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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Structural engineer Arthur Chiu, 76

 •  Obituaries

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

According to his former UH students, Dr. Arthur N.L. Chiu's love for teaching inspired them.

University of Hawai'i Foundation

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Arthur N.L. Chiu, a legendary figure in Hawai'i engineering circles and an international expert on the effects of wind on structures, died Monday. He was 76.

Chiu died at Straub Clinic & Hospital after suffering a stroke Friday at a Structural Engineering Association of Hawai'i function.

"A legend connotes someone who leaves a lasting impression and I think it's an apt description of him to the engineering community here," said Maurice Kaya, chief technology officer of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

"His dedication to the (University of Hawai'i's) engineering school, the community and to his students was unparalleled."

For 42 years, starting in 1953, Chiu taught structural engineering at UH-Manoa. As a professor emeritus, he remained active on campus as a mentor, researcher and volunteer with the local chapter of Chi Epsilon, the national civil engineering honor society, that he helped organize in 1957 and with the Hawai'i Chi Epsilon Alumni Association.

As a teacher, his reputation was that of a taskmaster but one whose door was always open to students.

Barry Muranaka, a civil engineer, took an upper-level class taught by Chiu in 1989 that changed his perspective.

"I don't think I ever had a professor that made me want to learn until then," Muranaka said. "He enjoyed teaching so much that he made you want to learn, rather than have to learn. You could walk into his office at anytime.

"Everybody knew you had to work in his class."

Two of Chiu's former students Robert Akinaka of Akinaka & Associates Ltd. and retired city Transportation Services director Ed Hirata recently established an endowed scholarship in civil engineering in honor of Chiu at UH.

"You know how we all credit that one teacher for our success, the one teacher you remember who took personal interest in you? For many of us, that's Dr. Chiu," Akinaka said.

Chiu was a longtime volunteer with the Hawai'i State Hurricane Advisory Commission and also a similar commission for earthquakes. Ed Teixeira, vice director of state Civil Defense, said Chiu's knowledge of the effects on wind on buildings and terrain will be missed.

"It's a big loss," Teixeira said. "At his level of experience and what he has gone through, the field is now vacant."

In the aftermath of the super Typhoon Paka in 1997, Chiu was a member of the first National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team assembled to study the wind-related damage.

A native of Singapore and fourth of seven children from a family that had a music business, Chiu attended Oregon State University.

"In Singapore, you had to study either medicine or law and he wanted to be an engineer," Katherine Chiu said of her husband of 53 years, whom she met in Corvallis, Ore. The couple came to Hawai'i in 1953 after he earned his master's degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"He wanted to take a break before going for his doctorate, so he taught," Katherine Chiu said. After the year was up, UH offered him more money to stay. "They made three offers, upping the money each time," she said. He stayed, she said, because "he loved teaching."

Though he didn't go into his family's business, Chiu enjoyed playing the violin and piano.

Among Chiu's honors are a UH Board of Regents award for excellence in teaching (1982), honorary membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Hawai'i Council of Engineering's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Vicky Chiu-Irion; son, Gregory, of Hong Kong; two grandchildren; and brother, Robert, and sister, Whily Wong, of Singapore.

Visitation will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at Diamond Head Mortuary, with a memorial service at 12:45 p.m., followed by burial at Diamond Head Memorial Park. Aloha attire, no flowers.

Donations to the Dr. Arthur N.L. Chiu Endowed Scholarship can be mailed to UH College of Engineering, Holmes Hall 240G, 2540 Dole St., Honolulu, HI 96822.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.