Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Professor Leland J. Quackenbush, University of Michigan

Looking dapper in his neatly trimmed beard and light checkered sport coat, Professor Leland J. Quackenbush entered the luxurious Michigan Technic office to be the subject of this issue's Teacher Feature.

This well-dressed professor, it was revealed later, had "made in Michigan" imprinted all over him. He was born in Jackson, Michigan, entered University of Michigan as a twenty-two year old freshman in 1942, married a Michigan girl after he graduated in 1945, has made his home in Ann Arbor, and two of his three children are now doing graduate work here at U. of M.

Professor Quackenbush is one of the more student-oriented professors in the College of Engineering. He is the faculty advisor to the Vulcans, to the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, and he is also the program advisor to undergraduates in mechanical engineering.

The Vulcans, founded in 1904, are the senior men's engineering honor society. During the more active years, the Vulcans have been involved in fund-raising for deserving causes. They have sponsored concerts, dances and films to finance lectures, banquets and a loan fund. In recent years, the Vulcans have been selling the Engineering Class Rings, and the revenues go to a scholarship and loan fund. Professor Quackenbush emphasizes the Vulcans are entirely a student-run organization, his role being purely advisory.

Prof. Quackenbush is also the faculty adviser to the sponsors of the "egg drop" and "beer can energy" contests---Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society. As of this date, the type of contest to be held is up in the air. Again, Prof. Quackenbush's function is to officiate the contest and be an adviser. Whatever the contest, students always rush to compete for the popular alcoholic first prize.

However, being a program adviser to the M.E. undergrads is what occupies most of his non-class time. Prof. Quackenbush notes that what he usually hears most from students is their gripes about all the prerequisites they have to take; "Do I really have to take this course?" Without being negative on the subject, Prof. Quackenbush sympathizes with the student, answering, "you've got to have the background to be able to take higher level courses---the usual reply, But Prof. Quackenbush goes a step further. He believes that engineering education, stressing the problem-solving approach and developing a feeling for finding solutions, is an excellent background for any career.

Prof. Quackenbush speaks from personal experience in this matter. As a high school student, he did fairly well in math and the physical sciences. He came to Michigan and, after four years of an engineering education, went into industry. After a short stint on the company's drafting boards, he went into "traditional" design work. He came back to U of M for his master's degree in 1947-48 and then left for industry again. With a little more education and experience under his belt, he became involved in manufacturing processes (he now teaches a course, M.E. 381, of the same name) as the laision engineer between the production and design departments. However, after seven years in manufacturing, Prof. Quackenbush decided that being in management was not what he really wanted to do, so he came back to teach.

In each case, his education gave him a broad enough background to enable him to switch jobs without being under-qualified.

Today's graduating engineers, Prof. Quackenbush notes have increased awareness of society and the role they will play in it. He feels that students are beyond "what is good for the company is good for the country". They should look toward what they can accomplish with the company.

Perhaps, Prof. Quackenbush observes, the basic quality of the University is changing---changing for the better. The freshman students are coming into the University environment better prepared, having more extensive preparation in math and science. "They seem better able to cope with life at the U of M than in my day."

The faculty has remained, more or less, statis, but still responsive to the inquiring minds of students.

Prof. Quackenbush sees the mechanical engineers' influence of the future of industry directed towards a more direct numerical control over processing and manufacturIng. That is, trained computer specialists operating the factories. This results in a de-emphasis on manual control of machines.

As an example, Prof. Quackenbush cites the designing process of the automobile. Before the advent of the computer, models were constructed, calculations compiled, and many decisions made---all in all, a time consuming process compared to today's methods. In designing a prototype car, the modern engineer merely chooses a design pattern in the computer, and is given a whole range of figures immediately to consult, including the cost of raw materials, labor, instrumentation, and safety characteristics. Then the real engineering can begin. The fine-tuning of the trade-offs, which are necessary to produce the final product after a minimum of time and decisions, can then begin.

In his spare time, Prof. Quackenbush and his wife like to collect antiques, but the rarity of antiques here in Michigan may take them south of the border.

Prof. Quackenbush concludes that a quality institution of higher learning depends on the merits of the students, faculties, and facilities. And the U of M's Engineering College has emerged as one of the better Institutions in the country. People like Professor Quackenbush have been instrumental in this rise.

Leland J. Quackenbush, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Assistant Dean, College of Engineering, retired from active faculty status on December 31, 1986.

Leland Quackenbush, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and assistant dean emeritus at the College of Engineering (CoE), died Oct. 6, 2008 at Glacier Hills Retirement Center after struggling for several years with the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's disease.

Prior to his illness Quackenbush enjoyed a long and fulfilling life with family, friends and colleagues. He was born in 1920, the second of five children to Ross and Margaret (Smith) Quackenbush in Jackson, Mich., where he graduated second in his high school class from Jackson High School. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in 1942 and Master of Science in Engineering in 1948, both in mechanical engineering at U-M.

In 1942 Quackenbush began his professional career as a sign engineer at Vickers Inc., where he worked for 14 years. He renewed his more than 30-year association with the University as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 1957. He retired in 1986. His technical expertise in the study of materials and manufacturing processes as well as teaching skills were acknowledged by multiple awards from students, colleagues and the University during his tenure.

Quackenbush also had a deep commitment to administrative service for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and CoE, having served as the department's program advisor and on numerous academic and planning committees. He was an active industry consultant and expert witness during his career and in retirement. He also belonged to American Society for Engineering Education, Society of Manufacturing Engineers and American Society Of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1942 he married Elizabeth "Betty" Hasse, to whom he was a devoted husband for their 66 years of marriage. Together they raised three children: Ann Ongerth of Seattle, Jamie and Eric of Ann Arbor. Jamie preceded him in death in 2005. He also is survived by four grandchildren, Benjamin of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Christopher of Lilburn, Ga., Amanda Guidotti of Bear, Del., and Blair of Ann Arbor; sister Sue Foltz; several cousins; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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