Tribute To An Exceptional Man
An Engineer’s Muse

Last night we lost one of the most preeminent engineering minds of our time. Harry Sutcliffe died peacefully surrounded by family at his beloved home in Mill Valley, California. Harry loved to laugh and to make others laugh as well. He was always quick with a line, a story or a limerick. As his friends and colleagues will attest, Harry loved April Fools Day however his practical jokes were in no way confined to this date! Harry often regaled his friends and family with witty, detailed stories generally accompanied by his wry, slightly irreverent commentary. The mischievous sparkle in his eyes will not be forgotten. He was one of those rare men who made lasting friendships wherever he went. Even at his busiest, it was always a priority for Harry to keep in contact with his friends who were spread, literally, across the globe.

Born on 18 March 1924 to James and Amy Sutcliffe in Rishton, Great Harwood, Lancashire, England; Harry served England in WWII and was an honors graduate in civil engineering from Manchester University in England and held an MSCE from Caltech in Pasadena, California. His illustrious career began in 1941. Over the next several decades, he became a renowned Engineering Specialist and Designer of tunnels and complex underground construction. Employed with Bechtel in 1953, Harry was in charge of the design of the Felbertauern, Hahnenkamm and Ploeckenpass Tunnels on the TransAlpine Pipeline in the Austrian Alps, the Berkeley Hills Tunnels, on BART in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Homestake Tunnel in Colorado and the MBTA subway tunnels in Harvard Square/Davis Square in Cambridge Mass, as well as several hydroelectric projects. After retiring from Bechtel in 1983, he accepted the offer to serve as their Manager of Civil Design for Eurotunnel on the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France.

Harry spent twenty years as an expert consultant, with clients including Massport for the Boston Third Harbor Tunnel Crossing. He also served nearly twenty years on the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board with a Top Secret Security Clearance. He was a guest lecturer at Stanford University, the University of Illinois, Urbana, and Sloan School of Management at MIT and chaired a variety of design and technical review boards. He was active on several national tunneling committees, including those on better contracting practices and management, and has authored a number of papers and edited two volumes. Registered in several states and the British Commonwealth, Harry was a Fellow, ASCE and a Fellow, Institution of Civil Engineers, London. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow and was an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Great Harwood and Rishton.

While at the University of Manchester, Harry met a beautiful and talented American, Betty Ann Donnan who was attending University in England on a prestigious scholarship. After a two continent romance, they were married and the Sutcliffe’s made their home in the enchanted woods of Mill Valley where they raised two beloved daughters, Lucy and Ann. Harry combined his ingenious engineering skills with innovative craftsmanship; using redwood and teak to restore their historic and charming home. Harry was also an inventor at heart. He liked nothing better than a challenge or mystery which allowed him to devise and create imaginative solutions whether theoretical, structural or mechanical in nature.

Harry’s kindness and generosity to family and friends was well known and much admired. He was keenly interested in others and in the world around him. A great history buff and collector of maps, his personal upstairs study was an inimitable and fascinating place. Harry spent many happy hours there and devoted a great portion of his later retirement to researching the genealogy of both his and his wife’s family. This challenge took him on an unexpected adventure of discovering and corresponding with countless relations worldwide.

In the Bay Area, Harry is survived by his wife Betty Ann, his daughters Lucy and Ann and his granddaughter Grace. In England he is survived by his sister Marny, her husband Som Gude and nephew Nicholas Wilkinson. Harry will be greatly missed by his loving family and faithful friends. His indomitable spirit will continue to live in the hearts of those who were fortunate to know him.


Pattie Mosca said...

My thoughts. love and friendship are with you!

John Bowles Boudreau said...

I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I spoke with Mr. Sutcliffes wife, who was very gracious and kind. We spoke briefly of our heritage through the Bowles line, hers from Missouri, and mine from Virginia.
I am sorry that I never got to speak with Harry, though speaking with his wife was like connecting a link, that had been broken for two hundred years.I give my best to all of you, and god bless.

Julesfabb said...

I have letters written by Mr. Harry Sutcliffe to my late Uncle Quin Smith. I would love to get the letters into the hands of his family. I can be reached at jfabb@hotmail.com.
Thank you