P. Aarne Vesilind

The campus community mourns the passing of P. Aarne Vesilind, who died on Sunday, January 28, 2018.  Aarne retired as Professor Emeritus of Civil & Environmental Engineering in 2006.

Included below is the complete text of the obituary, as provided by the family.

You are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at bucknell.edu/InMemoriam and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.

On behalf of our entire University community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Aarne’s family, as well as to all who knew him at Bucknell.

John C. Bravman



P. Aarne Vesilind, age 78, surrounded by family, died of complications from cancer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Jan. 28, 2018.

Aarne was born in Tallinn, Estonia in 1939 to Paul Eduard Vesilind and Aino Rebane Vesilind. In 1944 his family fled Estonia to escape the invading Soviet Red Army. As refugees, they lived four years in a displaced persons camp in Geislingen, Germany, before immigrating to the United States in 1949. Settling in Beaver, Pennsylvania, ten-year-old Aarne enrolled in fourth grade without knowing a word of English. His transition was eased by supportive classmates who became lifelong friends. He learned to play the trumpet and joined the Boy Scouts, rising to the rank of Eagle Scout.

After graduating from Beaver High School in 1958, Aarne chose Lehigh University for its civil engineering program, but admitted to actually studying “adolescent behavior and fraternity” with Chi Phi brothers who also remained close friends for life. After Lehigh graduation Aarne married Gail Wood, with whom he had three children. In 1968, he earned a Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a graduate student, Aarne serendipitously discovered an affinity for teaching.

In his professional career and his everyday living Aarne was profoundly influenced by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1962) and by Carson’s persistence in advancing awareness of environmental problems. Aarne spent a postdoctoral year with the Norwegian Institute for Water Research in Oslo and another year as a research engineer at Bird Machine Company. In 1970 Aarne joined the Civil Engineering faculty at Duke University, where he developed a new Environmental Engineering program. While on sabbatical with his family in 1976-77 as a Fulbright Fellow, he helped establish an Environmental Center at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Aarne served as Trustee of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a registered Professional Engineer in North Carolina. He received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the Collingwood Prize and the Award for Achievement in Environmental Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers. He also received the Founders Award and Distinguished Service award (twice!) from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. In 2007, he traveled to Turkey to accept the Specialist Medal in Residuals Research from the International Water Association.

Aarne was most proud of his teaching awards, which include the E. I. Brown Award for teaching excellence (four times!) from students in Duke’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Tau Beta Pi teaching award from students of the Duke School of Engineering. An enthusiastic and dedicated mentor, he taught and advised many graduate and undergraduate students—and he was always pleased when a former student called for advice or merely to chat.

In 1987 Aarne married his former high school girlfriend, Libby McTaggart. They settled in Chapel Hill, NC and acquired a summer camp on a small lake in Bath, NH. “The Birdbath” became a sanctuary for reflection, bird watching, and skinny-dipping. Surrounded by birch trees that reminded him of his early childhood home on the Pirita River in Tallinn, Estonia, Aarne started a small publishing house, Lakeshore Press, as a forum for academic texts, musical arrangements, and memoirs about Estonians before, during, and after Soviet occupation.

After a 30-year tenure at Duke, Aarne and Libby moved to Lewisburg, PA. At Bucknell University, Aarne assumed the charter R. L. Rooke Chair of the Historical and Societal Context of Engineering. He thrived among the enthusiastic faculty and bright students, several of whom he roped into forming a tuba quartet with him.

A prolific scholar, Aarne authored and co-authored over 40 academic, technical, and professional books, and several hundred professional journal articles. His 1974 textbook, Treatment and Disposal of Wastewater Sludges (Ann Arbor Science) was the first in its field and his research in this area was seminal. He later examined concepts of justice and ethics and contributed to the development of a professional code of ethics for environmental engineers. He promoted “peace engineering” as an alternative career path for young engineers seeking socially responsible work, as exemplified by his 2010 book, Engineering Peace and Justice (Springer UK).

When Aarne finally retired in 2006, he and Libby moved to New London, N.H. He fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming music director and conductor for the Kearsarge Community Band. He enthusiastically encouraged these dedicated musicians to take on increasingly complex music, including his own arrangements of Estonian compositions. With his euphonium, Aarne founded the Exit 13 Tuba Quartet, directed Tuba Christmas concerts, and conceived of the annual New Hampshire Festival of Bands, a daylong showcase of community bands from across the state. Most recently, Aarne published several books of music arranged for solo euphonium and various brass ensembles.

Aarne loved discovering music from composers whom history had forgotten, and he eagerly shared these discoveries in an Adventures in Learning course at Colby-Sawyer College. He also shared his wide-ranging wisdom in an op-ed column in the Intertown Record, a selection of which he published in Yes, But He’s From Away (Lakeshore Press).

Aarne’s most enduring quality was his gratefulness. He kept friends close, acknowledged good fortune, and appreciated small wonders, like the sound of a canoe gliding over lily pads. Most fortunate of all are those who loved Aarne, including wife Elizabeth McTaggart Vesilind, his children Pamela Vesilind, partner Bradly Sick; Lauren Vesilind Neufeld, husband Charles Neufeld, daughter Samantha; Stephen Vesilind, wife Susanne Turley Vesilind, children Jacob, Audrey, James; Aarne’s stepchildren Andrew Endy, wife Christina Smolke, children Maximilien and Samuel; Christopher Endy, wife Cora Granata, children August and Lars; Stephen Endy, wife Miyeko Endy (Tani), children Rowan and Delia. Aarne is also survived by his brother, Priit Vesilind, and Priit’s wife, Rima Vesilind. Surviving relatives in Estonia include Malle Vesilind, Andres Vesilind, Andres’ wife, Triin Tammearu. Also surviving are Aarne’s first wife, Gail Wood Bredehoeft, and her husband Steven Bredehoeft.

A Celebration of Life for Aarne will be held on Saturday, April 7, at the First Baptist Church Meeting House, 461 Main Street, New London, NH. Reverend Patience Stoddard, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley, will guide the service. Please check with Chadwick Funeral Service for details. (www.chadwickfuneralservice.com).



One Response to “P. Aarne Vesilind”

  1. perrone says:

    When I first arrived at Bucknell in 2003, Karen Marosi assigned Aarne as my mentor. And what an excellent mentor he was. Over the lunches we shared, he listened to me with compassion when I needed to vent my frustrations, gave me wise guidance, and always left me feeling infinitely more upbeat than when he found me. Those kind smiles of his were reassuring, encouraging, infectious. We used to talk about his approach for teaching ethics for engineers in ENGR 100 Exploring Engineering – I didn’t know how one could make it accessible or exciting, but he had his ways. And he did such a good job with it. Not too long later, I was asked to take on that role and Aarne was my guiding light. It was intimidating, but I knew that if I followed his approach, my students would be all right. I taught from his precious little book “The Right Thing To Do,” which made it easy.

    When Aarne “graduated” from Bucknell and moved to New Hampshire, his departure left a vacuum in the College of Engineering. One of the driving forces for Bucknell’s Honor Code wouldn’t be around the Dana and Breakiron halls anymore. I was happy that he was happy, though. He was looking forward to his next adventures.

    Time passed and I got into teaching ethics more deeply in CSCI 240 Computers and Society and in CSCI 245 Life, Computers, and Everything. A few years ago, on a random day, I heard Aarne’s voice on an unexpected phone call. He told me he was happy I was teaching ethics, “it is important,” he said, “and I’m glad you are doing it.” I told him it was all thanks to him, but I don’t think he wanted any credit. He was just happy that I found myself so rewarded by teaching something that was dear to his heart. It was just like him to be so thoughtful to take a moment to reach out and make someone smile. I didn’t know that was to be the last time I would hear his happy chuckle.

    In my courses, I have had to teach from textbooks that specifically cover computer ethics, but the method for ethical analysis from Aarne’s “The Right Thing To Do” remained with me. It is still with me. It will always be with me. Every one of the students in my ethics courses has been and will be a student of Aarne’s. The world is lessened by Aarne’s passing, but the world is blessed for having had Aarne.

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