American Society of Civil Engineers


Finch, James Kip; ASCE Life Member (1883-1967)



pg. 687

Document type: Memoir
Part of: Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers 1967
Abstract: James Kip Finch, the son of James Wells and Winifred Florence Louise (Kip) Finch, was born in Peekskill, NY, on December 1, 1883. He was graduated from Columbia University (New York, NY) with the degree of Bachelor of Science in civil engineering in 1906 and received the degree of Master of Arts from the same university in 1911.
He began his career as an instructor at the Summer School of Surveying at Columbia University in 1906. The same year he was an assistant engineer with the Tompkins Engineering Construction Co. In 1907 he taught at Lafayette College, Easton, PA, and was an assistant engineer for John B. Snooks, Sons, architects, New York, NY; worked for D. J. Ryan, contractor, in Brooklyn, NY, in 1908; was with List and Rose Contractors, New York, NY, in 1909; and did ranching and irrigation work in Montana in 1910. In 1910 he returned to Columbia University, first as a full-time instructor, then as assistant professor in 1915; associate professor in 1917; full professor in 1927; Renwick Professor in 1930; and chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering in 1932. In 1941 Prof. Finch was named associate dean and then, in 1946, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, a position he retained until 1950, when he retired to teach for two years as Renwick Professor. His teaching interests centered on the economic aspects of engineering and on the aesthetic design of engineering structures. He consistently advocated and encouraged the development of graduate courses and research civil engineering and was especially interested in Camp Columbia, the summer engineering camp near Litchfield, CT. Dean Finch was largely concerned with the philosophical, educational, and historical aspects of engineering and was the author of numerous works including Trends in Engineering Education (1948), Engineering and Western Civilization (1951), and The story of Engineering (1960). Dean Finch received the Columbia Alumni Medal in 1932; gold medal of the Class of 1889 a the Commencement of 1942; Egleston Medal of the Columbia Engineering School Alumni Association in 1944; Order des palmes academiques from France in 1949; "Great Teacher Award" from the Columbia Society of Older Graduates in 1951; honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Columbia University in 1954; and was named the first recipient, as of 1967, of the ASCE "Civil Engineering History and Heritage Award."
Dean Finch was a member of the American Society for Engineering Education; Society for Promotion of Engineering Education; Newcomen Society of England; Tau Beta Pi; Sigma Xi; Columbia Faculty Club; Sanctum, in Litchfield, CT; Century Association in New York, NY; and was active in numerous community organizations. He attended the episcopalian church. He was an avid painter, both in water colors and oils, enjoyed etching, and created in other media, as well.
On June 25, 1910, Mr. Finch was married to Lolita P. Mollmann in Stanford, NY. His wife died in 1964. He is survived by a son, Edward E. K.; a sister; and six grandchildren.
He was elected an Associate Member of the Society on November 3, 1915; a Member on October 1, 1928; and a Fellow on June 6, 1959. He became a Life Member in 1950. He was a Director of the Society from 1934 to 1936, and was a director and vice president of the ASCE Metropolitan Section from 1934 to 1944.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Memoirs of deceased members