Alan Curtis, 1947-2013

Alan Curtis 11280902

Alan Curtis died Dec. 11 at the age of 66 and, as Pavement Advisory Board member Michael Nawa put it, “Somehow our industry feels smaller today.”

But the paving and pavement maintenance industry – and this magazine and National Pavement Expo – wouldn’t be big enough to feel small without the support and assistance Mr. Curtis provided starting in 1991 when he was the keynote speaker – not surprisingly the topic was “Bringing Quality to Pavement Maintenance” -- at Pavement’s first West Coast event in Long Beach, CA.

A Pavement Advisory Board member since 1992 and an engineer who from 1983-2007 operated Chec Consultants in Redding, CA, Alan Curtis was a believer. He believed in this industry, he believed in contractors, he believed in doing the job right, he believed in education and he energized his beliefs with his actions. From this magazine’s early days Mr. Curtis was an unpaid and much-pestered consultant and fact checker, the go-to reference to make sure ideas and articles were on track and that explanations were on target. From his inaugural keynote address – not surprisingly the topic was “Bringing Quality to Pavement Maintenance” -- to “Understanding Pavement Defects,” his last session, Alan was a force at NPE and NPE West where he brought a vitality to his presentations and even his informal conversations with contractors. Because he believed in doing quality work and in doing work the right way he was willing – eager – to spend time with contractors helping them solve their problems and guide their pavement maintenance efforts. He was able to explain often complex engineering principles and technical concepts in terms just about anyone can understand, and in doing so he helped raise the standards on paving and pavement maintenance jobs and helped contractors improve the work and service they provide their customers. In other words, he helped create this industry by making it more credible.

There are undoubtedly thousands of contractors who have improved their estimating and on-the-job operations as a result of something they learned from Mr. Curtis, and there are thousands more who, though they don’t realize it, have implemented something they learned from this magazine that Mr. Curtis had guided, clarified, corrected or improved on. And all those contractors have improved their business and along with that the industry.

So if you had the opportunity to learn from one of Mr. Curtis’s seminars, or if you were lucky enough to share a cup of coffee with him or buttonhole him in an NPE hallway, you already know and probably carry with you the joy and enthusiasm he had for his life, his work – and for your work. If you didn’t have that opportunity, fear not: There are plenty of people out there – not least of all his son James and daughter Aleah who now run Chec Management Systems Inc. -- who will carry on his legacy in the quality work they do and the high standards they set.

So we’ll miss Alan Curtis and his black cowboy hat (often paired with his bright purple shirt and bolo string tie), but he made his mark on this industry and his impact can be seen in every accurate pavement assessment, every correctly applied solution, and every quality job completed by a contractor.