Dick Stehly
Steve Silverman Imaging Dick Stehly

In his prime and midway into his ACI presidency, Stehly died too young. CC editors included him on the top influencers list several months before he died and decided it would be appropriate to acknowledge his work posthumously.

Mark Stehly, Dick’s brother, says they were raised to appreciate being outdoors, building projects, and discovering things on their own. He is convinced this set the stage for his brother’s trial-and-error, failure-analysis mind-set. When he started his business, American Engineering Testing, St. Paul, Minn., this training became very helpful. Scott Wolter, his partner, says investigating structural failures is very puzzling and Stehly often encouraged staff to practice trial-and-error methods when there wasn’t a known path.

Dedicated to education, Stehly encouraged staff to do the same, serving as a mentor to many. He also lectured at colleges, explaining difficult concepts in plain language.

He got his 15 minutes of fame just after the I-35W bridge collapsed when WCCO TV asked him to describe in layman’s terms how the failure ocurred. Media services all around the world picked up the interview and played it to local audiences. He described a tragic situation with dignity and grace. During his brief tenure as president of ACI, he pushed to start the sustainability committee. He also was one of the early experimenters of adding pozzolans as replacement for portland cement, wondering how much could be used without sacrificing performance and thinking it was important to use recycled material whenever possible.

Stehly’s friends and family have had an especially hard time coming to grips with his passing, a sign of the impact he had on them. He was a good listener, an encourager, an avid reader, and a person with rare practical intelligence.

Take a look at the other Top Influencers of 2010.