Nature 28

Yuan Chun Eugene "Gene" Chang

January 15, 1922 ~ May 29, 2020 (age 98)


Yuan Chun Eugene “Gene” Chang, 98, an accomplished civil engineer, lifetime scholar, and beloved father and husband, passed away quietly at his home with his family in Barrington on Friday, May 29, 2020. Gene was born on Jan. 15, 1922 in Wuxi, China.

He earned his first Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from St. John’s University in Shanghai in 1942 at the age of 20. He was awarded a highly prestigious U.S. scholarship, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship (Gengzi Paikuan Jiang Xue Jin), which earned him a place in the Civil Engineering Master’s Program at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. In just 7 months, Gene achieved his first Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering. After working for the Illinois Highway Dept. for 2 years, Gene continued his scholarly pursuits at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, where he completed both a second bachelor’s degree in Textile Engineering and a second master’s degree in Sanitary Engineering in only 3 years.

Following graduation, he worked for Sverdrup & Parcel Co. on the Air Force Wind Tunnel Project, the East St. Louis City Public Works and Charles McClurg & Associates, St. Louis, IL. There, Gene met Isabel Liang, and a year later they were married. Gene went on to earn his Doctorate in Civil Engineering, specializing in Soil Mechanics from U of I. After earning his PhD, Gene began his 40- year career with Harza Engineering Co., Chicago. During that time, he worked on the Tarbela Dam Project in Pakistan, The Ertan Hydroelectric Dam in Sichuan Province of China, and served as a senior consultant on the Three Gorges Dam Project.

After retirement, he and Isabel continued to travel the world, enjoyed gardening, discussing politics and current world events, and spending time with their grandchildren. Gene was a father figure to many, a consummate learner, committed to the betterment of society and held firmly steadfast in his belief in democracy and the good in all people. He dedicated his life to providing for his family as well as making higher education accessible to his extended family.

Gene is survived by his wife of 63 years, Isabel Liang Chang, his two children, Clifton Chang (and Kyle Lucy Chang) and Cara Chang Mutert (and Rob Mutert); 5 grandchildren, Connor and Owen Chang, Clayton, Chris and Bella Mutert; and 2 great grand-children Austin and Bryson.

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