BOZEMAN – Ted Williams, a Montana State University professor emeritus who in the 1960s teamed up to design a system for calculating and recording the water flows coming off of Bridger Bowl Ski Area, was inducted into the Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame this week.
Williams, 86, taught hydraulics, fluid mechanics and irrigation engineering courses to generations of MSU students. He was honored during an induction ceremony in Helena as part of the annual Joint Engineers Conference.
“There probably isn’t an engineering firm in the state of Montana that doesn’t have someone on staff who was taught by Ted Williams,” said Doug Brekke, a former president of the Montana Society of Engineers. “His ongoing impact on engineering in Montana makes him an obvious choice for the hall of fame.”
From his arrival at MSU in 1956 until his retirement in 1990, Williams’ involvement in the affairs of the College of Engineering and the university as a whole ran the gamut. Besides teaching, he served as the head of the Civil Engineering Department and as an associate dean with the College of Engineering. Williams also took a turn as interim vice president of research.
“He taught people a lot about engineering, but also, as a member of the dean’s office, he was in the trenches with the students,” Brekke added. “He was great in that role and had a lot to teach about how to effectively work with people.”
Whether it was in the classroom or not, Williams said he loved working with students and takes pride in helping MSU produce world-class engineers.
“I still miss the students,” said Williams, who continued to teach entry-level hydraulics even after his retirement. “It was hard to give it up. But I have taken a lot of satisfaction in the fact that engineers solve problems and create the infrastructure that produces a better life for people. And as a professor, I was able to watch my students go out and have wonderful careers in engineering.”
A native of the onion and cantaloupe farm country near Rocky Ford, Colo., Williams attended Colorado State University on the GI Bill following World War II. He took his first job in engineering with the Fort Lyon Canal Company, where he helped oversee an irrigation system that served 90,000 acres of farmland along the Arkansas River.
He returned to CSU and earned his master’s degree in civil engineering in 1956.
At MSU, Williams spearheaded a federally funded study of the environmental impacts and remediation prospects of open-pit coal mining in eastern Montana.
Williams teamed up with Don Weaver on designing a system to calculate and record water flowing off of Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Their ability to chart the effect of the ski area on water flows led, in turn, to a study of the impacts of the planned ski resort proposed by the Chrysler Corporation for the upper Gallatin River, now Big Sky Resort.
“People in the valley wanted to know that they would still be able to water their potato and wheat fields,” Williams said. “So we looked into it and the rest is history.”
A plaque honoring Williams will join others hanging in the Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame, which is located in Roberts Hall on the MSU campus.
Sepp Jannotta, (406) 994-7371, firstname.lastname@example.org.