Steven Tipping’s family remembers him as a devoted husband, loving father, visionary thinker, passionate problem-solver and loyal Golden State Warriors fan.
Tipping collapsed at the end of a mountain bike ride and died in August 2017, but not before raising four children with his wife, Lu, and establishing himself as one of the world’s leading earthquake engineers.
“He was very passionate about what he did, very hard driving about what he did,” said his oldest son, Brandon. “He had high expectations for people around him and those he loved. But it was always with a pat on the back. That’s how he liked to live his life.”
Tipping, who was 69 when he died, was posthumously inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists — the highest honor bestowed by Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
Tipping graduated from Clemson in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. He went on to found and serve as president of Tipping Structural Engineers, a Berkeley, California, firm with more than 30 employees.
Tipping came to Clemson from Salamanca High School in New York. He enrolled in ROTC, inspired by a strong family military history.
After graduation, Tipping joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was called to active duty in Vietnam, where he served as first lieutenant. He led a convoy to start road construction in the remote areas of DaLat and built a basketball court to keep up the morale of his platoon.
Lu remembers meeting her husband in July 1972 on a 14-hour overnight trip from Patra, Greece, to Brindisi, Italy. Conversation started, she recalls, with him asking, “Do you speak English?” and led to him changing his travel plans so they could experience and explore a weekend together in Rome.
When Steven returned to the United States in September, he headed for San Francisco and tracked down Lu, who was from the Bay Area. They reconnected, and Steven began his career as a draftsman.
“He was very humble,” Lu said. “He avoided talking about himself and his accomplishments but rather was more interested in others. He was a good listener. He liked to travel. He loved unconditionally.”
Tipping’s wife, Lu, and his sons Brandon, Christian and Justin came to Clemson to celebrate his induction into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists. Not pictured is daughter, Megan.
The Tippings were together 45 years. Their four children are Brandon, Christian, Megan and Justin.
Steven started his firm in 1983 out of his home in El Cerrito. It was just him, his wife, the two children they had at the time, and a cat. The office moved from their home in 1984 to a spot in Emeryville with a view of the Bay Bridge.
Justin, the youngest of the Tipping children, remembers his father working at the kitchen table, blueprints spread out.
“But he always found time to be at the baseball games, to take me to my soccer games and school,” Justin said. “It was pretty amazing to watch and learn from him. He taught a lot of lessons — pursue your passion and money will follow. He did what he loved, and everything else fell into place.”
The business grew, and by 1995 it was time to move again, this time to Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley where Steven built his first of two company office buildings.