It is a sincere honor to serve you this year as chapter president. It is also my hope that the holiday season and new year, as different as this has ever looked in our recent memories, brought cheer and happiness to you and your families. The 2021 board offers our many thanks to Dr. Emily McCarthy for leading us through 2020. We are grateful for you.
In keeping with the recommendations of local health officials and our efforts to promote the health and safety of our chapter members, we will continue to offer only virtual events. We are already well underway with the new year, and I am looking forward to the slate of speakers our vice president, Sara Buerstinghaus, has lined up. In addition to our monthly virtual meetings, the board is committed to find ways to serve you, the structural engineering community, as best as we can in a virtual environment.
As we enter the new year, I am sure many of us feel great uncertainty. I’m reminded, however, of a story told by David McCullough in his book, The Great Bridge, where he tells of Charles Ellet Jr., an American bridge engineer who, at the age of 38, was faced with creating a temporary bridge over the raging Niagara River. This temporary bridge would be the very beginning of construction of what would eventually become the Niagara Suspension Bridge. Before his work could begin, David McCullough recounts, Ellet had to pass the first cable over the 800-foot wide gorge and its violent river. Ellet and his team solved the problem by offering five dollars to the first child to fly a kite over the raging river and secure it to the Canadian border. Young Homan Walsh won the prize, and his kite string was used to successively pass first small ropes, then heavier cords, and finally heavy cables in order to begin construction on the bridge that would change the world for that community.
As structural engineers, we are accustomed to challenges and we are driven by an insatiable desire to solve the most difficult ones. This next year holds many challenges, and it is my hope that as we face 2021, our engineers in Houston and the Gulf Coast can find innovative ways to strengthen both our profession and our community in the wake of such an unprecedented time.
I wish all of you a very healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.
Joshua White, Ph.D., P.E.
SEAoT Houston/Gulf Coast