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In Memoriam: Dr. Alfred Yee


The department lost a dear friend and supporter, a valuable adviser and a remarkable structural engineer and pioneer in the area of precast concrete. Dr. Alfred Yee passed away peacefully on Friday afternoon, April 21, 2017.

Dr. Yee served as adjunct professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering beginning in 2005.  His presentations to students were always inspirational, encouraging them to think innovatively but validate their ideas through analysis and testing. He stressed the need to understand and observe the fundamentals of engineering principles rather than relying solely on sophisticated computer analysis. His busy work and travel schedules prevented him from offering full semester courses, but his individual seminars were always well attended crowd-pleasers.

As designer of the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu, Dr. Yee pioneered the use of precast concrete construction to increase the speed of erection and reduce costs for multi-story buildings. The Ala Moana Hotel was for many years the tallest all-precast concrete structure in the US. It utilized a novel grouted splice sleeve developed by Dr. Yee based on the Chinese finger trick where you insert one finger of each hand into opposite ends of a flexible tube. The harder you try to pull your fingers apart, the harder the tube squeezes in and prevents them pulling out. This splice sleeve became a staple of the precast industry and is used throughout the world.

Only a few years before his passing, Dr. Yee commissioned the Structural Engineering laboratory at UH Manoa to perform tests of a new invention – a kwikslab connection to allow for the use of precast concrete panels to replace highway paving during overnight closures. The kwikslab connection proved extremely strong and well capable of ensuring continuity of the reinforcement across the joints between precast panels. Similar systems are now being used by many DOTs around the US and also being considered for use in Hawaii.

It is likely that Dr. Yee’s greatest regret as he aged was that he was not going to be able to develop, test and implement all of the novel ideas that came to him. He was a consummate inventor, the likes of which Hawaii may not see again.

A celebration of his life is being planned and details will be forthcoming. Dr. Yee’s legacy will be honored in perpetuity in CEE through his generous endowment for visiting professors.

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