Renowned Coastal Engineer Orville Magoon, Active in ASCE and COPRI, Dies


Orville T. Magoon, Dist.D.CE, Dist.M.ASCE, coastal engineering expert for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the namesake of ASCE’s Orville T. Magoon Sustainable Coasts Award, has died at 87.

Magoon was an early champion of sustainability, specifically pertaining to coastal engineering research, design, construction, and management. He worked for the Corps from 1952 to 1983 before retiring as chief of the Coastal Engineering Branch of the Planning Division, South Pacific Division.

Born in Hawaii, Magoon earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Hawaii in 1951 and his master’s from Stanford University a year later. Over a four-decade career, he was recognized as a leader in coastal planning, coastal zone management, and design construction and rehabilitation of coastal structures. He organized symposia and workshops, conceived of and chaired international conferences, was a member of many committees and organizations, taught classes, and published a multitude of journal articles.

Magoon was an active member of ASCE’s Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute. He served for 40 years as vice chair of the ASCE Coastal Engineering Research Council, starting in 1963 when the Council on Wave Research, established under the Engineering Foundation in 1950, was transferred to ASCE. CERC is responsible for organizing the International Conference on Coastal Engineering, which has been held biannually since 1950, and is recognized as the world’s principal conference on coastal engineering. Magoon also led other specialty conferences for ASCE and COPRI on topics including coastal zone management, carbonate beaches, sand rights and coastal engineering practice.

Elected a Distinguished Member in 2003, 10 years later ASCE further honored him with an award in his name. The annual Orville T. Magoon Sustainable Coasts Award honors a professional for outstanding contributions to sustainable engineering practices in managing shorelines and coastal infrastructure.

In addition to his work for ASCE, he served as president of the Coastal Zone Foundation as well as president of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

Magoon received ASCE’s William H. Wisely Award in 1992, the International Coastal Engineering Award in 1998, and the John G. Moffatt–Frank E. Nichol Harbor and Coastal Engineering Award in 1990.

In 2003, Texas A&M University established the Orville T. Magoon Scholarship, given annually to one or more students who exhibit a strong interest in the field of coastal engineering and sustainability.

Magoon balanced his engineering career with a love of wine. He managed Guenoc Winery and Guenoc Ranch in California, where he produced award-winning wines, including the Genevieve Chardonnay, named for his mother.

Survivors include a brother, Eaton Harry Huha “Bob” Magoon, children Melissa, Marshall, Mary, and Matthew, grandson Spencer, and greatgrandson Bradley, as well as his wife Karen, her children Aaron and Bridget, and grandchildren Uli, Matti, and Mori.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Orville T. Magoon Sustainable Coasts Award, care of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA 20191, attention Jane Alspach; mark the contribution for “Permanently Restricted Fund.”


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