Norman McCammon was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After obtaining his undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Queen’s University, he moved to Canada in 1957. He initially worked for Geocon, then obtained an M.S.C.E. in geotechnical engineering at Purdue, six years after Vic Milligan had attended Purdue. Norm returned to Canada in 1961, joining the then fledgling Toronto office of Golder Associates, no doubt due to Victor’s influence.
After initial work on site investigations and foundation problems in Canada, Norm directed the geotechnical investigations for road projects in undeveloped areas in Ethiopia, which became Golder’s first international project. This assignment was followed by several years in Greece, where he was in charge of geotechnical investigations and dam designs for several major hydro-electric projects.
Norm moved with Golder Associates to Vancouver in 1965, remaining there for 44 years. He was recognized by peers as an authority on the seismic foundation design for bridge and port and marine structures. He worked on over 150 bridges in Canada and abroad. Major projects included the Confederation Bridge (Prince Edward Island to the Canadian mainland) and the Alex Fraser Bridge (Vancouver), as well as the foundation design of all important bridges in Vancouver. Norm was also recognized internationally for his expertise in piling problems, particularly for wharf and dock structures.
A friend to everyone he met, he helped, mentored, and, in his own way, cajoled all the young engineers that he worked with. Norm was instrumental in the growth and development of the Geotechnical Division in Golder’s Vancouver office, and many engineers “grew up” under his careful tutelage.
From 1993 to 1999, Norm was member of two technical sub-committees (foundations and seismicity) for the development of an updated Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, which was acknowledged as a first-rate publication and used in Canada and throughout the world. He was also past editor of the Canadian Geotechnical Journal.
Norm was a pillar of the geotechnical community in Vancouver and Canada. His counsel was regularly sought on large, complex infrastructure projects as he was able to see issues, understand what was needed to achieve the client’s goals, and communicate effectively to the project team. When presenting projects to clients, Norm was known to be very well-prepared, stating the issues and providing recommendations succinctly and clearly, with key drawings to illustrate both the big picture scope of the project, as well as important geotechnical details.
A client referred to Norm’s creative engineering as “solutions that bridge the gap between technical definition and practical understanding and that save his clients many millions of dollars.” However, on one project, Norm was unwilling to reduce his recommendations, as he considered human safety to be at stake. While the project went to another consultant, in the end it was completed using Norm’s design.
To each endeavour – large or small, local or international – Norm brought technical expertise, quiet leadership, integrity, and consideration for others, and an inclusive communication style. Friends and colleagues called him “the gentleman consultant” and the epitome of a professional engineer because his word was his bond.