Cornell Local Roads Program

Dr. Lynne H. Irwin, PE (1941–2016)
William J. Mobbs, PE (1941–2016)

Bill (left) recieves 45 year Highway School award from Lynne in 2015

Bill (left) recieves 45 year Highway School award from Lynne in 2015

Dr. Lynne H. Irwin, PE

Dr. Lynne H. Irwin, 1996

Lynne Irwin, Associate Professor, was the Director of the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) from 1973–2014 and continued as Senior Advisor after retirement. As Director of CLRP for over 40 years, he established the model on which the highly successful national Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) is based. As part of CLRP’s extensive program of technical assistance and training to thousands of local highway departments throughout New York State, he led the development and delivery of the Annual School for Highway Superintendents for over four decades and the Statewide Conference on Local Bridges for more than two.

He served on the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Low Volume Roads Committee for many years and was one of its first emeritus members. He chaired the Steering Committees for TRB’s Fifth and Eighth International Conferences on Low Volume Roads, and hosted the Fourth International Conference on Low Volume Roads here in Ithaca, NY. Lynne was also a long-time member of many TRB Standing Committees including, Conduct of Research, Soil Portland Cement Stabilization, Pavement Structural Modeling and Evaluation, and Backcalculation of Pavement Layer Moduli. He helped found and was the first chair of TRB’s Standing Committee on Technology Transfer. In addition, he made substantial contributions toward the present leadership of TRB’s standing committees.

In the research arena, Lynne was among the pioneers in the application of deflection testing in pavement structural evaluation including seasonal variations therein. Through work with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Transportation he was a leader in the mechanistic-empirical analysis of pavements. His substantial accomplishments in this area include development of the MODCOMP software for backcalculation of pavement layer moduli. Building on the concepts developed through his graduate work at Texas A&M, MODCOMP is among the most widely known and enduring tools for pavement structural analysis. Lynne developed and updated equipment and procedures for calibration of the pavement deflection testing equipment that was implemented not only in the United States, but throughout the world. During his career, Lynne developed and delivered workshops on pavement structural analysis around the US and globally.

Lynne taught Highway and Pavement Engineering to Cornell students from when arrived in 1973 until 2001. His classes were always practical and he shaped the future of many engineers who work on roads and highways today.

Lynne Irwin in 2016

Lynne Irwin in 2016

Lynne’s most lasting contributions are those most difficult to document. They are the contributions that came about quietly, under the radar, whenever someone asked for his help. He was, first and foremost, a teacher, whether in a classroom, or on an informal basis offering advice over the telephone to someone who reached out with a question. Lynne Irwin was always there to help.

Lynne is survived by his three children, four grandchildren, their families, and a very friendly golden retriever, Sassy.

William J. Mobbs (1941–2016)

Just as we were preparing this issue, we heard the news of the passing of William “Bill” Mobbs on October 2nd after a brief illness. This is especially sad following so close after the departure of Lynne.

Bill has been part of the CLRP family since 1990 when he developed two workshops for us, Leading and Building Your Team (which became Managing People) and A Superintendents Guide for Small Highway Department Management. He continued to develop our teaching materials and was part of the team that shaped our latest workshop—Running Your Highway Department. He was very committed to our mission. Early on when he was still working for Tompkins County, he took vacation in order to teach our workshops. Bill also served as a guest lecturer for graduate classes in Civil Engineering at Cornell University.

Bill teaching at a 2011 Managing People workshop

Bill teaching at a 2011 Managing People workshop

A Cornell graduate, Bill finished at the Civil Engineering School with a MCE in 1971. After working in engineering jobs in West Africa and the US, Bill started work at Tompkins County as a Senior Civil Engineer in 1978 and, after 32 years, departed as Commissioner of Public Works in 1998. In the following year, he began as a consultant at C&S Companies engineering firm in Syracuse where he worked until onset of his illness.

A man of great integrity, Bill broke stereotypes by hiring the best person for the job regardless of gender or background. Both in his working life and with CLRP, Bill wanted people to succeed and many that worked with, and for, him went on to become county highway officials in their own right.

His quiet optimism and strength should inspire all of us to do our best.

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.