Ewing Scholarship honors life of Christian engineer

By Kim Chaudoin on 5/10/2013

  
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Figuring out how things work and are built have fascinated Bob Ewing for nearly a century.

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Honoree Bob Ewing
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Fred Ewing, at podium, announces the engineering scholarship founded in honor of his father, Bob, seated.

A native of Salem, Ore., Bob parlayed that fascination into a career as a civil engineer who had an impact across the country.

His son, Fred, grew up observing first-hand Bob’s love for making things work and the impact that he had in his career. In recognition of that impact and to ensure that future generations will be able to pursue their fascination with how things work, Fred recently established the Robert Clark Ewing Engineering Scholarship Fund in his father’s honor.

“From his early years, my dad was actively engaged in helping on the family farm and developed a natural curiosity for how things worked and were built,” said Fred. “He also was born into a family of faith. He is known for his optimistic, can-do personality and his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He is the quintessential Christian engineer. Lipscomb’s program is one that emphasizes using engineering skills to help others and is a wonderful blend of the kind of engineer my father was. We want to help others pursue an engineering education and have the potential to impact the world around them.”

The endowed scholarship will be awarded annually to a student who is pursuing a degree in engineering. Eligible students will apply for the scholarship and be selected by a committee comprised of Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering faculty and other university officials.

“We appreciate the life of Bob Ewing and the example that he is to our students,” said Justin Myrick, dean of the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering. “This scholarship will help train future generations of engineers to go out into the world and use their curiosity and skills to not only make a living, but also to help others.”

Bob’s story began in 1920 when he was born to college-educated parents who established a fruit farm in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley. From an early age, Bob helped around the farm, which ignited his curiosity about how things work. Faith was also a strong presence in the Ewing household, as his parents were very involved in the Salem First Christian Church and as they established an interfaith Sunday school program in the community.

As both of his parents had college degrees Bob began his college studies in 1938 at Willamette University. He later transferred to Oregon State University where he graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1943. World War II was in full force at that time, but Bob’s nearsighted vision prevented his enlistment in the service. However he soon found a way to serve his country as he went to work for Boeing in the bomber division.

Soon Bob found himself serving as Boeing’s engineer liaison with General Motors plants in the South and Midwest that were repurposed for making engines for the bombers. As he travelled the country in that role, Bob was based for a time in Memphis, Tenn., where he met his future wife, Christine, to whom he was married for more then 60 years until her death in 2006.

Following the war, they moved to Seattle for Bob to work for Boeing. He soon decided to leave the big defense contractor to work for regional construction companies building bridges, schools, clinics and other community-type infrastructure. In 1952, Bob and Christine returned to Memphis where Bob worked for L and M Construction Company. The Ewings — which included Fred and his sister, Janet, by this time — then moved to Jackson, Miss., where Bob worked with the MT Reed Construction Company, for which he built flood walls, bridges, schools, airport terminals and runways, and other vital community infrastructure.

While in Mississippi, Bob developed an expertise in that region’s unique and volatile Yazoo clay and the damaging impact it had on building foundations and roadways as it would shrink in dry weather and expand in wet weather.

“Dad saw that once a building’s foundation was compromised, the building’s value plummeted,” said Fred. “Ever the creative engineer, dad declared war on the Yazoo clay and started his own business dedicated to helping people who had such problems.”

In 1968, the Ewing Foundation Company was founded. Through the years Bob procured patents on special drilling equipment that could, in tight quarters, drill down 40 to 60 feet through the volatile Yazoo clay and anchor foundation pilings in stable soils. He operated the business successfully and sold it in 1994. During that time Bob fixed foundations from small houses to large apartment complexes, from churches to schools, from hotels to colleges.

From 1994 until 2010 — even at age 90 — Bob provided professional engineering advice to a variety of clients regarding structural foundations. One such project resulted in a paper being published by the American Society of Civil Engineering in 2010 about Bob’s work in helping restore the historical home of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Eudora Welty.

Through his life, Bob was a man of faith and used his skills to help others. He was active in church life and served as an elder at the Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, Miss., for many years. Today, he resides in Brentwood, where he is a member of the Otter Creek Church of Christ.

For more information about the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering, visit engineering.lipscomb.edu.