Retiring civil engineering professor leaves an enviable legacy
As one of the world’s leading experts on explosion effects and blast resistant structural design, retiring MU Civil and Environmental Engineering C.W LaPierre Professor Sam Kiger’s list of career accomplishments includes projects with the highest levels of security in the country. And although he isn’t free to discuss specifics, Kiger’s counterterrorism work for the White House Special Projects Office and the U.S. Secret Service earned him a thank you letter from President George H. W. Bush.
In his 20 years at Mizzou, Kiger served as civil engineering department chair and also as the college’s associate dean for research. He additionally directed MU’s Center for Explosion Resistant Design, where he conducted research and mentored graduate students.
“I’ve been a teacher all of my career,” said Kiger, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois, completing his training in 1972. “I was an adjunct at Mississippi State and taught calculus and differential equations for a local community college, and I taught graduate courses and advised thesis projects even when I was with the government,” he said.
Kiger served as a research structural engineer with the Army Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., for 16 years beginning in 1973.
Before being recruited to become the chairman and professor of civil and environmental engineering at MU in 1996, Kiger served in the same capacity at West Virginia University.
Kiger said he additionally has always has enjoyed environmental work. He managed to squeeze in both environmental consulting for the Canadian Environmental Law Association as well as service as an expert in the field of surface mining and mountaintop removal in West Virginia between the demands of his academic career.
In 2008, Kiger was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in Shock and Vibration Effects for “outstanding contribution and leadership” and “profound contributions in blast resistant design” from the Shock and Vibration Information Analysis Center (SAVIAC) in 2009. SAVIAC is a federally funded research center for blast- and shock-resistant design based in Virginia.
Kiger headed up Department of Defense projects to research the vulnerability and survivability of underground command and control structures while working for the Army. While at MU, research projects included developing strategies for shielding economically important and iconic bridges from explosion effects and the development of an impact- and shock-resistant portable wastewater treatment system for military bases, among others.
A member of the American Society of Civil Engineers for more than 30 years, Kiger was elected an ASCE Fellow in 2009.
“The finest part of my career has been the engineers I’ve mentored,” Kiger said. “They’ve become successful engineers — many of them hold leadership positions and some are faculty at West Virginia and here, people like Hani Salim on our faculty. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction from that.”
Salim, who also serves as a C.W. LaPierre Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at MU, was one of Kiger’s graduate students at West Virginia State and has worked side-by-side with Kiger in Center for Explosion Resistant Design, assuming directorship of the Center upon Kiger’s retirement.
“Sam has been like a father to me,” Salim said of his long research relationship and friendship with his mentor.
Kiger, who has been granted emeritus status by the department, said he plans to continue some of his environmental consulting work and may keep a foot in the Center door.
“I’m going to really miss working with students and with Hani,” he said, adding that there are definitely things he is anticiaping in retirement, including the fact that he might finally have time for a dog.
“My wife and I plan to eventually move to Austin, Texas, to be close to our sons and granddaughters. I look forward to gardening and having a few backyard chickens.”