Leaders and Legacies: Bob Gooch

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By Mike Morrison, Vice President, Senior Advisor

As part of our 125 Anniversary celebration, we’re recognizing past leaders whose vision continues to drive us forward.

My life and career were greatly enhanced by having the opportunity of knowing and working with Bob Gooch. He was a remarkable engineer and one of the smartest people I have ever met.

Bob was the model for integrity and professionalism, never accepting anything less than the highest standards. In a complex and hectic world that has a tendency to relax standards for the sake of expediency, Bob never compromised his high standards and would not allow anyone else to, either.

I was honored to have co-authored an article with Bob in 1996 entitled “Engineering Contributions to Water Supply, Water Purification and Wastewater Treatment in Texas,” published in the Texas Society of Professional Engineers magazine. I still recall how many times I needed to edit that article in an attempt to stay close to Bob’s standards and tremendous knowledge of Texas water issues.

As a younger engineer working for Bob, I dreaded his calibrated, experienced eye for detail and his perfectionism, but I was fortunate to be imprinted with the Gooch standard. He was a valued engineer, teacher and mentor whose influence and legacy have continued through the lives he touched, his contribution to development of water resources in Texas and his example of excellence to future generations.

Bob left a lasting impression on so many people, whether they worked with him every day or only a few times, whether they were fellow engineers or clients whose trust he earned through his skill and integrity. He had plenty of years to make an impact, joining Freese and Nichols in 1955 and staying through a 46-year career.

As an engineer, Bob was considered one of the best water resource planners in the state. He had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and experience in the U.S. Air Force. He advanced from design engineer to project manager, principal-in-charge and vice president at the company, working on projects for dams, pump stations, pipelines, and drainage facilities, feasibility studies for water supply projects, and river basin master plans.

He worked on many of Freese and Nichols’ dam and reservoir projects, including Lakes Weatherford, Arlington, Conroe, Spence and Ivie, and Marine Creek, Cedar Creek, Hubbard Creek, Greenbelt, Millers Creek, Forest Grove, Gibbons Creek, Squaw Creek and Richland Creek reservoirs.

He also was an innovator who recognized early on that using computer technology extensively for engineering applications could save time and money. That helped our staff complete projects faster and more efficiently, and it benefitted our clients’ budgets.

Starting in the late 1950s, Bob developed many of the firm’s computer programs for hydraulic, structural, hydrologic and water quality analysis, and he shared his expertise through articles in professional publications. He also helped move Freese and Nichols into adopting computers for our accounting and financial records.

What those of us who had the privilege of working with Bob saw on a regular basis were his brilliant mind and his quiet but authoritative way of talking that got people to listen. Those attributes helped shape Freese and Nichols in lasting ways.

Bob also left a legacy in his son Tom, one of Texas’ most experienced water resource planners who has been involved in developing the state’s regional water plans since the program started.

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