 1972.
His experiences in the field became teaching material for his classes. He wrote and co-authored numerous papers and was, of course, the inventor of the rock mass assessment tool, the RQD. Together with Giovanni Lombardi, he invented the GIN method of grouting. He was Chairman of the US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. He was the President of the Commission on Standardization of Laboratory and Field Tests of the ISRM from 1968 to 1973. He received numerous distinctions throughout his career, including being elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. He was also a consummate joke teller.
Reproduced from ISRM Newsletter No. 41 – March 2018