fbpx In Memory of Dr. Hans Gesund | University of Kentucky College of Engineering

In Memory of Dr. Hans Gesund

March 27, 2023

On March 17, the University and the College of Engineering’s longest-serving faculty member, Hans Gesund, passed away at age 94.

On March 17, the University and the College of Engineering’s longest-serving faculty member, Hans Gesund, passed away at age 94.

Gesund was a professor of structural engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering and a specialist in reinforced concrete, holding joint appointments in architecture and historic preservation. He retired in December 2020 at age 92, after an incredible 66 and a half years of teaching, with 62 and a half of those at UK.

From the moment his career in Lexington began on July 1, 1958, Gesund made significant contributions to the Department of Civil Engineering. Soon after his arrival, he had the opportunity to design a structural engineering laboratory and to obtain federal funding for its construction and equipment. The laboratory is housed in the basement and sub-basement of the F. Paul Anderson Tower in the engineering quadrangle.

Gesund served on every committee within the Department of Civil Engineering. He also served as director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies. From 1987-1992, Gesund served as department chair. During that time, he was instrumental in obtaining private funding, matched by the state, for the construction of the Oliver H. Raymond Building in the engineering quadrangle. It houses the Department of Civil Engineering and the Kentucky Transportation Center. He also obtained private funding for several endowed chairs, professorships and student scholarships in the department.

Gesund served the College of Engineering as its representative on the University’s Promotion and Tenure committee, and for four, 3-year terms each, on the University’s Undergraduate and Graduate Councils. He also served for approximately 30 years in the University Senate and served on its various committees. During one of his terms as a member of the Graduate Council, Gesund helped establish the Ph.D. program in the Department of Civil Engineering. After his service as Department Chair, civil engineering faculty elected Hans to represent the department on the College of Engineering Faculty Advisory Council. He was re-elected multiple times and served on the Council for 21 years—18 of them as its elected chair—until shortly before his retirement.

Gesund’s appointment in the College of Architecture came in 1965 when his friend and colleague, Charles P. Graves, then dean of the College of Architecture, asked him to take over the structural design program part-time and accept a joint appointment on the architecture faculty. Gesund taught one to two architecture prefix courses each year until shortly before his retirement.

As a member of the architecture faculty, Gesund used his experience with faculty governance to help the College transition into the College of Design with a department of historic preservation, whose faculty he also joined, directing several graduate theses in this department. He also helped the College faculty establish its Faculty Advisory Council, which he remained a member of until retirement.

Over the years, Gesund directed the dissertations of 14 Ph.D. students to successful completion and the work of many MSc. students. His research has resulted in over 50 technical publications, many with his students as coauthors. Gesund was a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering, the American Society for Testing and Materials and the American Society of Engineering Education. Gesund was elected to the rank of fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Concrete Institute. He was also inducted into four scientific and engineering honor societies: Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, Chi Epsilon and Tau Sigma Delta.

Born on September 18, 1928, in Vienna, Austria to Carl and Else (née Sternberg) Gesund, his family relocated to America in 1940. Gesund was a veteran of the Korean War and enlisted as a private in the Connecticut National Guard in the summer of 1948. After two long and many short active-duty deployments, he retired from military service in the fall of 1968 with the rank of major in the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Reserve. During his 20 years of military service, Gesund was, at various times, a machine gunner, platoon leader, staff officer, and, for seven years, a company commander.

Gesund earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in 1950, his master’s degree in 1953 and his doctorate degree in 1958, all in engineering from Yale University. While completing his graduate studies, Gesund worked as an instructor for the Department of Civil Engineering at Yale University from 1954-1958.

Gesund married his beloved wife, Irmgard Elias-Orth Gesund, on January 28, 1951. They were the parents to two children, Ann Gesund Maoz, an advanced practice registered nurse, and Peter J. Gesund (deceased), an anesthesiologist, and five grandchildren, including two attorneys, a computer engineer/scientist, a physician and a psychologist. At the time of his passing, Gesund was also the proud great-grandfather to nine great-grandchildren.

Outside of the halls of the University, Gesund also made an impact on the city of Lexington and its people. Soon after their arrival, the Gesund family joined Ohavay Zion Congregation. Eventually, he was elected to the Board of Trustees, on which he served for 14 years, including six years as vice-president and president of the congregation. Gesund was also a prodigious blood donor and donated 28 and a half gallons (107 liters) of blood to the Central Kentucky Blood Center.

His greatest impact though, was on his many students and colleagues over the years. Many of whom will remember their beloved former professor and colleague’s quick wit and famously coined “Gesundisms.” Some of which, can be found here.