Passing of Dr. Reynold King Watkins

By Shah Rahman, MBA, M.ASCE, Practice Leader, KCI Technologies, Inc.,, Cell: (817) 980-2619

It is with deep regret and my sincerest condolences that I announce the passing of Dr. Reynold King Watkins on the evening of August 30, at the request of his daughter Paula Scott Watkins and family.

He was a mentor and a friend, and I will miss him dearly.

A giant in the research and engineering of buried pipelines, Dr. Watkins has been best known for his derivation of the Modulus of Soil Reaction, E’, used since the 1950’s in the Modified Iowa Equation, to predict deflection in buried flexible pipelines.

A student of the legendary Professor Marlin Spangler, Dr. Watkins once said in an interview: “When I arrived at Iowa State to study under Merlin Grant Spangler, he graciously invited me to share his office with him. Spangler is the father of modern flexible buried pipe design. It was a distinct honor to share his office. Moreover, it gave me contact with my major professor. On one occasion, in a pensive mood, Spangler said to me, ‘I derived a formula to predict the deflection of a buried flexible pipe, but it doesn't work. Would you care to take a look at it?' I spent a number of evenings doing just that. Finally, I discovered what was wrong with the equation. After making the corrections, it was published. It was this close relationship between a mentor and his student that made Spangler my other dad.”

Dr. Watkins was born on January 15, 1920, in Garland, Utah, to George Reynold Watkins, a mining engineer, and Rhoda Evaline (King) Watkins. Dr. Watkins received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Utah in 1944, then his Master of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1947. In 1957, he completed his doctorate from Iowa State University. He was a naval officer in World War II, achieving the rank of commander.

Dr. Watkins was the founder and first director of the Buried Structures Laboratory at Utah State University, for decades considered the most advanced facility for buried pipe research.

Dr. Watkins authored graduate-level college textbooks and countless technical papers in journals on the structural performance of buried cylinders. During the 1960s, he chaired the Culvert Committee of the Highway Research Board and was named Outstanding Engineering Educator at Utah State University in 1986.

Two years later, in 1988, he was presented with the Stephen D. Bechtel pipeline engineering award by the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1997, he received the Industry Pioneer Research Award from the Corrugated Polyethylene Pipe Association.

Subsequently, in 1999, Dr. Watkins was the recipient of the inaugural presentation of the Reynold K. Watkins Award for lifetime achievement in the research and design of buried pipes by the Pipe Rehabilitation Council. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Steel Tank Institute and Steel Plate Fabricators.

During his tenure at Utah State University, Dr. Watkins served as an associate director of the Engineering Experiment Station and head of the mechanical engineering department. He also served on the state and national engineering committees and as a consultant to manufacturers, engineers, and users of buried pipes and tanks, on both national and international fronts. Hundreds of professionals have attended his Piping Systems Institute for practicing engineers conducted annually at USU for several years.

Paula Scott, Dr. Watkins’ daughter, may be emailed directed at

Service will be held on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2021, at 12:00PM, MST

A viewing will be held prior to the service, 9:30AM - 11:30AM. All are welcome. Address: 1850 N 400 E, North Logan, UT 84341 (@The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) ZOOM Broadcast of Funeral – Meeting ID: 971 9973 7209, Passcode: 229334

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