electrical engineer who founded dozens of labs and programs
at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and
was a beloved figure on campus for more than half a
century, died on Oct. 17 in Bellevue, Wash. He had
celebrated his 104th birthday on Sept. 30.
At his 100th birthday, Dow described himself as "a
first-class engineer in the field of physical electronics,
a pretty good teacher, and a damn fine promoter." His
longevity came from exercise and "choosing the right
grandparents," he said. "When I was 85, I lost one of the
major arteries in my heart. But other arteries will do the
job—if you ask them every day."
Dow taught electrical engineering from 1938 to 1965
and served as department chair from 1960 to 1965. Long
after his "retirement," Dow was a regular feature on campus
and at the headquarters of ERIM—the Environmental
Research Institute of Michigan—for which he was an
emeritus trustee. He also held regular weekly lunch
meetings with colleagues at the North Campus Commons and
was active in the Ann Arbor Rotary Club. His 100th
birthday was marked by a two-day celebration on the campus
in September 1995 which brought in students and colleagues
from around the country.
"He was a very personable, kind man," said George I.
Haddad, the Robert J. Hiller Professor of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science, who earned his master's and Ph.D. degrees under Dow in the late 1950s. "He really
loved to promote good people. He was about the most
unselfish person I've ever known."
Haddad said that, at the time of his death, Dow was
still chipping away on a paper about nuclear fusion which
he hoped to get published. He had been working on it for
35 years, and had two patents related to fusion in the
1980s. "His mind was very, very sharp, but he had lost his
hearing." Following the death of his second wife two years
ago, Dow left his Arbor Hills home to live with his sons in
Waco, Texas, and Bellevue, Wash.
During his 38 years of active service to the U-M
College of Engineering, Dow was responsible for creating
and organizing 13 laboratories and research units,
including Space Physics Research, Plasma Engineering and
the Cooley Electronics Laboratories. He co-founded the
Willow Run Laboratories (now the Environmental Research
Institute of Michigan) and created a new U-M unit to
administer research grants, now called the Division of
Research Development and Administration (DRDA). Dow was
considered a leader in establishing the link between
cutting-edge research and good teaching, and setting the
precedent for faculty to conduct research for federal
government agencies and private corporations.
A native of Faribault, Minn., he received his B.S.
degree from the University of Minnesota in 1916 and his
E.E. from Minnesota in 1917. His M.S. degree was completed
at Michigan in 1929, and he was awarded an honorary
doctorate in 1980 from the University of Colorado.
"I have always considered him to be the father of
modern electrical engineering at Michigan," Haddad said.
Though most of Dow's career was during the vacuum tube age,
he started a course on transistors shortly before retiring.
"It was probably the first of its kind in the nation,"
Haddad said. He also published a classic textbook on
physical electronics, "Fundamentals of Engineering
Electronics," which many considered "the first usable
textbook in electronics," and which was a staple of the
curriculum for nearly 20 years. He became one of the
pioneers of space exploration, and served on a group called
the Rocket Research Council, which predated NASA. He was
also the key driver behind the establishment of computer
engineering and nuclear engineering programs at Michigan,
the first of their kind in the nation.
Dow was a lieutenant in the Army Engineering Corps in
World War I, worked for a few years in engineering sales
and testing, primarily for Westinghouse, and then joined
the faculty at U-M in 1926 as an instructor. During World
War II, he worked on radar countermeasures at Harvard
University's Radio Research Laboratory, reducing the
effectiveness of enemy radar by almost 100 percent, and
saving countless lives of allied airmen.
In 1924, he married Edna Lois Sontag, who preceded him
in death in 1963. Dow married Katherine (Kitty) Bird Keene
in 1968, who preceded him in death in 1997. He is survived
by his two sons, Daniel Dow (Kathleen) of Bellevue, and
David Dow (Gail) of Waco, eight grandchildren, seven great-
grandchildren. Katherine Keene's children, John Keene,
Karen Day, and Peggy Hannan and their families also survive
Dow's funeral will be held on Monday (Oct. 25) at 2
p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor.
Visiting hours will be at the Muehlig Funeral Chapel on
Sunday (Oct. 24), 5-8 p.m.