Duane Ellifritt, Distinguished Educator and Structural Engineer, Dies at 82

Duane Ellifritt, a University of Florida professor best known for creating the first AISC Steel Teaching Sculpture, died on January 22 at the age of 82.

Ellifritt was heavily involved in the AISC Committee on Specifications, serving as a long-time member, task committee leader and innovator. In addition to his expertise on steel, he was an accomplished artist and his home and art studio are covered wall-to-wall with a wide range of his work, including many images of bridges and other structures.

In the mid-1980s, he melded his two loves -- steel and art -- to create the first steel teaching sculpture.

"I got frustrated in 1985," Ellifritt once reminisced. "I was teaching steel and when we taught connections, many students had a hard time visualizing a 3D connection. You can show them two or three views of it, but to show them the whole thing in their mind, they had trouble doing that. I was trying to think of ways that I could help them with that. Field trips were good, but there's not always a field trip available when you want one. Contractors are not always happy about your coming onto a job site with a bunch of students. My best solution was to create a sculpture on campus with all the different connections and members commonly used, shown in full scale. I designed the sculpture. It was fabricated in Ft. Lauderdale and erected in October 1986."

That sculpture became the model for an AISC initiative, and there are now more than 170 sculptures on college campuses throughout the country. (For more information on Ellifritt’s love of art as well as the sculpture, please visit to view “Creating Art in Unlikely Places.”)

“Duane Ellifritt was a kind and caring person,” said Charlie Carter, AISC’s president. “Soft-spoken and yet always authoritative, Duane led the advancement of member design requirements in the AISC Specification for many years when he served as a task committee chair. And he continued to contribute thereafter as a member, most recently having been honored as an emeritus member of the Committee on Specifications. We will miss his smile as much as his talents.”

Ellifritt was well respected by his students. “Without a doubt, I owe my career to Duane,” explained Thomas Sputo of Sputo and Lammert Engineering and a former doctoral student of Ellifritt’s. “He presented opportunities to me and made introductions and got me involved with many things outside of my research project. There is no way that I would have be able to pursue my passion for steel without Duane. In fact, I came back to UF to work on my PhD specifically because of Duane.”

In addition to the AISC Committee on Specifications, Ellifritt served on the AISI Committee on Specifications for the Design of Cold-Formed Members. He received an AISC Special Achievement Award in 1999, an AISC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and the George Winter Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2006.