Obituary Scenery

Obituary – Reynold K. Watkins, Renowned Pipeline Educator, Researcher

Well-known buried infrastructure educator and researcher Dr. Reynold King Watkins, P.E., died Aug. 30 at the age of 101.

Dr. Reynold Watkins


Watkins was born on Jan. 15, 1920, in Garland, Utah, to George Reynold Watkins, a mining engineer, and Rhoda Evaline (King) Watkins. 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.

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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. Watkins authored graduate level college textbooks, and countless technical papers in journals on the structural performance of buried cylinders.

In 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, 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.

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During his tenure at Utah State University, 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.

“He was a mentor and a friend, and I will miss him dearly,” said Shah Rahman, practice leader, KCI Technologies who shared the news of the death on behalf of Watkins’ family.

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Rahman went on to note that Watkins was, “A giant in the research and engineering of buried pipelines,” and relayed this anecdote:

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 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.”

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Services for Watkins will be held at 12 p.m. MST on Sept. 4, 2021. A viewing will be held prior to the service from 9:30-11:30 a.m. All are welcome to attend. All services will be at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1850 N 400 E, North Logan, Utah.

Those who cannot attend the service in person can watch a live Zoom broadcast. The meeting ID is: 971 9973 7209 and the passcode is: 229334.

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Those who wish to share their condolences directly with the family can email Paula Scott, Watkins’ daughter, at A complete obituary can be read on the Allen Mortuaries website, at

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