Charles H. Goodspeed

Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Public Service

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Photographed on September 14, 2004, at the site of the Mill Street Bridge Project, Epping, N.H.


Charles H. Goodspeed

For more than 25 years, Charlie Goodspeed has often been the “go to” guy for officials across New Hampshire.

Selectmen have gone to Charlie when they needed a new fire station. National Forest officials have approached Charlie for help strengthening timber bridges. Transportation officials have consulted Charlie on improving high-speed guardrails.

Of course, Goodspeed doesn’t do all this himself. He enlists senior civil engineering students who need to complete a “capstone” experience before graduating. At most engineering schools, this culmination of four years of learning happens in fantasyland—students design fictitious projects that never see the light of day—but at UNH, senior projects are grounded in reality.

“My whole teaching philosophy is that people learn when they have a need to know,” says Goodspeed. “When they have a special project that creates an urgent need for knowledge, plus the ability to apply it, students learn so much more.”

The reports, drawings, and presentations prepared by the students show municipalities their options before hiring a licensed engineering firm. Last year, civil engineering seniors completed the site layout and building design for a new fire station in Goffstown. “It provides a nice independent perspective on the issues that are facing the community,” says Fire Chief Frank Carpentino. “I can tell them what we need, but the students substantiate what is correct and what needs to be reevaluated.”

The project was the second completed for Goffstown in recent years. An earlier study helped convince voters they needed a new station. “The students did a fantastic job,” says Carpentino. “The service that’s provided from the college to communities is tremendous.”

The projects also give students some of their first hands-on experience with real-world problems. “Our senior project was probably one of the most rewarding things I did in school,” said Jessica Beebe, one of seven students who worked on the fire station.

The frugality of this partnership, in which students in the final stages of their education help municipalities take the initial steps of assessing projects, is worthy of Goodspeed’s Yankee background. Born in Massachusetts and relocated to Maine at the age of eight, Goodspeed received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati , he taught at Carnegie Mellon University . He left the top-10 engineering school after six years to move back to New England when both his parents became ill.

“I never turned back and I never regretted it,” said Goodspeed “It’s been wonderful here at UNH.”

Goodspeed finds many of the projects for his students through the UNH Technology Transfer (T2) Center. He has been principal investigator for the center since founding it in 1986. “T squared” is part of a national network that provides technology, services, and education for public works departments. The T2 Road Scholar Program, which provides training on topics such as culvert installation, public relations, and tort liability, is recognized as a credential of competency by municipalities statewide. The center has distributed Goodspeed’s Road Surface Management System software to more than 5,000 public works departments in seven countries.

For Goodspeed, public service isn’t about recognition, but a job well done. “When it comes to sharing the limelight, he will often allow a junior faculty member, or even the students, to place their names first on publications and in press releases,” writes CEPS Associate Dean Robert Henry. “He just seems to get his satisfaction from the fact that the project was a success.”

— Robert Emro