Duane Ellifritt, Esteemed Structural Engineering Professor and UF’s “Man of Steel”, Dies At 82
Internationally recognized engineer, distinguished educator, researcher, artist and friend. These words are how colleague, Dr. David Prevatt, describes the beloved University of Florida structural engineering professor, Dr. Duane S. Ellifritt.
Ellifritt, also referred to by friends as UF’s “man of steel,” was born on February 12, 1935 in Greenwood, West Virginia to Victor and Gussie Ellifritt and passed away peacefully on January 22, 2018, at the age of 82, surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Joyce Marie Ellifritt (Arnold), his children Bonnie (d. 2017), Gem (Pai), Julia, Scott (Atchara), and grandchildren Ahmad, Lian, Claire, Nate, Victor, and Ploy.
With a longing to be back in the classroom, Ellifritt arrived at the University of Florida in 1984 to teach and guide young engineers, having worked at the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) for nine years prior to this appointment and at Oklahoma State University. After an incredible 26-year career at the university, he retired in 2010 and became a professor emeritus.
Ellifritt was known best for creating the first American Institute of Steel Construction’s (AISC) Steel Teaching Sculpture at UF in the mid-80s when his students had a difficult time visualizing 3-D connections. Because it was not always easy to take students on a field trip or to construction sites, Ellifritt decided to construct a sculpture on campus, built to full scale. These structures can be found today on the UF campus, in addition to numerous campuses nationwide, with 170 total structures now in existence.
He was an internationally-recognized expert in the field of structural engineering, with 19 years of experience in the steel industry and 24 years in teaching and research, focusing on steel structures and connections. Ellifritt, an expert on steel building design, provided global lectures on structural engineering in Singapore, Thailand, Austria, New Zealand, Brazil, Turkey, Sweden and Italy.
In addition to these impressive accomplishments, Ellifritt was widely known for administering wind tunnel research on low-rise buildings at the University of Western Ontario, which developed the foundation for wind loads used in today’s building codes across North America.
He was a registered professional engineer in the State of Florida and a member of the American Institute of Steel Construction Specification Committee and the American Iron and Steel Institute Cold-Formed Steel Specification Committee. Ellifritt was also a lifetime member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Structural Stability Research Council.
UF colleague, Dr. Scott Washburn, remembers meeting Ellifritt during his first year on campus.
“He was one of those very unique individuals that you can never forget, even after engaging in only a few discussions,” Washburn said.
Ellifritt’s memorable personality, creative mind and innovative contributions to the field of structural engineering will not be forgotten. He will be deeply missed by the entire engineering community and by all who knew him.