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Oldrich Hungr

$15,780.00 (raised so far)

About Oldrich Hungr

Oldrich Hungr, PhD, PEng/PGeo, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences passed away unexpectedly on August 10, 2017. He was a leading expert in landslide hazard assessment with a long legacy of passing on his knowledge through teaching, supervision and research. Oldrich was a highly accomplished international scientist as well as a valued colleague and mentor.

Oldrich was born in Prague, Czech Republic, where he spent his youth biking, skiing, kayaking and mountain climbing, all sports which he continued to pursue throughout his life. He met his wife, Klema, as a rope partner in a mountaineering school in the High Tatra Mountains. His academic pursuits began in Prague, where he studied Civil Engineering at the Czech Technical University. Amid the uncertainty of the spring of 1969, when the Iron Curtain closed the Czech borders, Oldrich and Klema emigrated to Canada.

In Canada, Oldrich completed his undergraduate and master’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa, after which he and Klema moved to Toronto where Oldrich worked for the Trow Group. They then moved to Edmonton in 1977 where Oldrich did his PhD under Dr. N. R. Morgenstern, thus initiating his expertise in landslide hazards. During this time, their two sons, Pierre and Nikolai were born. From there, they made their final move to Vancouver where, in their first few years, their daughter Clara was born and they renovated two houses. Oldrich also started a software company, well known for developing the slope stability and dynamic runout programs CLARA, DAN and DAN3D. In 1996, Oldrich joined the Earth and Ocean Sciences department at UBC, where he stayed until his retirement in 2016.

Oldrich’s adventurous career culminated in an outstanding number of accomplishments. Some highlights include developing new techniques for slope stability analysis and the modelling of landslide behaviour, mentoring over 40 graduate students, being a favoured teacher of multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in the EOAS department, and publishing over 170 articles, 15 book chapters and four edited books. He was a sought-after speaker, invited to teach courses and give lectures across international institutions. In addition to his academic work, Oldrich never lost touch with his consulting roots, maintaining an active role in over 1,000 assignments in 35 countries, and being a member of national and international review boards. He also received a number of awards, from the UBC teaching award to international awards recognizing his geotechnical contributions (for example the 2008 Schuster Medal and the 2015 Varnes Medal).

While being hugely accomplished, Oldrich was also humble and approachable. He will be remembered for his engaging storytelling, unique sense of humour and practical insights. His remarkable life is a testament to the inertia of passion and integrity, to a man who found a home in the geotechnical community and strove to make it a home for others.

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The impact of your support

In memory of Oldrich’s life, the Oldrich Hungr Memorial Award has been established to support and encourage future generations of geotechnical engineers.

Your gift will pay tribute to Oldrich, and help continue his legacy by supporting students with the same drive and passion for his line of study in the geotechnical field.

Messages of Remembrance

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  • I´m sorry about it. I cant no more invite Oldřich (Olda) to the anniversary classmate meeting of our elementary school. All of us remember Olda always as the good school friend with his characteristic friendly characters, and the unusual intelligence, gentle humour. There for his life was so admirable and sucsessful.

    Jaroslav Prepura, class-mate from the elementary school
  • I met Oldrich when we shared an office while doing our Masters' in geotechnical engineering at the University of Ottawa in 1972. We stayed in touch from time to time but we did lose touch - I just today learned of his passing. Rest in peace, my friend.

    Bob Wallace, Colleague
  • I've met Pr. Hungr in 2010 when I attended his classes for a short-term study in landslides. So far, I am still grateful for his kindness and honesty. His earnest and passion for works, living, people and students would always inspire my life and career with enthusiasm. Thank you.

    HsiHung Lin, Student
  • I was very shocked and saddened to read of Oldrich's passing in Innovation Magazine today. I learned how to climb up creeks in every sort of weather, evaluate debris flow potential, and rappel down many slopes, as I clambered all over the mountains following Oldrich's lead. My favourite thing about Oldrich was his mischievous little smile when he cracked jokes. I also appreciated how he kept in touch for years with advice for my geological career and just to have a lovely conversation over lunch or coffee. A brilliant engineer and scientist, and a quintessential outdoors man. He taught me a great respect for the environment. Thank you, Oldrich, for your great contributions, and for enriching my life.

    Kim Feltham, Field Assistant 1984/1985
  • For many years, it was my pleasure to chat with Oldrich at professional meetings and also to draw upon his knowledge during phone calls. So it was a pleasure to have Oldrich be my host when I came to UBC on March 2, 2016 as the Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer. The best part was having time to talk in his office and linger over lunch shared with Erik Eberhardt. I thought of Oldrich this July while touring the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam. There I saw the self-portraits Rembrandt had done as a young man and later in years. Oldrich and I had an interesting conversation about copies of those two prints he kept in his office. Seeing those Rembrandt self-portraits will always bring Oldrich to mind in the future, too.

    Jerry De Graff, Fellow Landslide Researcher
  • As I reflect on some of the most amazing people I have met in my life, well, Oldrich Hungr is easily in that group on several fronts. As everyone knew, he was kind, brilliant and he had a unparalleled calming demeanor on any issue that arose. To this day, I consider myself extremely lucky to have spent time (1996-1998) with Oldrich at UBC as he was, in my eyes, a world leader in the field of landslide analyses but also a great person in life. On a personal note and for fun, based on his slight accent he never mastered the pronunciation of my name, but then again, I never corrected him. I enjoyed his take on it and I'll never forget it. Another fact, in case some were not aware, Oldrich often rode his bike to UBC. The Lions Gate Bridge was the first bridge he would have to cross in his commute - I couldn't believe the distance he covered before work! One important lesson I learned from Oldrich: strive for excellence and not perfection - a simple but powerful concept, especially for geoscientists and geological engineers. After UBC, I would surprise Oldrich with a phone call / favour / consulting request once in awhile to see if he could help out on a high profile landslide project. He never said no. He was a person you could count on to help out and a person that will be sincerely missed by all of us.

    Daryn, Grad student/ research assistant
  • Oldrich .... one of a few with such a keen mind .... such intellect .... such a loss.

    Graham Morgan, Former colleague
  • Dear Klema, Clara, Pierre and Nikolai, I would have liked to be present, with my wife Bianca, at this Oldrich celebration day. Unfortunately I was not able to reconcile familiar problems and the obligations of this period of the academic year. I want to give you these few words to testify the fundamental importance of Oldrich in my scientific life, and not only. I met Oldrich in 1999. He was interested in Sarno's landslides, near Naples. With Steve Evans, we had wonderful and substantial scientific moments during which my car was stolen: it was found after a few hours, even in Oldrich's disbelief! Although I had been studying those landslides for a time, only the encounter with Oldrich made me understand the trigger mechanism of the the Sarno debris avalanches and flows. We surveyed and turned to the 160 landslide source areas of the Sarno Mountains and visited the Amalfi Coast with the same problems. Those scientific deductions I made mine, and since then, I have recognized Oldrich as a master. A deep friendship was born, friendship that has also changed in a family relationship. Our mutual visits to Vancouver, Naples, at Pont en Royans in Calvi testify to that. I have on my desk the very first postcard you sent me with the indication of your home. It is for me a testimony of how our reciprocal esteem and deep affection are still one of the most important parts of our lifes. Thanks Oldrich, I miss you.

    Francesco Maria Guadagno, Colleague from Italy
  • The landscape around us is telling a story and Oldrich is the one who taught me how to read it.

    Dale Heffernan, Student
  • The first time I met Oldrich, after having exchanging email with him during several year was in 2002 in Celano. A wonderful place to discuss about landslides.

    Véronique Merrien,
  • Oldrich stood on the edge of a steep embankment, having just given a short summary of what the students should be looking for in reading the terrain. And then with a pause, he jumped over the edge and disappeared from sight, until the students rushed to edge to see Oldrich skipping down a 50 m slope in what was a loose sand. The look on the students face to see there distinguished professor jump off a cliff... priceless. So many fantastic experiences in the field, and so much to learn in our shared interests of geological engineering, but more importantly, how to carry yourself with humour, humility and integrity.

    Erik Eberhardt, Friend
  • Oldrich (circled) in his element at Avalanche Lake, NWT in 1990.

    Steve Evans, Friend and Colleague, University of Waterloo
  • I had the chance to meet Oldrich several times at Grenoble during the last ten years, and it has always been a great pleasure for me to spend some time with him. Oldrich was really a nice, clever, humble, and caring man. I remember the day we spent in the Chartreuse mountains, talking about torrents with students. The last time we met was in late June this year. Oldrich came to Grenoble to participate to a PhD defense committee, and we had some very instructive discussions with him, as ever. His contribution to the science of debris flows is really impressive and he will be missed to all of us.

    Fred Liébault, Colleague from France
  • I've met Oldrich 7 years ago and I'm still very grateful for his true and honest help and contribution to my professional career. His advice had also immense positive effect to my personal life.

    Jan Jarolim, Colleague
  • I am very sad to hear bad news from my friend and former colleague Jan Jarolim. I worked with Oldrich on the Britannia Mine landslide project in early 2000 and occasionally exchanged a few outdoor stories when our paths crossed. He was the one who sent Jan with recommendation to my office at SRK. He will be greatly missed.

    Jarek Jakubec, Colleague
  • Since Oldrich's passing, we have been flooded with very personal and sincere messages of condolence from all over the world. We are extremely touched by this overwhelming response that clearly shows how Oldrich touched so many people not just professionally but personally as well. This was perhaps his most distinguishing trait: his ability to conduct professional encounters at the highest level, but in a friendly, natural and very personal manner. His profession was part of who he was, and it affected not only others, but also our family. We traveled with him all over, we spoke of rocks at dinnertime, we laughed at his adventures with colleagues (friends), holiday slideshows consisted mostly of landslides seen from various angles, in the early days we spent countless days packaging Clara-w copies in hand-cut cardboard boxes, the list goes on. Geotechnical engineering was a daily topic in the Hungr family and because of this, we would like to give our deepest and most sincerest thanks to the entire geotechnical community, who made our husband and father who he was and through him gave us, as a family, such an incredibly interesting and exiting life. To help remember Oldrich's legacy and to give back to the community at least this little bit, we have opened this scholarship fund in the hopes that it will continue to motivate geotechnical students like Oldrich always strove to do. Very sincerely Klema, Clara, Pierre and Nikolai.

    The Hungr Family,
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