Monuments to a life

April 18, 2002

Eugene Figg Jr., P.E., was scheduled to accept the American Society of Civil Engineering’s highest honor, the Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award (OPAL), on April 27. Instead, his daughter Linda Figg, who has worked with him on numerous bridges over the past 20 years, will have to accept the honor for him posthumously.

Eugene Figg Jr., P.E., was scheduled to accept the American Society of Civil Engineering’s highest honor, the Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award (OPAL), on April 27. Instead, his daughter Linda Figg, who has worked with him on numerous bridges over the past 20 years, will have to accept the honor for him posthumously.

Gene Figg died on March 20 from a severe infection after successful treatment for acute leukemia. He was president and director of bridge art at the Figg Engineering Group, the firm he guided since 1988 when he became sole owner of Figg and Muller (F&M) Engineers in Tallahassee, Fla.

“It’s all about creating bridges as art. That’s what we’re really trying to do,” Figg said in an interview with Roads & Bridges in 2000.

His artistic bridges appeared on the covers of 85 magazines. They also won over 150 bridge design awards for his firm. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineers in October 2001 “for leadership . . . excellence, structural innovation and efficient construction of major bridges.” Figg won the John A. Roebling Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 2000, sponsored by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania and Roads & Bridges.

Figg has bridge projects completed, under design or under construction in 33 states and four foreign countries. He was considered a pioneer in the use of concrete segmental bridge construction, starting with the Seven Mile and Long Key Bridges in the Florida Keys.

One of the reasons for Figg’s success was his extraordinary efforts at public involvement.

“One of the important activities to us is dealing with the public and designing bridges that the public wants,” he said. “We’re convinced that the bridge tells you what the public thinks of itself.”

On the Maumee River Bridge in Toledo, Ohio, for example, the public voted on choices for different parts of the bridge. The final decisions were ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. One of the preferences, with a score of 8.6, was for a four-sided glass pylon, so Figg worked it into the alternative designs. At another session, the public was involved in approving the final design.

Figg was born in Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 4, 1936, and graduated from the Citadel in 1958 with a degree in civil engineering. He joined the Florida State Road Department in Tallahassee the same year. He helped found the firm of Barrett, Daffin & Figg in Tallahassee in 1964.

In 1978, he established F&M Engineers, which later became the Figg Engineering Group.

Along with his other honors and awards, Figg was a registered professional engineer in 39 states and a fellow of the Florida Engineering Society. He was a member of the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Concrete Institute, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and the Post-Tensioning Institute. He also was on the board of the Construction Industry Round-table and a founding member of the American Segmental Bridge Institute.

Figg is succeeded by his wife, Ann Ruth Figg, and four daughters, Linda Figg and Nancy Duessel of Tallahassee, Karen Cox of New York and Donna Lacey of Destin, Fla.