In Remembrance of Structural Engineer Charles H. Raths
Raths & Johnson, Inc. (RRJ), a nationally recognized engineering, architecture, and forensics consulting firm located in Chicago and Willowbrook, Illinois, is saddened by the loss of the firm’s founding father, Charles “Chuck” H. Raths, S.E., who passed away on April 19, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. Raths, the firm’s leader for 30 years, was 85 years old.
Kurt Hoigard, president of RRJ stated, “Chuck was a not only the founder of RRJ, he was a mentor to me and so many others that have passed not only through our doors, but throughout our profession. I was fortunate to work under Chuck for many years and witness his ability to lead and provide the vision that helped to shape and transform RRJ into a leading forensic engineering and architectural firm.”
Professionally, Raths was known as a forensic engineering pioneer. Following his early experience as a designer and researcher, at the age of only 32 in 1966, he opened a one-man engineering firm called Chas. H Raths & Associates. This company was the seed that in 1969 eventually became the engineering, architecture, and forensics consulting firm of Raths, Raths, & Johnson, Inc. He expected the most of his staff, held all of them to a high standard, and was active in training young recruits in the then relatively new nontraditional engineering services of forensic investigation, testing, and repair design. Chuck subscribed to a firm belief in the value of well-conceived design details that recognized function, practicality, and constructability. These principles were present in all of his work and still are tenets of RRJ’s practice.
In 1959 and 1960, Raths respectively earned B.S. and M.S degrees in Civil Engineering from Michigan State University. He began his illustrious career as a design engineer with Finkbeiner, Pettis & Strout in Toledo, Ohio, before joining PCA Structural Laboratories, where, as a development engineer, he performed extensive research and structural testing on precast concrete members and connections. The approach he developed for corbel design won him the Prestressed Concrete Institute’s (PCI) coveted Martin P. Korn award, and that approach is still used today. He then applied the knowledge he gained at PCA as the Chief Engineer for precast concrete fabricator Crest/Schokbeton. These experiences allowed Chuck to further hone his engineering skills in precast design and to develop a keen understanding of structural behavior. As a forensic engineer, Raths provided analysis and expert testimony for many high-profile structural failure litigation cases.
By self-example, Raths instilled strict discipline and values within the professionals at the firm, including the importance of continued education and in sharing lessons learned with others in the design and construction industries. As a long-standing PCI member, he applied the results of his research by serving on the committee that developed design standards for the first edition of the PCI Design Handbook (1971) and received the PCI Medallion Award for outstanding engineering contributions to his profession. In addition to PCI, he was also an active member of the American Concrete Institute, ASTM International, Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Throughout his career, he published numerous technical papers and received many recognitions and honors for his contributions to the engineering and construction industries. In recognition of his engineering expertise, he was invited to serve with the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation, assisting with the creation and grading of the Illinois Structural Engineering Licensing examination.
Though Raths with be missed by many, his legacy lives on in the firm he founded, the organizations in which he participated, and in his lasting contributions to the engineering profession.
About Raths, Raths & Johnson, Inc.
Raths, Raths & Johnson, Inc. is a nationally recognized engineering, architecture, and forensics consulting firm that provides investigative, design, repair, and testing services for building structures, enclosures, and materials. Since its inception 54 years ago, RRJ’s staff of architects, engineers, and field/laboratory specialists has offered a collaborative, integrated approach to investigative services that combines intellectual knowledge of construction materials with proven methods to analyze structures and building system behavior and performance. RRJ attributes its success in delivering clients practical solutions and technical excellence to its long-term commitment of Principal leadership and involvement on every project. RRJ serves clients from its corporate offices and testing laboratory at 500 Joliet Road, Suite 200 in Willowbrook, Illinois. www.rrj.com.