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In Memoriam: Samuel C. Florman '46 Th'46 Th'73

May 06, 2024   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Samuel C. Florman '46 Th'46 Th'73

— 1925-2024 —

Career combined science with liberal arts

Samuel C. Florman ’46 Th’46 Th’73—renowned civil engineer, general contractor, and former Thayer board member—died on February 3, 2024, at age 99.

Due to the outbreak of World War II, he began at Dartmouth in the summer of 1942. The following year he enlisted in the Navy V-12 program, earning his BS, Phi Beta Kappa. He took graduate courses at Thayer until February 1945, when he was sent to the Navy Civil Engineer Corps officers training school. The newly commissioned ensign began the voyage across the Pacific to join a Seabee battalion being mustered for an invasion of the Japanese mainland—only to arrive the day before the surrender. He turned his efforts to building a dam for the U.S. Army in what was then known as Truk, Micronesia.

Returning to New York City, he studied literature at Columbia and embarked on interwoven careers as a writer and construction contractor. He cofounded Kreisler Borg Florman Construction Co. in 1956 and spent the next 60-plus years working on projects that included bridges, schools and colleges, sanitary facilities, and hospitals. He also published more than 300 articles on technology and general culture and The Existential Pleasures of Engineering. “Every engineer has experienced the comfort that comes with total absorption in a mechanical environment,” he wrote. “Somewhere among the states of being sought by wisemen falls that wondrous moment in which the engineer becomes absorbed with the machine.”

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and earned the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Sterling Olmsted Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Civil Engineering History & Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In 1983, he received Thayer’s highest honor, the Robert Fletcher Award, in recognition of achievement and service, which included a term as president of the Dartmouth Society of Engineers and as a member of the Thayer Board of Overseers. A decade later, he earned the Sylvanus Thayer Fellows Award for service to the school. He was also a member of the boards of trustees of the Hospital for Joint Diseases Orthopedic Institute, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, and New York Hall of Science.

He is survived by his wife, Judith, sons David and Jonathan and their spouses, five granddaughters, and two great-grandsons.

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