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This is the sixteenth volume in the series of Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased.
SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY
DONALD JOHNSON BLICKWEDE, retired steel executive and resident of Houston, Texas, passed away peacefully on easter Sunday, April 24, 2011, at the age of 90.
Blickwede was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 20, 1920, the only child of Frederick Herman Blickwede and Laura Louise Johnson Blickwede. After attending primary and secondary schools in Detroit, he enrolled in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University, graduating with a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1943. At Wayne State he also served as editor of The Wayne Engineer.
Upon graduating from Wayne State, Blickwede was employed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Caldwell, New Jersey, where he worked until the end of World War II. During his residency in New Jersey, he attended evening graduate-level courses in metallurgy at Stevens Institute of Technology. In September of 1945, Blickwede was accepted as a graduate student in physical metallurgy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received an appointment to the staff of the metallurgy department as a research assistant. At MIT he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Morris Cohen, one of the world’s outstanding physical metallurgists.
Upon graduation from MIT in September 1948 with the degree of doctor of science in physical metallurgy, he took a position as head of the high-temperature alloys group at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
In early 1950, Blickwede accepted employment as a research engineer at Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. By 1963 he had advanced to the position of vice president of research, a job he held until his retirement in 1983. During 1969 he took a sabbatical to attend Harvard University’s Advanced Management Program.
Among his many accomplishments at Bethlehem Steel, Blickwede was instrumental in developing a process for continuously galvanizing sheet steel and the invention and production of a new grade of steel suitable for the application of a fired ceramic porcelain coating. During the 1970s he was involved in the invention and patenting of a corrosion-resistant sheet steel particularly suitable for prefabricated buildings. The latter product, now known as Galvalume, has become the standard throughout the world for commercial and residential siding and roofing. In addition, Blickwede worked with architects and construction engineers to design and build Bethlehem Steel’s Homer Research Laboratories during the 1960s, which upon its completion and for many years afterward was considered to be the premier metallurgical research facility in the world.
During his career, Blickwede was active in various professional organizations, most notably the Industrial Research Institute, of which he was president in 1978, and the American Society for Metals (ASM, now the American Society for Materials), of which he was president in 1983. In 1977 he was awarded the ASM William Hunt Eisenman Award.
Blickwede was also a renowned orator. During the course of his career, he presented two distinguished lectures: the Campbell Memorial Lecture at the 1968 meeting of the ASM in Detroit and the Yukawa Memorial Lecture for the Japan Iron & Steel Institute in Tokyo in 1983. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1976.
Apart from his professional activities, Blickwede enjoyed a wide variety of activities with his family, including trout and salmon fishing, golf, and watercolor painting. In his later years he became especially involved in the latter, and in 1999 he served as president of the Eastern Shore Art Association while living in Fairhope, Alabama. In the last three years before his passing, Blickwede won either first or second place prizes for watercolor painting in the statewide competitions of the Texas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
Probably Blickwede’s most beloved activity during his retirement years was his leadership of a volunteer group for the U.S. Forest Service while residing in Green Valley, Arizona, during the 1990s. The “Hazardous Abandoned Mine Finders” was a group of eight retired men who devoted at least one day a week over many years to exploring a vast portion of the rugged and remote southern Arizona mountains in search of old abandoned mines, recording their locations and posting warning signs for hikers and mountain bikers in the region. The exercise, adventure, and camaraderie of those activities were certainly some of the main factors in his enjoyment of a long, healthy life.
Blickwede is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Meredith Lloyd, who continues to live in Houston, Texas; his son Jon Blickwede, also of Houston; daughter Karen (Kim) Knowlton of Pocatello, Idaho; and grandsons Jon Jr. (Jack), Jesus, and Rafael Blickwede.