A Tribute to Hack Sain

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013

“If you like someone, they will like you and vice versa.”

“The definition of experience: You take the test, fail it and then get the lesson.”

“What’s the difference between an accountant and an engineer? They’re both good with numbers, but an accountant has a better personality.”

These are “Hackerisms.” A collection of knowledge shared over the years by Charles H. Sain (“Hack”) who passed away on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at the age of 90.

Hack holds a special place at Sain Associates as the founder of the company. Throughout his 60+ years of experience in civil engineering, he was a role model and a mentor to many, including many of us at Sain Associates.

“Hack was a brilliant Engineer, and I’ve always felt he gave Sain Associates a tremendous legacy in the Engineering business,” says Sain President/CEO, Jim Meads. “Many think of Hack in terms of the stories he had to tell about his experiences. Embedded in all those stories were lessons about engineering, leadership and life that we will never forget.  He was a friend and mentor to many in the engineering and construction profession.”

Portrait of Hack Sain that hangs in the Sain Associates’ Birmingham office

He was involved with the development of over 1,000 commercial projects; design and/or construction of Corps of Engineers dam projects and power plants; municipal, correctional, educational, housing and health care facilities; and over 10 million square feet of industrial/distribution center projects on sites of 200 acres.

He also authored a chapter in Merritt’s Standard Book for Civil Engineers. He has been featured in magazines, named Engineer of the Year in Birmingham, won countless awards and served on many boards, councils and committees. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame in 2008. Click here to see a commemorative video from that event honoring Hack.

Born in New Market, Alabama, Hack grew up on a farm near McMinnville, Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with highest honors. Soon after, he joined the U.S. Army and conducted training for engineers preparing for overseas deployment in WWII. He later became an engineering officer.

In the following years, Hack had several engineering jobs and worked for different engineering firms. In 1968, he founded Charles H. Sain Associates, which was incorporated as Sain Associates, Inc. in 1972.

Hack’s initial vision of having seamless communication between engineers, architects and contractors is one that continues to guide our company today. His quest to foster excellent engineering and practical solutions to gain clients for life is one we value very highly and honor today.

While Hack was proud of all that he accomplished in the civil engineering industry, his greatest source of pride was his family.

It’s difficult to imagine civil engineering in Alabama without Hack Sain as a part of it. But all of his contributions to the industry will not soon be forgotten. We are thankful to have his knowledge, experience, guiding principles and “Hackerisms” to hold with us in the future.

Sain Associates, Inc., is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states. 

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