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Coast Guard alums join forces to sponsor grad work spaces in Haltiwanger's honor

The CEE alumni of the U.S. Coast Guard are joining forces to name graduate student workstations in the new building addition to the Hydrosystems laboratory after John D. Haltiwanger (1925-2008), late professor emeritus, who served as their adviser for nearly 20 years.

John D. Haltiwanger
John D. Haltiwanger

For many years beginning in the mid-1960s, the U.S. Coast Guard sent its officers to the University of Illinois to earn bachelor’s and later master’s degrees in civil engineering. For many of them, the faculty member who helped define their experience was Haltiwanger. From 1965, when the first Coast Guard students arrived in Champaign-Urbana, until 1980, Haltiwanger served as adviser to the Coast Guard students who came to Illinois. Later advisers were professors William H. Walker and Frederick V. Lawrence.

CEE alumnus and former Coast Guard student Larry D. Brooks (BS 68, MS 69) is leading the initiative to rally his Coast Guard colleagues in hopes of sponsoring some or all of the workstations in a room on the third floor of the new addition to the Hydrosystems Laboratory. The workstations can be sponsored for $20,000 each. The room holds 17 workstations, so the entire room could be named with gifts totaling $340,000.

Brooks recalls arriving on campus with four other Coast Guard students in January 1967.

“All five of us were four or five years out from undergraduate days, all five were married, three of the five had children, and all five of us were just back home from one-year tours overseas away from our families,” Brooks says. “John D. was our guiding light through the maze of class registrations, book acquisition, etc.”

As the Coast Guard Academy expanded its curriculum in the early 1970s to include civil engineering, Brooks was assigned to the Academy teaching staff to set up a civil engineering major, and Haltiwanger helped design its curriculum and facilities.

“My challenge was to negotiate between U of I and the Dean of Academics at the Academy,” he says. “Before this time the Academy curriculum was a general engineering course packed with Coast Guard professional studies, e.g., navigation, ship design, etc. I commuted between New London and Urbana, and John D. and I got very creative with our trade-offs. He accepted navigation in lieu of Surveying 101. Eventually, both administrations were happy, and Academy grads could enter U of I directly into the master’s program. Within five years the Academy CE curriculum was accredited. John D. played a big role in that.”

Haltiwanger served as a member of the Academy Academic Advisory Committee from 1980-1983. Because of his work on behalf of Coast Guard students, Haltiwanger was honored with the USCG Public Service Commendation (1974), the Bliss Medal of the Society of American Military Engineers (1980) and the USCG Meritorious Public Service Award (1984).

In 2003, Haltiwanger recalled the high caliber of the Coast Guard students who passed through the department over the years and their impact on the greater student body: “The enthusiasm of these people undoubtedly affected the other students – it would have to, it could not be otherwise. They didn’t separate themselves. They didn’t walk around in a Coast Guard group. They simply became part of the student body – a very competent, enthusiastic part of the student body.”

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