A skilled, fun and collaborative lecturer with a passion for structures, Sanders inspired countless engineering students with his engaging teaching. Sanders also enthusiastically supported the careers and research efforts of faculty and graduate student colleagues in CCEE.
Sanders received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Louisville, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois-Champaign. He was a professor of civil engineering at Iowa State University for 34 years, retiring in 1998.
Sanders wore many hats at Iowa State: associate professor, professor, professor emeritus, assistant and associate director of the Engineering Research Institute, associate dean of the College of Engineering, director of the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, and interim assistant vice provost for research and graduate students.
His research work in the behavior and design of highway and railway bridges, aluminum structures, and the development of design specifications for structures inspired cutting-edge construction techniques that were adopted across the American structural steel industry.
He also served on numerous professional and technical committees for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Society for Engineering Education, American Welding Society, European Committee for Constructional Steelworks, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association, Transportation Research Board (TRB) and American Institute for Steel Construction (AISC).
Sanders’ leadership, industry advancement, and service to the field of civil engineering were recognized with many prestigious awards, including the ASCE Reese Research Prize, ASCE Fellow, and, in 2013, the AISC Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Engineering Education.
One of the many ways Sanders’ impact continues in engineering education and research is through the Wallace W. and Julia B. Sanders Structural Laboratory located in room 130 of Town Engineering. Since 2006, the lab has housed an 80-by-24-foot reaction floor equipped with 300,000-pound capacity loading points on a three-foot grid and a 15-ton overhead crane. Today, Iowa State students use this space for structural engineering research and testing. And the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student organization uses the lab to build their steel bridge.
Sanders has been a longstanding part of the success of the Department of Civil Construction and Environmental Engineering, but his legacy goes far beyond the classroom and the lab to many meaningful moments shared with his family, friends and community.
Sanders was active in Ames organizations in art, music, church, and community improvement, lending his engineering skills, mentorship and love of people beyond Iowa State. In 2006, he received an Unsung Hero award from the Ames Daily Tribune. He loved to spend time with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and wife Julia.
In retirement, Sanders and his friend and colleague, Jack Cleasby, remained active in the department and on the golf course. Despite being from different specialties within CCEE, they were lifetime friends.
“It just seemed like we clicked together,” Sanders said of fellow faculty. “We always remained friends and worked together.”
David H. Sanders, Wallace and Julia Sanders’ son, grew up in the CCEE department and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1984. In 2018, 20 years after his father’s retirement, David Sanders returned to his Cyclone Engineering roots, serving as Greenwood Department Chair in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.
“I am very proud of all of my father’s accomplishments. He was a great role model both professionally and personally. I have memories of the Engineering Annex before Town Engineering was built. My sister, Linda, and I going to the structures lab and sometimes getting an ice cream sandwich from the vending machine. And going to the ultimate load test of the Hubby Truss Bridge in Boone County,” he said.
Obituary and additional service details here.
In lieu of flowers, send memorials to Northcrest Retirement Community Foundation (Ames), First Baptist Church of Ames, or ISU Foundation noting “ISU Civil Engineering Structures Fund.” A memorial service will be held Thursday, January 11, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. at the First Baptist Church (200 Lynn Ave, Ames, Iowa 50010). Visitation with the family will be 30 minutes before the service in the church lounge with a time of fellowship to follow.