Remembering Professor Emeritus Sam Martin

Monday, December 3, 2018
Professor Emeritus Samuel Martin, who died Nov. 14. Faculty members and colleagues remembered Martin as a dedicated mentor, colleague and friend.

Mentor. Friend.

Those words kept coming up as School of Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty members remembered Professor Emeritus Samuel Martin, who died Nov. 14. He was 82.

Martin earned his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in the early ‘60s and quickly joined the School’s faculty. He taught generations of students and established himself as an international authority on water hammer and hydraulics before retiring in 1998.

“Sam was world-renowned for his analytical and experimental research in hydraulic machinery and fluid transients and had an enduring impact on the growth of our water program [in the School],” said Professor Aris Georgakakos. “He had an unwavering focus on high quality educational and research contributions [and] a lifelong commitment to impactful professional and societal service. On a personal level, I feel a deep sense of gratitude to Sam for giving me the opportunity to join Georgia Tech and mentoring me in my early years.”

Many of the School’s faculty echoed those sentiments, recalling Martin’s influence in their early years of teaching and research or how he pulled them into impactful projects.

Georgia Tech President Emeritus G. Wayne Clough recalled being one course short just before he was set to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in 1963. The School chair arranged an independent study with “a bright young postdoc who was going to go on the faculty in the fall,” Clough said. That was Martin.

“Sam opened my eyes to the joy of research, a gift that keeps on giving. When I returned to Tech as president, I was fortunate to be able to tell Sam how much my independent study with him meant to me. As president, my experience inspired me to fund a program that supported independent study for all undergraduates. Sam’s legacy runs deep.”

Professor Barry Goodno used to see Martin from time to time at Tech football games. Theirs also was a relationship founded in the earliest days of Goodno’s career.

“Sam — and co-PI Jim Craig from aerospace engineering — brought me on to their [National Science Foundation] wind engineering project when I arrived as a new assistant professor,” Goodno said. “I am grateful to both for this help in starting my Georgia Tech academic career.”

Professor Barry Goodno, left, with Professor Emeritus Samuel Martin at a Georgia Tech football game in November 2014. Goodno said he used to see Martin somewhat regularly at the games and recalled how Martin brought him onto a wind engineering project early in Goodno's time at Tech to help jumpstart his academic career. (Photo Courtesy: Barry Goodno)
Professor Barry Goodno, left, with Professor Emeritus Samuel Martin at a Georgia Tech football game in November 2014. Goodno said he used to see Martin somewhat regularly at the games and recalled how Martin brought him onto a wind engineering project early in Goodno's time at Tech to help jumpstart his academic career. (Photo Courtesy: Barry Goodno)
 

Professor Terry Sturm visited Martin twice last summer, reminiscing about their work together and experiments gone awry. In one unlucky experiment, their plexiglass model cracked, spraying water everywhere.

“Sam covered the crack with his hands to protect the electronic instruments while we shut the pumps down. We managed to save all the electronics, repair the crack, and finish the experiments. This was typical of Sam's unflappable practical approach to technical problems, which I always admired,” Sturm said.

“He was an impeccable experimentalist with a strong grasp of fundamental fluid mechanics that allowed him to solve many difficult engineering problems.”

Sturm said they also talked about Martin’s last research project, and Sturm brought along a former Ph.D. student from Pakistan, who “shared with Sam how revered he was by a cadre of Pakistani students who studied at Georgia Tech, including taking Sam's feared Intermediate Fluid Mechanics course.

“I don't know anyone who epitomizes better the definition of a scholar and a gentleman. He will truly be missed.”

David Wiggert met Martin at a technical conference and quickly struck up a friendship and close professional relationship that lasted 45 years.

“I consider Sam to be not only a colleague, but a mentor in many facets of fluid mechanics, especially related to unsteady flows,” said Wiggert, a professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University who did a sabbatical at Georgia Tech with Martin in the late 1970s.

“My respect for Sam and his continued concern for his profession and the people that he touched is unwavering,” Wiggert said.

Likewise, Hanif Chaudhry at the University of South Carolina met Martin at a conference many years ago and said Martin became a friend and mentor.

“He was always available to help and provide information, be it for research, building a lab setup, participating on various projects, or sharing data for consulting,” said Chaudhry, associate dean for international programs in South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing. “I have been missing that part since last year when he fell ill and was not available for advice, suggestions and recommendations.”

Martin was a fellow of both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a registered professional engineer in Georgia. After his retirement from Tech, he continued to work as an expert witness and an international consultant. He is survived by his wife, Yolanda, and daughter, Christiana.