Former McCormick dean Bruno Boley dies at 92
February 19, 2017
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Bruno Boley, a former dean of the McCormick School of Engineering who spent 20 years in the role, died Saturday. He was 92.
Boley first came to the university in 1972 and served as dean of Technological Institute until 1986, after which he taught as a Walter P. Murphy Professor of Engineering. He was previously a faculty member at Ohio State University, Cornell University and Columbia University, where he returned after his time at NU and remained for the rest of his career.
Leon Keer, a Walter P. Murphy Professor Emeritus of Engineering, first met Boley while working toward his post doctorate degree at Columbia.
“He was noted for his work quality and also his generosity with his time,” Keer said. “He was one of these people whose door was always open. He was a great mentor, not just to me, but I imagine to many people in the engineering school.”
Born in 1924 in Gorizia, Italy, Boley immigrated to the United States at age 16, just before World War II began. In 1943, he received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the College of the City of New York and later earned his Doctorate of Science in aeronautical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
Boley also worked outside of academia as an engineer at Goodyear Aircraft Company from 1948 to 1950.
McCormick Prof. Zdeněk Bažant remembers Boley for his pleasant nature.
“He was always kind and nice to deal with. He was an excellent scientist,” Bažant said. “He was able to attract excellent people. He appreciated people who were academically outstanding.”
Boley had a positive impact through his hiring decisions as dean, bringing people to Northwestern who improved the department, Bažant said.
Keer said Boley inspired faculty during his time as dean, allowing the engineering department to thrive. Apart from being a communicative and influential presence in the engineering community, Boley was a natural conversationalist on topics outside of the scientific realm, he said.
“I would regard him as one of those rare cases where he was the right person for the right position at the right time,” Keer said. “He was a very human person. He was someone that people could talk to, and not just about technological things.”
Current McCormick Dean Julio Ottino said he can feel the effects of Boley’s legacy in his work today.
“Northwestern has a tradition of excellence that has lasted for a long, long time in the department of mechanics,” Ottino said. “A lot of that excellence can be traced back to people like Bruno Boley.”
Boley is survived by his son Daniel, granddaughter Lelwani and his great grandson.