Dr. H. Q. Golder (1911 – 1990)

Hugh Golder head shot bio pic

Dr. Hugh Golder was 50 when he agreed in 1960 with Victor Milligan, who was 30 at that time, to form the firm now known as Golder Associates.

Dr. Golder was a pioneer and authority in the field of geotechnical engineering, beginning his career at the Building Research Station in England, where he was engaged in developing testing techniques for dams and foundations following the failure of the London-area Chingford reservoir dam in 1937.

During World War Two, he worked on the construction of airfields and Mulberry Harbour for the D-Day Normandy landings. He helped to set up and served as a Director of Soil Mechanics Ltd in London, U.K. from 1944 to 1957, working on a wide variety of projects around the world.

Dr. Golder was a co-founder of the international journal Geotechnique in 1948 and published over 50 technical papers, which, as he proudly stated, contained “many with original ideas.”

After resigning on a matter of principle, he set up his own consulting company, during which he carried out a feasibility study for a causeway from Prince Edward Island to the Canadian mainland. One year later,he emigrated with his family to Canada and became a private Toronto- based consultant, working on various projects, as well as consulting to Geocon, where Victor Milligan was the assistant chief engineer.


In 1960, Dr. Golder was encouraged by Larry Soderman (then at the Ontario Department of Highways) to expand and open a regular consulting practice. Dr. Golder agreed on the basis that someone else would run the business – a challenge which Victor Milligan accepted. H.Q. Golder & Associates was incorporated on July 12, 1960. Dr. Golder served as President until 1974, and Chairman of the Board until 1976, when he retired from full time work.

Victor Milligan emphasized that Dr. Golder, besides having a splendid reputation, was a wonderful mentor and friend, had great confidence in young people, a great sense of loyalty to friends, and a passion to do good work.


One of the projects that Milligan particularly liked to emphasize is the Arrow Lakes dam on the Columbia River in B.C. (now known as the Hugh Keenleyside dam) which came through Dr. Golder. It served as a critical early project for the new company and helped establish its reputation. The dam was the first in the world of any size built by bottom dumping fill into flowing water.

In an obituary in Geotechnique, Professor Gibson described Dr. Golder as “a man of honesty and compassion, he helped both client and competitor with equal grace; a man of vision, he stimulated others to excel through his leadership and guidance.”

Dr. Golder liked to write poetry, both about soil mechanics and the friends he admired. Upon his passing, it was said he was “a man of wit, poetry and discernment, and he sought the high road for himself and others to follow.”

John Boyd wrote in Golder’s 50th anniversary historical overview in 2010: “From the comments of those who knew him (Dr. Golder) well, it is clear to me that his experience and reputation from decades of practice in his chosen field provided the springboard from which the company could quickly grow in its early years. He personally financed the start-up of business and deferred his own salary (for one and a half years) until the company could afford to pay him. He set a high standard for technical excellence in the performance of Golder work.”



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