Larry Cartwright: Mentor, Professor, and Friend Leaves Lasting Legacy
Larry Cartwright, an esteemed and much beloved former Carnegie Mellon University professor, passed away on Sunday, August 28, 2016.
Cartwright was born October 8, 1945, in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. After serving in the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam War, he returned to Pennsylvania and enrolled in the Civil Engineering program at Carnegie Mellon, earning his BSCE in 1976.
Cartwright joined the Department in 1977 as the manager of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Laboratories. He was hired by Professor Francis McMichael, then Head of CEE, who became Cartwright’s career-long mentor and friend.
Within five years, Cartwright was appointed as an Instructor and his penchant for teaching quickly became clear.
While managing the labs and helping with courses, Cartwright earned a masters degree in Civil Engineering in 1987. After promotions to Senior Lecturer and Principal Lecturer, Cartwright was designated a Teaching Professor in 2004, the highest rank for teaching faculty at CMU.
During his 38-year career, Cartwright was recognized many times for teaching excellence.
In 1994, he won the Ryan Award from CMU, an annual award given to one University faculty member in recognition of outstanding devotion and effectiveness as an instructor.
He was named Professor of the Year in 1999 by the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2001, he was awarded Best Paper from the American Society for Engineering Education for a presentation about the CEE senior design course.
He received the CIT Philip L. Dowd Fellowship Award in 2004 for his creative work in CEE undergraduate laboratory classes. In 2015 Cartwright received the 2015 Robert G. Quinn Award from ASEE for distinguished achievement in engineering education.
His many and varied contributions to Carnegie Mellon were honored by the CMU Alumni Association, first in 2007 with the Faculty Service Alumni Award for his extraordinary commitment to the support and education of CMU alumni around the world, and in 2016 with the Andrew Carnegie Society Recognition Award.
While Cartwright had many accomplishments, his heart was always in mentoring and working with students, as he taught classes like Soil Mechanics Lab, Materials Lab, Design and Construction, and CEE Design—for which he developed many imaginative senior capstone projects.
Among his students’ favorite courses was Design and Construction, a junior-senior elective course Cartwright helped to develop and then led for over 25 years. This interdisciplinary course brought students together from civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, as well as students from fine arts, to design and construct projects on campus from start to finish.
Producing numerous study spaces, pavilions and even an amphitheater, Cartwright and his students left a lasting, visible legacy on the CMU campus.
While teaching, Cartwright often peppered his engineering instruction with lessons about the value of hard work, integrity, and practical thinking.
“I learned about life, I learned about how to put things together, and I learned about how to deal with people in a respectful way with high expectations,” said alumnus Keith Sunderman (CEE ’83) at Cartwright’s retirement celebration in April 2014. Sunderman was both Cartwright’s student and work-study employee. “I like to think that the reason I’ve been successful is because I know what it takes to get things done—that comes from Larry Cartwright.”
Professor Cartwright retired from Carnegie Mellon in June 2013, but continued teaching part-time for the following two academic years.
In 2013, CEE alumni established the Lawrence Cartwright Support Fund for Teaching Professors, which honors his many contributions to CMU and ensures that Cartwright's name will remain forever tied to CEE.
Reflecting on Cartwright’s impact on CEE and Carnegie Mellon in a letter to CEE alumni, David Dzombak, Hamerschlag University Professor and CEE Head, said: “Larry left a substantial legacy at Carnegie Mellon, including physical infrastructure in Porter Hall and around campus, philanthropic infrastructure through his great generosity, and generations of CEE students who carry on his creativity and joie de vivre. The last component of his legacy was no doubt the most important to him.”
Please visit the ASCE Memorial to share your thoughts and memories of Larry.