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July 26, 2021

Professor Emeritus Al Wortley passes away

Written By: Alex Holloway

C. Allen Wortley, a professor emeritus of engineering professional development, died in July 2021.

 C. Allen Wortley
C. Allen Wortley

Wortley, a professional engineer and land surveyor, earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Antioch College in 1956, his master’s degree in civil engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1957, and a professional development degree in engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983. He began his career in 1957 as a consulting engineer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before moving to Wisconsin, where he continued his consulting work.

He joined UW-Madison’s faculty in 1974, and during his tenure, rose to the position of associate dean for engineering outreach. Wortley taught, among other things, soil mechanics and foundational engineering, and he also researched ice engineering, construction engineering and management, geotechnical and structural engineering, and distance education. For more than 30 years, Wortley studied cold region issues, with an eye toward understanding the effects of ice on small-craft harbors and marinas across the Great Lakes.

He published 10 papers from 1993-2008, and organized and lectured in more than 300 conferences, institutes and short courses in his time with EPD. During his time at UW-Madison, Wortley gained a reputation for providing outstanding continuing education opportunities and for reaching out to and leaving lasting impacts on nontraditional students through his professional development courses.

Throughout his long tenure, Wortley earned numerous awards, including a Harold R. Peyton Cold Regions Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (1997), Professional Engineer of the Year award from the Wisconsin Society of Professional Engineers (1997), the CAN-AM Civil Engineering Amity Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (1998), the Van Hise Outreach Distinguished Teaching Award at UW-Madison (1998), and a Lifetime Achievement Award in construction at UW-Madison (2008).

Wortley played an integral role in starting and directing UW-Madison’s railroad engineering program, which launched in 2001 after he developed a survey course focused on civil engineering principles for the rail industry.

Beyond the classroom, Wortley enjoyed golf and other sports. For more than 35 years, he worked home Badger football games at Camp Randall Stadium as a member of the “chain gang”—officials who use two markers atop chained-together sticks to keep track of down-and-distance.

And, though he described himself as “not a runner,” Wortley competed in 30 straight Crazylegs Classics, running each to completion, all the way until his final Crazylegs in 2011 at 76 years old. The Crazylegs earliest iterations coincided with the Badgers’ spring football games, so Wortley would run, then head over to the football stadium to get ready for his chain gang duty.

Wortley is survived by Dale, his wife of 65 years; their children, Margot Paro and Caroline Wortley, and grandson, John Allen Paro.