National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
Membership Directory
PublisherNational Academies Press
Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

Search this Publication

  • Previous
  •    Table of Contents
  • Next
             F.KARL WILLENBROCK                                       261
                         F.KARL WILLENBROCK
                                  BY JOHN G.TRUXAL
                F.KARL WILLENBROCK, retired leader of engineering programs in both
            academia and government, died August 24, 1995, in Alexandria, Virginia.
                Karl was born in New York City and started his engineering career with the
            bachelor’s of science degree with highest honors at Brown University. He
            completed his formal education with the master’s and doctoral degrees in applied
            physics from Harvard University.
                Karl remained at Harvard until 1967 as a research fellow, lecturer, laboratory
            director, and associate dean. During this period, he took responsibility for running
            the undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, while at the same time he
            was deeply involved in teaching.
                In 1967 Karl moved for three years to the position of provost and professor
            of engineering and applied science at the State University of New York at
            Buffalo. Here, as one of the two leaders of engineering programs in SUNY, he
            brought a vision of the role of engineering at a public university—the important
            relations with statewide industry to complement the academic programs and the
            critical coordination of SUNY degree programs with the two-year colleges and
            the secondary schools. In addition, he led the expansion of the Buffalo program in
            the emerging information sciences.
             F.KARL WILLENBROCK                                       262
                Karl’s next position was as director of the Institute of Applied Technology
            at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). Here he directed the NBS work in
            several critical areas at a time when engineering was just beginning its concern
            with sociotechnical problems.
                This work included fire prevention and research, the applications of
            operations research to urban and municipal problems, and the development of
            basic specifications for manufacturing techniques in electronics.
                These activities contributed to the evolution of a proactive role in the
            National Bureau of Standards and, more broadly, the Department of Commerce.
            Well after Karl’s departure, the NBS name was changed to the National Institute
            of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the agency mission was broadened to
            encompass many of the ideas that Karl first envisioned.
                Karl continued the unusual combination of academic and government
            service with his 1976 move to the position of dean of engineering and Cecil and
            Ida Green Professor of Engineering at Southern Methodist University, where
            again the academic programs were closely allied with the work of regional
                In 1986 Karl left the university for a three-year stint as executive director of
            the American Society for Engineering Education, where he brought his vision of
            the central role of engineering education in the evolving information revolution in
            industry. This leadership role continued until his retirement with two years as
            National Science Foundation assistant director for scientific, technological, and
            international affairs, senior scientist in the Technology Administration at the
            Department of Commerce, and visiting professor of engineering and public policy
            at Carnegie Mellon University.
                Throughout his career, Karl served frequently as a consultant to industrial
            and governmental organizations. He was a leader, as well, in professional
            societies—for example, as president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
            Engineers. He had a variety of committee responsibilities at the National
            Academy of Engineering, including membership on the Council of the NAE from
            1980 to 1986.
             F.KARL WILLENBROCK                                       263
                For those of us who were among his many friends and admirers, Karl was
            always on the lookout for new directions in which the engineer’s approach and
            analysis opened the doors. His total commitment to his work led to his
            unwavering enthusiasm for new ideas. It was not unusual to receive a phone call
            from Karl on an early Sunday evening when he had thought of a novel way in
            which engineering might contribute to human welfare.
    • Previous
    •    Table of Contents
    • Next