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Papers of William W. Sayre

Identifier: WSAY

Scope and Contents

The Papers of William W. Sayre consists of documents dated 1949 to 1981. The collection includes large amounts of material from his time as a graduate student in civil engineering at Colorado State University and as an engineering professor at the University of Iowa. It briefly covers his work for other employers, including the United States Geological Survey, and his research regarding sediment transport and turbulent flows, but it is not comprehensive. Materials from Sayre's teaching and professional activities include his global committee work, research, conferences and workshops he attended, as well as some of his published work. A limited quantity of personal materials is also present.


  • Creation: 1949-1981


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. However, it is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


Civil engineer William Sayre contributed significant scientific research about sediment transport and turbulent flows. He spent the majority of his career working for the U.S. Geological Survey as a research hydrologist and the University of Iowa as a professor of hydraulics and water-resources engineering.

William Whitaker Sayre was born in 1927 in New York City, New York. Sayre earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in basic engineering (1949). He met his wife, Rakel, in Germany in 1950. They married in 1951 and moved back to the United States where he worked as a civil engineer in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. Employers included the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Indian Irrigation Service, and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Eventually, Sayre resumed his education at Colorado State University (CSU), earning his master's degree in irrigation engineering (1957) and doctorate in civil engineering with an emphasis in hydraulics (1967). Sayre worked as a researcher in civil engineering at CSU (1958-1962) until he became a Ph.D. student. From 1962 through 1968, Sayre worked for the U.S. Geological Survey conducting research in the Water Resources Division. His research on sediment transport and open channel flow influenced his Ph.D. dissertation, "Dispersion of Mass in Open-Channel Flow."

In 1968, Sayre moved to Iowa to work as an engineering professor at the University of Iowa (UI) until 1980. During this time, he served as Acting Director of the Institute of Hydraulic Research (1972-1973) and Acting Chairman of the Department of Mechanics and Hydraulics (1973-1974). Sayre also served as one of the eleven members of the water resources delegation to the People's Republic of China in 1974, helping create and develop new hydraulic projects to improve water resource development. In 1979 he was a consultant to the Egypt Water Use and Management Project, assisting in pilot projects to help with irrigation development and water savings. He left UI to return to the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado in 1980.

Sayre received recognition for his research and scientific contributions throughout his career. He received the Walter L. Huber Research Award (1966), the St. Anthony Falls Hydraulic Laboratory Straub Award for Outstanding Thesis (1967), and the J.C. Stevens Award (1970) from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

After moving to Lakewood, Colorado, Sayre died of a heart attack on October 6, 1981. Sayre and his wife, Rakel, had four sons, Joel, Simon, Daniel, and Roger.


9 linear feet (6 record cartons)

Language of Materials



Civil engineer William Sayre (1927-1981) contributed significant scientific research about sediment transport and turbulent flows. He spent the majority of his career working for the U.S. Geological Survey as a research hydrologist and the University of Iowa as a professor of hydraulics and water-resources engineering. The collection consists mainly of articles, reports, and handwritten notes, along with correspondence, presentations, teaching materials, and research data.


Sayre's materials arrived with no organization, so they were arranged into the series below.

The collection consists of 5 series in 6 boxes:

Series 1: Personal files, 1951-1967, 1981 and undated

Series 2: Graduate school, 1949-1967 and undated

Series 3: Teaching, 1968-1979 and undated

Series 4: Writings, 1960-1980 and undated

Series 5: Research, 1954-1981 and undated


The Papers of William W. Sayre was created in October 2008 by removing the materials from the Papers of Maurice L. Albertson. Dr. Albertson inherited the materials after Sayre died.

Related Collections

On the topic of teaching and researching hydraulic engineering, the Papers of Maurice L. Albertson is related. Also, the Papers of Everett V. Richardson has related topics of civil engineering, work for the U.S. Geological Survey, and international work in Egypt. The Papers of Daryl B. Simons contains a folder on Sayre as a student.


Processing was completed in July 2019. Sayre organized much of his work into blue cloth binders; all of this was removed and inserted in acid-free folders. Paperclips and binder clips were removed. Loose items were foldered and labeled based on contents. Some school materials were discarded, as were some sets of research data, especially if they were without identification, and duplicates beyond two copies. Also discarded were general publications not by Sayre, thesis drafts, peer reviews he wrote, and a graduation tassel. Information about students in Sayre's classes was removed for privacy reasons. The collection was reboxed in acid-free boxes.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated paginationis preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by thephrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of eachcopy.

Guide to the Papers of William W. Sayre
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Demi R. Ball and Patricia J. Rettig
Copyright 2019
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA