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Lloyd Cluff

Lloyd Cluff Obituary
Lloyd Sterling Cluff

Did you feel it? There was a seismic shift in the universe on June 4, 2019, when renowned seismic geologist Lloyd S. Cluff succumbed to prostate cancer.
Lloyd was born to Melba and Colvin Sterling Cluff in Provo, Utah, 85 years ago. Lloyd wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. He was brought up in Utah on a farm, raising horses and cows. Although most of his free time was spent in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, he was only interested in climbing and skiing those mountains, not in their geology. At BYU, he spent 3 years studying animal husbandry before he was drafted into the Army, where his life took a major turn.
Because of his skiing and mountain climbing prowess, Lloyd was sent to Alaska as an instructor in the US Army Arctic Indoctrination School to train officers how to survive in high mountains, rather than to the Korean War front. While in Alaska, the US Geological Survey was conducting a glacial geology expedition, and he was asked to serve as their mountain guide. This experience in the Alaska Range awakened Lloyd to the possibility of a career path in physical geology. Upon discharge from the Army in 1956, with the help of the GI Bill, he attended the University of Utah, majoring in geology. After graduating in 1960, Lloyd joined Woodward-Clyde Consultants in Oakland, California, as a field geologist.
Lloyd made his first earthquake investigation in 1959, after the Hebgen Lake, Montana, event. Following the 1964 Alaska earthquake, he submitted a request to the WCC Professional Development Program for funding to investigate that and other earthquakes. Learning from earthquakes became an obsession. Lloyd learned that faults slip, even when there were no earthquakes; that they have distinctive geomorphology that could reward a viewer in a fixed-wing aircraft in the early or evening hours, due to the low sun angle; that their characteristics could be studied by digging trenches, birthing the science of paleoseismology, wherein prehistoric faulting events could be mapped and dated, and their possible recurrence estimated.
There was a growing awareness of the need to apply this type of knowledge to safeguard structures. Lloyd's projects were many, and grew to comprise critical facilities around the world, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the Aswan High Dam, the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and the Panama Canal. Honesty and integrity were his trademarks, and he had the trust of his clients, government agencies, and regulators. Of course, he could not have accomplished any of this without an exceptional staff. At one point, he had 150 geologists, seismologists, geophysicists, and support staff his group at WCC. Because he was one of very few people who did what he did, there was a lot of enthusiasm for what his group was learning and accomplishing.
Lloyd was fortunate to be on the cusp of earthquake science. Plate tectonics had just been described in the 1960s, and now that we no longer thought the plates were being carried on the back of a slow-moving turtle, this would-be cowboy was on quite a ride. The field was small and he had many mentors. Lloyd's work brought him close to some of the finest minds—members of the US Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Engineering, university professors, President's Science Medal winners—and they worked together to discover new theories and tools. One of his proudest accomplishments was the interdisciplinary blend of science and engineering that was part of every study. Geologists and seismologists collaborated with structural and civil engineers, and they all, in turn, influenced seismic safety and public policy.
Lloyd joined Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 1985 as Director of their Geosciences Department, the only utility to have a geosciences department, where he was responsible for the licensing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and PG&E's Earthquake Risk Management Program. He retired in 2011, after 27 years. Prior to joining PG&E, he was Principal Geologist, Vice President, and Director of Woodward-Clyde Consultants in San Francisco for 25 years, serving clients with a distinguished team of geoscientists and earthquake engineers. Lloyd was the ultimate "geopolitician," evaluating earthquake and geologic hazards, developing risk reduction measures, and formulating seismic safety guidelines and public policy, especially for the siting, design, and construction of critical facilities, advocating for seismic safety to government agencies throughout the world.
Lloyd was a visiting Associate Professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Nevada at Reno from 1967 to 1973, where he taught special courses in earthquake engineering and environmental geology. In 1985, Governor George Deukmejian appointed him "Utilities Commissioner" on the California Seismic Safety Commission, where he served for almost 15 years, two terms as chairman, 1988-1990, and 1997-1999, after Governor Pete Wilson renewed his appointment in 1996. Lloyd happened to be Chairman when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck, and he shepherded legislation aimed to reduce damage during future California earthquakes. Lloyd has served as president of the Association of Engineering Geologists and president of the Seismological Society of America. He is a past president and honorary member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.
In 1978, he was elected one of the youngest members of the US National Academy of Engineering for his contributions resolving seismic safety issues for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Other professional honors include the 1998 Alfred E. Alquist Medal from the California Earthquake Safety Foundation for his achievements in improving California's seismic safety. He was the 2000 recipient of the John Wesley Powell Award, the highest citizens' recognition of the US Geological Survey, for his lifetime contributions to seismic safety and public policy. In 2002, he was appointed chairman of the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee by the Secretary of the Interior, a committee mandated by Congress to serve as oversight of the US Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program, and was elected a Fellow in the California Academy of Sciences. He was the 2003 recipient of the William B. Joyner Memorial Lecture Award for his role in the interface between earthquake science and engineering and public policy, an award sponsored by the Seismological Society of America and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. In 2009, Lloyd received EERI's George W. Housner Medal for his excellent work in the application of geologic knowledge, and his support of effective public policies to reduce earthquake risks and hazards throughout the world.
Lloyd's first love was travel, travelling both for his work and in his spare time. He visited more than 120 countries and loved every one of them. He also enjoyed the arts, and he and his wife, Janet, were long-time subscribers to and supporters of the SF Symphony, SF Opera, American Conservatory Theater, and Chanticleer. They took advantage of opportunities to travel with all of them. The "best trip ever," however, was the Lavender Pen Tour, where they accompanied the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus to five southern states to foster compassion and understanding. This trip resulted in an award-winning documentary, Gay Chorus Deep South.
A man of tremendous personal charm, Lloyd was a mentor to many joining the field, and they readily credit him for awakening them to the careers they enjoy today. He taught, but never preached. He was a leader who also knew how to follow. He was the consummate storyteller. We will miss his ready smile and joie de vivre.
Lloyd was loved by his wife and partner of 43 years, Janet; his daughters, Sasha Cahoon and her husband, Michael; and Tanya Cluff and her husband Thomas Cochran; stepson, Branden Born and his partner, Nicole Winn; sister, Carol Cutler and her husband Riley; brothers, Mark and his late wife Patricia, Rulon and his wife Joye; Pat, wife of his late beloved youngest brother, Lynn; five grandchildren, and a host of nieces and nephews.
Contributions in Lloyd's memory may be made to the Learning From Earthquakes Endowment Fund of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. A celebration of Lloyd's life will be held on July 22, 2019. Please contact Janet at [email protected] for details.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 30, 2019
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