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Harold H. "Hap" Dalrymple Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Civil Engineering

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"Hap Dalrymple: A Legacy of Usefulness" by daughter, Lana Dalrymple Cullen.

Anyone who experienced at least two casual conversations with my Dad would have been treated to one or more of the colloquialisms for which he was famous among his family and friends. The similarities between my Dad and Andy Griffith were hard to deny: handsome, tall and lanky with dark, wavy hair and a perpetual smile emanating a genuine friendliness that never disappointed as the personality unfolded. But, the most appealing and defining aspect Dad shared with Andy Griffith was his choice gems of wisdom wrapped in country rhetoric that made the most serious advice as palatable as homemade ice cream. Not a day goes by that I don't hear one of these gems in the back of my mind or share one with someone else. Dad's been gone from this life for over 14 years now, but sharing his country wisdom is great fun and keeps him very close indeed. A couple of family favorites are "handy as a pocket in your underwear" and "tastes so good it would make you wish your neck was a yard long." The latter was his highest praise for an outstanding dish or meal and he made that observation liberally when enjoying Mom's cooking.

Hap Dalrymple, 1980.
Hap Dalrymple, 1980.

I could share a pokeful more, but these observations are best enjoyed when they sneak up on you one at a time. So, if you would like to be exposed to more of Hap's country wisdom, you'll have to hang out with some of his family or friends. They will all be delighted with the opportunity to share. There is one principle, however, that I would like to share, both because it may most appropriately sum up Harold Herbert Dalrymple's life philosophy and because it has had the greatest influence on my life. I have inherited good advice from a number of very wise folks during my life. I'd like to think that any success I have enjoyed leans heavily on my application of that wisdom. But there can be no question that the following principle took root early in my life and was reinforced by my Dad any time he noticed I was practicing it.

The following admonition is such a part of my being that I cannot accurately say when I might have first heard my Dad say, "Try to be useful and not just ornamental." From the beginning I judged this to be a particularly important precept, though I must admit that it took years of observing the way my Dad managed life before I really understood the depth of the principle. The following ideas were stated by or, more often, practiced by Dad throughout the course of that portion of his life that I was privileged to observe. Each of the following concepts that Dad held dear supports the importance of "usefulness."

Hap Dalrymple considered work a primary function in life. He made it clear that if you are sound of body and mind, you should expect to spend the preponderance of your life working. He firmly believed that the work you do is important in two ways. Work is of value to others based on the way it supports and improves their lives. Equally important, the work you do is important to yourself based on the esteem it builds in you, which is, in turn, based on how useful your work is to others. He very clearly conveyed that all honest work is of equal value. No type of work is greater or lesser than another type of work provided it is useful. Dad was as proud of his contributions under the rigors of wheat harvest and cattle husbandry that he experienced growing up on a Kansas farm as he was of collecting garbage and janitoring a church in order to raise a family while attending college, or eventually supervising the instrumentation necessary to the collecting of soil samples from the ocean floor to assess methods for improving off-shore oil structures around the globe. While spending time with Dad during his fight against the Leukemia that would eventually end his earthly life, I asked him if he was bitter about his Air Force experience with nuclear testing during the Korean War that led to the disease. Without hesitation he replied, "It was my job and I was proud to do it. Worthwhile work often involves risk. That's just the nature of useful contribution in this ole' world."

Dad also had definite policies concerning the way work should be done, especially when working for wages.  Arrive early and stay late. Work at maximum efficiency, taking only those breaks that were absolutely necessary. During my initiation into the working world during high school, Dad once pointed out that to work at less than my capacity amounted to theft from my employer; just as if I were to take cash from his register. He was also insistent about maintaining a high level of “situational awareness.” Once you had a handle on your duties, Dad considered it incredibly poor work ethic to require a prompt to do a job that you could see needed to be done. To Hap Dalrymple, exceeding an employer's expectations represented the only meaningful “thank you” for the privilege of employment.

For a man to whom the only unforgiveable sin was laziness, the most obnoxious embodiment of that sin was to stand idly by and watch another person work. It went against everything in his being and he simply could not understand the ability in another to tolerate such a dishonorable situation. A vivid memory of my Dad is of him with a shovel, standing waist-deep in a trench with three day-laborers, on a sweltering summer day in Texas, preparing a spot for a scale to be placed in the highway to weigh semi-trucks in motion. He was in charge of the instrumentation on the Texas Highway research project. When I expressed surprise at finding him at hard labor, his response was, "My arms aren't broken."

Of the rich legacy my Dad left, I treasure his work ethic as one of the most important gems. This is not to say that I never chafed under his uncompromising standards. As a rebellious teenager, on an occasion that comes to mind, I demanded to know why he insisted that I adhere to standards that I saw few others embracing. . . and for a paltry minimum wage!

Hap at work, McClelland Engineers.
Hap at work, McClelland Engineers.

Dad took a minute to compose himself and said, "The primary reason I have exposed you to the work ethic in which I believe was not to give you a vehicle to higher wages or the admiration of those around you. My motive wasn't even to mold a child that would garner me praise as a father. I only intended to position you to acquire a true appreciation of the one thing for which you are solely responsible: the satisfaction of a job well done. If you are like most folks, you will rarely be paid what your talent is worth. And you won't often be recognized for the effort you put forth. But every single day you can choose to treat yourself to the satisfaction of a job well done. That satisfaction and the hard work will give you a peace that money can't buy and make you sleep like a baby at the end of each day."

Having a problem with self-esteem? Take a tip from Hap Dalrymple. . . it is the natural by-product of doing that which is esteemable. . . whether anyone notices or not.

                                                                                                            --October 2009

Harold H. “Hap” Dalrymple had a profound effect on the many people in his life. Here are some thoughts by some of those people:

Daughter Ruth Dalrymple Torbert: “There was a time during my Daddy’s leukemia treatments that I prayed for a chance to “do” something that could really help him. He had always done everything he could for me. Even when he wasn’t happy with my choices he helped me through the hard times. My prayer was answered when the doctors decided he needed platelet transfusions in his treatment. As his daughter, I was the best match possible. There was absolutely no hesitation to spend whatever time was needed to provide him with platelets. That was the least I could do.

Dr. Al-Rashid: “Mr. Dalrymple was my mentor and fine friend when I was a graduate student in 1970… My warmest and most poignant memories were of the many hours sitting in the instrument van after working on the roadside analyzing data for my research.  He provided expert guidance and counsel during those academically challenging times.  He was a master at his craft and a fine human being.  I will never forget his friendship.  I consider it a sincere privilege and honor to establish this scholarship in honor of my good friend ‘Hap’ Dalrymple.”

Dr. Clyde Lee: “Hap was one of the few staff people working for the Center for Highway Research at that time, and he was an essential part of our development.  The students working with Hap respected him for his judgment and practical approach and appreciated his friendship.”

Craig Carlile, Hap’s nephew who worked off-shore with McClelland Engineers in Houston in 1976: “Part of the legacy that Hap Dalrymple has left with me is the balance in which he conducted his life.  Hap was able to lead his life in a manner that seamlessly integrated professional dedication, commitment to family and devotion to God. Professionally, Hap modeled a patient, determined approach to achieving his objectives.  The construction of new tools for geotechnical exploration required the detailed assembly and careful soldering of small, delicate parts.  Detailed work that undoubtedly would benefit from a steady hand. However, Hap was afflicted with a tremor in his hand that must have made these tasks extraordinarily difficult.  When I asked how he was able to accomplish these tasks, He responded that he tried to use the movement to his advantage.  I never believed that there was an advantage to the tremor but I did observe the advantage that comes from dogged determination.”

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