Described as a visionary leader and a moral compass for his colleagues, the late G. Sadler Bridges was honored June 17 by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) when the agency dedicated and named its new State Headquarters and Research Building conference room after the long-time employee.
The dedication ceremony included emotional reminiscences from those who knew and worked with Bridges at TTI. Others who recently became familiar with his career also spoke, including M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering of The Texas A&M University System, and David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Bridges, who retired in 2007 after a 35-year career with TTI, died in 2008. He had many prominent roles at the Institute — including associate director, deputy director and interim director — but, he was best known for his love of technology. Bridges led TTI into the Computer Age, acknowledges TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen.
“In the 1980s, Sadler gently pushed each of TTI’s administrative offices to own, and, in theory, learn to use, one IBM personal computer,” remembered Christiansen, addressing ceremony attendees. “This day illustrates the many contributions that Sadler made to TTI and the high regard in which he is still held throughout the Institute.”
Bridges received business and economics degrees from Texas A&M University and led numerous initiatives, including helping to establish the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC) and promoting the National Grade Crossing Inventory Project. Arguably, his crowning achievement was in directing the Intelligent Vehicle Program, which developed the ALERT (Advanced Law Enforcement & Response Alert™) vehicle, which integrated all functions of a police car into a single computer system. The project was recognized by Vice President Al Gore with the National Performance Review Hammer Award. Bridges was also a founding member of Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems of America (today known as ITS America).
“The fact that he was on the ground floor in 1986 and thinking about this and creating what became ITS America speaks to our future,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, who delivered the dedication ceremony’s honorary lecture that detailed NHTSA’s connected-vehicle research currently underway. “I wish Sadler was here today to recognize all the great technology that is going on.”
The dedication ceremony was made possible thanks to the generous support from Bridges’ wife and family, who were present for the ceremony. His son, Steve Bridges, told guests that his father was successful because of the love he had for technology and people. “We all have to recognize that we have gifts, talents and abilities. I want to encourage you to use them,” Bridges said. “As you go and develop new thing for highways, remember the people. That’s the most important thing.”
It was clear that the long-time employee had a profound impact on his co-workers at TTI. Two former colleagues spoke at the ceremony:
Although the vice chancellor and dean of engineering for the A&M System did not know Bridges, Katherine Banks was obviously moved by his story and the lessons we can learn from him.
“He helped put TTI on the map in the area of technology education and transportation focus,” Banks told the crowd. “Sadler’s legacy in both supporting our students and new technology is engrained in everything we do here at TTI. As we look to the future, let me suggest that this conference room be a constant reminder of our responsibility to create the next big idea.”