SP-311: James K. Wight: A Tribute from his Students and Colleagues


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Title: SP-311: James K. Wight: A Tribute from his Students and Colleagues


Publication: Special Publication

Volume: 311


Appears on pages(s):


Date: 9/28/2016


Editors: Gustavo J. Parra-Montesinos and Mary Beth D. Hueste

Professor James (Jim) K. Wight has been one of the most remarkable researchers and educators in the field of reinforced concrete structures in the past several decades. Jim’s engineering career started at Michigan State University, where he obtained his BS and MS in 1969 and 1970, respectively. After completing his MS studies, he went on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue doctoral studies under the supervision of Professor Mete A. Sozen, obtaining his PhD in 1973.

It was while a student at the University of Illinois that Jim Wight made his first major contributions to the field of behavior and design of reinforced concrete structures, particularly under earthquake excitations. He was likely the first to study the phenomenon of shear strength decay in reinforced concrete columns during large shear reversals. He also identified and explained the “disappearance” of the yield plateau in longitudinal reinforcing bars of flexural members subjected to moment gradient. Referring to this, Mete Sozen later said that had Jim been in the field of Physics, he would have won the Nobel Prize.

In 1973, Jim Wight joined the faculty at the University of Michigan. In a career that has spanned over 40 years as a Professor of Structural Engineering, Jim has exemplified excellence in teaching, research, and professional service. Jim has made enormous contributions to the field of behavior and design of reinforced concrete members, including beam-column and slab-column connections, structural walls, and deep beams. Much of his research has led to key advances in the safety and performance of reinforced concrete building structures during seismic events. Further, he has advised over 30 PhD students, several of whom are currently faculty members at major research universities. Jim has also contributed to the education of thousands of structural engineers as co-author (with Professor James MacGregor) of the widely used textbook Reinforced Concrete – Mechanics & Design. He has made significant contributions to the development of design guidelines and codes for reinforced concrete structures as Chair of ACI-ASCE Committee 352 in the early 1980s and of ACI Committee 318 during the 2002-2008 Code cycle. His dedication and involvement in the American Concrete Institute includes the distinction of serving as President in 2012-2013.

It was therefore with great joy that a group of researchers and practicing engineers who, over the years, had the opportunity to interact closely with Jim, decided to honor his illustrious career with a series of technical sessions and this Special Publication. Fifteen presentations, distributed in three sessions named “James K. Wight: A Tribute from his Students and Colleagues,” were given at the 2014 ACI Fall Convention in Washington, DC. All speakers consisted of students of Jim’s; colleagues in ACI technical committees; and his doctoral advisor, Professor Mete A. Sozen. The sessions were well attended by former students, academicians, researchers, and practitioners. A room-packed reception and a dinner were also offered in honor of Jim Wight. This Special Publication contains 12 papers related to the presentations made during the three technical sessions in Washington, DC. Also, Professor James O. Jirsa contributed with his personal perspective of Jim Wight’s contributions to the design of beam-column joints.

This Special Publication is but one small token of the appreciation and gratitude that all those involved have for Jim Wight. He has been a mentor, role model, and a source of inspiration to many, as well as an example of honesty, integrity, dedication, and unselfishness. Professor James K. Wight is, without a doubt, a true educator in the broadest sense of the word. We all feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to honor such an outstanding individual.