Lakeshore Press founder and Estonian-American P. Aarne Vesilind, 78, passed away on January 28, 2018.

Aarne was born in Tallinn, Estonia in 1939 to Paul Eduard Vesilind and Aino Rebane Vesilind. In 1944 his family fled Estonia to escape the invading Soviet Red Army. As refugees, they lived four years in a displaced persons camp in Geislingen, Germany, before immigrating to the United States in 1949. Settling in Beaver, Pennsylvania, ten-year-old Aarne enrolled in fourth grade without knowing a word of English. His transition was eased by supportive classmates who became lifelong friends. He learned to play the trumpet and joined the Boy Scouts, rising to the rank of Eagle Scout.

After graduating from Beaver High School in 1958, Aarne chose Lehigh University for its civil engineering program, but admitted to actually studying “adolescent behavior and fraternity” with Chi Phi brothers who also remained close friends for life. After Lehigh graduation Aarne married Gail Wood, with whom he had three children. As a graduate student, Aarne serendipitously discovered an affinity for teaching. In 1968, he earned a Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then spent a post-doctoral year with the Norwegian Institute for Water Research in Oslo and another year as a research engineer at Bird Machine Company.

In his professional career and his everyday living Aarne was profoundly influenced by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1962) and by Carson’s persistence in advancing awareness of environmental problems. When Aarne joined the Civil Engineering faculty at Duke University in 1970, he took on the development of a new Environmental Engineering program. While on sabbatical with his family in 1976-77 as a Fulbright Fellow, he helped establish an Environmental Center at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Aarne was a registered Professional Engineer in North Carolina and actively took part in professional organizations. He served as a trustee of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers; as president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors; and as a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Among the professional honors he received were the Collingwood Prize and the Award for Achievement in Environmental Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers; and the Founders’ Award and Distinguished Service Award (twice) from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. In 2007, the International Water Association awarded him the Specialist Medal in Residuals Research.

Yet Aarne was most proud of his teaching awards, which include the E. I. Brown Award for teaching excellence (four times) from students in Duke’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Tau Beta Pi teaching award from students of the Duke School of Engineering. An enthusiastic and dedicated mentor, Aarne taught and advised countless graduate and undergraduate students—and he was always pleased when a former student called for advice or merely to chat.

In 1987 Aarne married his former high school girlfriend, Libby McTaggart. They settled in Chapel Hill, NC and acquired a summer camp on a small lake in Bath, NH. “The Birdbath” became a sanctuary for reflection, bird watching, and skinny-dipping. It was here, surrounded by birch trees that reminded him of his early childhood home on the Pirita River in Tallinn, Estonia, that Aarne started a small publishing house, Lakeshore Press, as a forum for academic texts, musical arrangements, and stories about Estonians before, during, and after Soviet occupation.

After a 30-year tenure at Duke, Aarne and Libby moved to Lewisburg, PA. At Bucknell University, Aarne assumed the charter R. L. Rooke Chair of the Historical and Societal Context of Engineering. He thrived among the enthusiastic faculty and bright students, several of whom he roped into forming a tuba quartet with him.

A prolific scholar, Aarne authored and co-authored over 40 academic, technical, and professional books, and several hundred professional journal articles. His 1974 textbook, Treatment and Disposal of Wastewater Sludges (Ann Arbor Science) was the first in its field and his research in this area was seminal. He later examined concepts of justice and ethics and contributed to the development of a professional code of ethics for environmental engineers. He promoted “peace engineering” as an alternative career path for young engineers seeking socially responsible work, as exemplified by his 2010 book Engineering Peace and Justice (Springer UK).

In 2006, after retiring a second time, Aarne and Libby moved to New London, NH.  There, Aarne fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming music director and conductor for the Kearsarge Community Band.  He enthusiastically encouraged these dedicated musicians to take on increasingly complex music, including his own arrangements of Estonian compositions.  With his euphonium, Aarne founded the Exit 13 Tuba Quartet, directed Tuba Christmas concerts, and conceived of the annual Festival of New Hampshire Community Bands, a daylong showcase of community bands from across the state.

To the Lakeshore Press offerings he added several books of music he arranged for solo euphonium and various brass ensembles, including The Lonesome Euphonium, Volumes I and II.

Aarne loved discovering music from composers whom history had forgotten, and he eagerly shared these discoveries in an Adventures in Learning course at Colby-Sawyer College. He also shared his wide-ranging wisdom in an op-ed column in the Intertown Record, a selection of which he published in Yes, But He’s From Away (Lakeshore Press).

Aarne’s most enduring quality was his gratefulness. He kept friends close, acknowledged good fortune, and appreciated small wonders—like the sound of a canoe gliding over lily pads.

Most fortunate of all are those who loved Aarne, including wife Elizabeth McTaggart Vesilind, his children Pamela Vesilind, partner Bradley Sick; Lauren Vesilind Neufeld, husband Charles Neufeld, daughter Samantha; Stephen Vesilind, wife Susanne Turley Vesilind, children Jacob, Audrey, James; Aarne’s stepchildren Drew Endy, wife Christina Smolke, children Maximilien and Samuel; Christopher Endy, wife Cora Granata, children August and Lars; Stephen Endy, wife Miyeko Endy (Tani), children Rowan and Delia. Aarne is also survived by his brother, Priit Vesilind, and Priit’s wife Rima Vesilind, as well as Aarne’s first wife Gail Wood Bredehoeft and her husband Steven Bredehoeft.

A Celebration of Life for Aarne will be held at 1:00 p.m., on Saturday, April 7, at the First Baptist Church Meeting House, 461 Main Street, New London, NH. A reception for sharing music, memories, and Estonian will follow.

For those who wish to commemorate Peep Aarne in the form of a donation, the family suggests donating to the Kearsarge Community Band Fund.

Please share your memories and thoughts about Peep Aarne below.

4 February 2018

4 thoughts on “Remembering Peep Aarne Vesilind

  1. Memories of Aarne Vesilind

    Knowing Aarne Vesilind was to be drawn into his orbit of engineering, societal values and positive inquiry. If anyone deserved the term “Renaissance Man”, it was Aarne. His curiosity and his interests continually expanded, and while his focus on the subject at hand could be intense, there always were one or more new ideas and projects swirling around in his head like satellites around a planet. Aarne disabused me of the thought that environmental engineers (or in those days more conventionally called sanitary engineers) could be interested in anything but wastewater, sludge and smelly waste treatment operations.

    I wish now that I had known Aarne better. Even so, our lives intersected at numerous, and critical points, over forty-plus years, and I know that I certainly am the better for it. We first met at Duke University in the mid-1970s – he a dynamic professor of environmental engineering on his way up the academic ladder and I a green newcomer unused to the ways of faculty politics. At first, I was puzzled by the non-traditional approaches Aarne brought to his teaching. His classroom projects, engineering displays and frequent references to non-technical, but relevant, ideas seemed out-of-place for the subjects in the official curriculum. Very quickly, however, I was drawn into his orbit and benefited from his friendship, advice and partnership on research projects and course development. Aarne treated me as a valued colleague with whom he shared ideas and included in some of his innovative activities.

    By far, the most important memory I have of Aarne is the friendship he freely gave at a time when I was struggling with the demands of a university engineering department for which I was not adequately prepared. Aarne gave validation to my professional identity and encouraged me to enter into his domain of expansive ideas. After a few difficult years, I left the university and returned to my preferred area of international development with an emphasis on water and sanitation in low income developing countries, but my contacts with Aarne, although infrequent, remained strong.

    In 2003, Aarne invited me to participate in a symposium entitled, “Engineers Working for Peace”, held at Bucknell University where he was then on the faculty of the College of Engineering. This event brought both of us, and our evolving sense of peace activism, together again, merging the roles of field operations and engineering education into a new concept – “Peace Engineering”. As Aarne conceived the term, Peace Engineering is neither military engineering (war-oriented) nor traditional civil engineering (commercially-oriented) but instead a third way, oriented towards devoting the knowledge and experience of engineering technology towards the avoidance of conflicts and the promotion of peaceful outcomes. His two books on Peace Engineering form a valuable contribution to the literature on peace studies and serve to complement another emerging term – “Just Peace” – which is now held up as an alternative to the “Just War” concept.

    Our most recent professional intersection occurred five years ago when Aarne provided advice on a study Catholic Relief Services was conducting on conflict in water development projects. By this point it was clear that technology remained important in the provision of water-related services but that peaceful outcomes through the avoidance of conflict was dependent upon a broad understanding of numerous non-technical factors.

    When my wife and I visited Aarne and Libby at their lakefront Shangri-La home in New Hampshire last year, we found Aarne as exuberant as ever, regaling us with descriptions of building projects, writing activities, musical interests and visits to Estonia. He may have been retired, but by no means was he retiring. That is the friend I remember: the engineer, the innovator, the passionate educator, and of course the Renaissance Man.

    Dennis Warner
    Gaithersburg, Maryland
    March 26, 2018

  2. Another Memory of Aarne

    Over the years, I have met Aarne at various events – office work, conferences, social family events. In all, Aarne was the gracious host, the explorer of the truth, the researcher dedicated to “good technology” and the Estonian history buff. But in one event in particular, he was the most important person — who was not there.
    In 2014, Dennis received an invitation to the June 2014 graduation at the University of Illinois. His alma mater wanted to present him the University of Illinois Alumni Humanitarian of the Year award. It was very exciting for all of us. We were met there by the University leadership for a great weekend. And at graduation he received the decorated stole around his neck by the President. There was much made of Dennis achievements through the years. Other family members were present including his sister, and brother-in-law and another sister-in-law. Our son and his wife were the surprise attendees as well. I was crying when he received his robe, stole and that recognition.

    Later, I asked one of the administrators, who had recommended Dennis to the University for this honor. It was Aarne Vesilind. Had we known, we would have had a special seat for him. Thank you, Aarne!

    Candy Warner
    March 25, 2018

  3. Luiz Philippe Perrone, Bucknell University
    February 12, 2018 at 8:37 am

    When I first arrived at Bucknell in 2003, Karen Marosi assigned Aarne as my mentor. And what an excellent mentor he was. Over the lunches we shared, he listened to me with compassion when I needed to vent my frustrations, gave me wise guidance, and always left me feeling infinitely more upbeat than when he found me. Those kind smiles of his were reassuring, encouraging, infectious. We used to talk about his approach for teaching ethics for engineers in ENGR 100 Exploring Engineering – I didn’t know how one could make it accessible or exciting, but he had his ways. And he did such a good job with it. Not too long later, I was asked to take on that role and Aarne was my guiding light. It was intimidating, but I knew that if I followed his approach, my students would be all right. I taught from his precious little book “The Right Thing To Do,” which made it easy.

    When Aarne “graduated” from Bucknell and moved to New Hampshire, his departure left a vacuum in the College of Engineering. One of the driving forces for Bucknell’s Honor Code wouldn’t be around the Dana and Breakiron halls anymore. I was happy that he was happy, though. He was looking forward to his next adventures.

    Time passed and I got into teaching ethics more deeply in CSCI 240 Computers and Society and in CSCI 245 Life, Computers, and Everything. A few years ago, on a random day, I heard Aarne’s voice on an unexpected phone call. He told me he was happy I was teaching ethics, “it is important,” he said, “and I’m glad you are doing it.” I told him it was all thanks to him, but I don’t think he wanted any credit. He was just happy that I found myself so rewarded by teaching something that was dear to his heart. It was just like him to be so thoughtful to take a moment to reach out and make someone smile. I didn’t know that was to be the last time I would hear his happy chuckle.

    In my courses, I have had to teach from textbooks that specifically cover computer ethics, but the method for ethical analysis from Aarne’s “The Right Thing To Do” remained with me. It is still with me. It will always be with me. Every one of the students in my ethics courses has been and will be a student of Aarne’s. The world is lessened by Aarne’s passing, but the world is blessed for having had Aarne.

  4. I only ever met him once in person, at the Hell Hunt pub in Old Tallinn on a beautiful summer day, but for about a decade I had the honour and privilege of working with Dr. P. Aarne Vesilind on his engineering textbooks, and I also had the pleasure of working with my friend Peep on books about Estonian history – work that was important on a deeply personal level. At times we would go back and forth about the best possible English translation for an Estonian folk song that he was working on for his band. I could always count on an encouraging word, or a (very Estonian) joke. I am grateful for having known him.

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