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Friendships helped forge successful career for alumnus Michael Creed

From left to right, Sami Rizkalla, Paul Zia, Michael Creed, David Johnston and Don Kline.

Reflecting on where he is today, Michael Creed, civil engineering ’73, is struck by the serendipity of some of the events that led him to NC State.

Creed co-founded McKim & Creed, is a long-time supporter of the College of Engineering and Fitts-Woolard Hall, and remains close with civil engineering students and faculty members he met at NC State.

But when he graduated in 1966 from Parkland High School in Winston-Salem, NC, he had little direction. On the advice of his guidance counselor, he started working at Salem Steel Company. He enrolled in an on-the-job training program, where he learned about the elemental building blocks of structural steel buildings and bridges.

“For a lackadaisical high school student, it was exhilarating to be gaining obviously important knowledge,” he said.

In the four years he worked there, Creed took courses at local community colleges, got married and started a family. In 1970, he started at NC State.

Creed did well at NC State, joining the Engineering Honors Program. He worked on a research project developing ultra-high-strength concrete with Paul Zia, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering. Through this research, he also met Sami Rizkalla, a Ph.D. student at the time and now Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

“I have fond memories of working in the testing labs in the basement of Mann Hall. The aromas of damp cement and concrete specimens are still vivid in my mind,” he said.

I have fond memories of working in the testing labs in the basement of Mann Hall. The aromas of damp cement and concrete specimens are still vivid in my mind.” — Michael Creed

Creed was impressed by visiting professionals who later become friends and advisers. This included NC State alumnus Don Kline, who was a visiting lecturer and a structural engineer at Kimley-Horn.

In 1978, Creed and Herb McKim, another NC State alumnus, started their own structural engineering firm — McKim & Creed Engineers, PA — in Wilmington, NC.

During an early project in 1981, the firm had to make a controversial decision — it advised the City of Wilmington to close a downtown 500-space parking facility until structural problems could be thoroughly assessed. Creed enlisted the help of Zia and Kline to review their work.

“The people I met at NC State, both professors and students, provided me an extended network of trusted friends that I cherish to this day,” he said.

McKim & Creed now has 24 offices in eight states. The Triangle office moved to Centennial Campus in the mid-2000s, and Creed started to become more involved as an alumnus. Creed has given guest lectures, served on the Paul Zia Distinguished Lecture Series committee, helped create the CCEE Industry Advisory Board and is on the Engineering Foundation Board of Directors.

Creed, right, with Herb McKim in their first office in Wilmington in 1978.
Creed, right, with Herb McKim in their first office in Wilmington in 1978.

Creed recently toured Fitts-Woolard Hall with some of the people who inspired him most, including Zia, Rizkalla and Kline, as well as David Johnston, Edward I. Weisiger Distinguished Professor Emeritus, who helped plan the building and led the tour.“This is a truly first-class 21st century building,” Creed said of the College’s newest building on Centennial. “Our collective investment in Fitts-Woolard Hall combined with the outstanding CCEE faculty puts NC State on a much higher and impressive playing field than at any time in its history.”