The Friends of the Folsom Library have announced the inaugural Carl A. Westerdahl Forum, which will take place Thursday, Oct. 16, on campus. The two-part program is titled “Making the Connection: Rensselaer Graduates Who Built Bridges over the Hudson.” The program will highlight the role Rensselaer alumni played in the growth of bridge design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Carl Westerdahl

Carl Westerdahl, 1937-2013

The featured speaker will be Frank Griggs ’56, engineer, bridge restorer, and historian. Joining him as panelists will be Chris Letchford, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and George Christian, M.S. ’76, local bridge expert who spent many years with the New York State Department of Transportation.

The two-part program will begin with a lunchtime presentation, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Russell Sage Dining Hall, during which Griggs will lead a discussion titled “Civil Engineering Training at Rensselaer in the late 1800s.” Lunch will be available at a cost of $8; no cost to Rensselaer students.

The evening presentation, titled “Crossing the Hudson: Capital Region Bridges,” will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Auditorium. A dessert reception will follow the talk. There is no cost for the evening event.

The Westerdahl Forum was established in October 2013 by the board of directors of the Friends of the Folsom Library in honor of Westerdahl, a longtime member of the Friends’ board who passed away in April 2013. In his long career at Rensselaer, Westerdahl served the Institute as dean of students, director of alumni and community relations, and director of constituent programs. Upon retirement in 1998, he volunteered as Institute historian. He was co-author of the history book, Rensselaer: Where Imagination Achieves the Impossible, and as a member of the Friends, had presented a popular series of luncheon presentations on Rensselaer history.

The Westerdahl Forum memorializes the creative contributions made by Carl A. Westerdahl (1937-2013) through programs that explore education, history, art, architecture, engineering, and science as they relate to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In collaboration with community organizations and Rensselaer alumni, the forum presents experts who share their insights on these topics as speakers or panel members.

For more information about the program, or to RSVP, contact Adrienne Birchler, Folsom Library, (518) 276-8329,, or go online.