Sterling Leaves Legacy Of Advancement, Cooperation For The TTC

Changing Of The Guard At The Trenchless Technology Center
June 2009 Vol. 64 No. 6
Dr. Sterling (right) and Ph.D.-candidate John Mathews examine testing equipment.

Dr. Ray Sterling, director of the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech University since 1995, has retired but will continue his association with the center as a part time research professor.

Sterling's last day as director was May 31, and he said he is returning to Minnesota where much of his family lives. Dr. Robert McKim, a former faculty member and TTC associate director from 1998 to 2001, is returning to the Ruston campus as the center's administrative director. Dr. Erez Allouche, who had served as associate director, has been appointed technical director.

Sterling took the TTC job at a time when the center's future was uncertain. Founder Dr. Tom Iseley, who had directed the center since it was established, had left to pursue another career opportunity. An interim director kept the center functioning but although there were research proposals pending, there were funding issues and no clear direction for the course the center should take.

"At the time," said Sterling, "I was administrator of a research center at the University of Minnesota which was suffering a university and state fiscal crisis. We were slated to lose our core operating funds. Even though the center had a substantial annual research budget, it was not realistic to operate the center without core support."

Sterling had worked with Iseley and followed developments in the various trenchless construction technologies.

"I believed trenchless was a very interesting area of construction and recognized it had great potential," remembers Sterling. "Trenchless procedures were offering a whole new set of tools for underground construction."

Opportunity knocks

The vacant TTC directorship was attractive to Sterling at a time when he was ready for a change, and ultimately the center offered him an endowed professorship linked to the position of TTC director.

Sterling immediately set out to better define the center's role within the trenchless industry and re-energize its links to trenchless companies and municipal users of trenchless technologies.

"I saw our purpose as an independent research organization dedicated to serving the best interests of both municipalities and the industry," he said.

"We gather technical information and conduct research in an objective fashion, identify and discuss issues, and make the results available in an unbiased manner."

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