AISC Remembers Fracture and Fatigue Expert Stanley T. Rolfe

Stanley T. Rolfe, PE, PhD, one of the nation’s leading experts on fracture and fatigue, died January 23, 2023, at age 88.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Rolfe began his career at U.S. Steel but is best known for the more than four decades he spent as a professor at the University of Kansas. A longtime member of ASTM International and recipient of the 2003 Charles B. Dudley Medal, he served for over 50 years on Committee E08 on Fatigue and Fracture and also contributed to the AASHTO Technical Committee on Steel Design (T-14).

“Stan has touched so many people's lives for the better--he was always focused on lifting others around him up and building their success--a true leader in every sense of the word,” said Caroline Bennett, PE, PhD, the Dean R. and Florence W. Frisbie Associate Chair of Graduate Studies at the University of Kansas. “Stan was a brilliant researcher and an incredibly joyful, energetic person. He gave a sense of purpose and excitement to every research endeavor and technical conversation and had a true gift for distilling complex concepts and decisions to their core essence. Stan was a true friend and committed mentor to many, and is terribly missed by his colleagues at the University of Kansas.”

Rolfe is an inductee in the National Academy of Engineering. He also chaired the Technical Committee on Fracture and Structural Fatigue at the American Society of Civil Engineers, which, over the course of his life, made him a Fellow and an honorary member and presented him with the Ernst E. Howard Award.

His legacy includes more than 70 technical papers on fracture, fatigue, and behavior, as well as the popular textbook, Fracture and Fatigue Control in Structures: Applications of Fracture Mechanics, co-authored by John Barsom, which focused on the application of fracture mechanics to prevent fracture and fatigue failures in structures.

“It has been a privilege to call Stan a friend and a colleague for over 50 years,” said John Barsom, PhD, a consultant and formerly the chief of the materials behavior division at U.S. Steel Corp. “We coauthored several papers and a book on fracture and fatigue in structures and taught a short course for 24 years. He will be remembered as a dedicated teacher and a mentor, an excellent engineer, and above all, a good and honest man. His contribution to fracture mechanics helped transform the field. He will be greatly missed.”

Added Duane K. Miller, PE, ScD, a welding design consultant with The Lincoln Electric Company: “I first ‘met’ Stan Rolfe when I purchased the textbook, Fatigue and Fracture Control in Structures, written with his co-author Dr. John Barsom. Their text was the basis for a graduate-level course on Fracture Mechanics that I was about to take. Little did I know that I’d eventually meet these two world-class experts who would become professional colleagues and personal friends. I was always honored when Stan would give me a call out of the blue just to see how things were going. This past January, I had my final conversation with Stan. I asked him if he’d be on the peer review panel for the AISC Design Guide on Avoiding Brittle Fracture I’m currently writing. In a very Stan-like way, he said, ‘After breakfast, I take a walk. Then, I read the newspaper and The Economist. After that, I’m ready for some technical reading, so yes, I’d be honored to be on the peer review panel.’ That will not happen now, but I’ll always cherish his final comments to me that he’d be honored to be on the peer review panel when in reality it was my honor to know such a technical genius. I’ll remember Dr. Rolfe as a friend, mentor, and colleague, in that order.”

Rolfe was also a member of the National Research Council Project Advisory Board and a past chair of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials’ uncoated weathering steel study group.

“I was saddened to hear of Stan’s passing, a mentor and friend of many years,” said Edward P. Wasserman, PE, a senior technical advisor with Modjeski and Masters and former director of the structures division of the Tennessee DOT. “The bridge design community has relied on Stan’s expertise in fracture mechanics and structural behavior of steel bridges to assess fatigue cracks, methods of arresting crack growth, and development of practical repair methods. His guidance made valuable contributions to bridge safety and to the body of knowledge on improving the understanding of steel bridge structural behavior.”

Rolfe was a well-known speaker, and many of his AISC lectures can be found at

“Stan’s kindness and humility always impressed me,” said Charles J. Carter, SE, PE, PhD, president of AISC. “I enjoyed his practicality and gift at teaching even the most complex subjects.”

A celebration of Rolfe’s life is planned for early June 2023 at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, Kan.