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In Memoriam: Dale E. Briggs

Dale E. Briggs, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, died on March 17, 2016 at the age of 85 after living a long, productive, and inspirational life.| Medium Read

Dale E. Briggs, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, died on March 17, 2016 at the age of 85 after living a long, productive, and inspirational life.

Dale was born in 1930 in Alton, Illinois, and when he was one year old, his family moved to Pontiac, Michigan. He attended public schools and graduated from Pontiac High School in 1948. Dale enrolled in the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps and attended the University of Louisville to study chemical engineering, graduating in 1953. He met his wife, Nancy McCoy, while they both served on the student government at college.  They married in 1953 in Louisville, KY.

In 1955, the U.S. Navy transferred Dale to the University of Michigan NROTC Unit. He began his teaching career with the freshman class for two years and completed his active duty in 1957. During his time as a teaching fellow, Dale began working with Professor Brymer Williams in Chem-Met 2 in 1958. Their research work in heat transfer developed into many great opportunities and experiences which resulted in Dale being elected to the Board of Directors of the Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers while he was still a graduate student.

Dale was appointed as an instructor in 1961 and then promoted to assistant professor upon completion of his PhD in 1968. He was the first professor to require undergraduates to use computers in chemical engineering course assignments. He served as undergraduate program advisor from 1981-1997, during which time he mentored hundreds of students as they prepared for their careers.  As program advisor, he was instrumental in broadening the curriculum to permit chemical engineering to become a popular stepping-stone to medical school and other professional degrees.

Over the span of his thirty-eight-year career in the department, he taught almost every subject in the curriculum except kinetics and process control. However, Dale had a special affinity for teaching design, using his expertise from consulting for industries, ranging from petrochemicals to a distillery. Many alumni have fond memories of taking their final ChE course with him.

Dale served in a variety of roles on university faculty committees, including Member of SACUA, 1984-1987; Chief Marshal for University Events, 1991-1999; and Member of the Board of Control of Intercollegiate Athletics, 1994-1998. While on the faculty, Dale received many awards including the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Teacher Award, 1982; the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award, 1990; and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance Hall of Fame Award, 2016. He served on the faculty until May 31, 1999 when he retired as professor emeritus.

In 1988, he established The Master’s Flowers business where he donated flowers to his church, the Veteran’s Hospital, the College of Engineering and the School of Music. He taught Bible classes at the Washtenaw County Jail from 2007 until December 2015, and served on more than 100 Doctor of Musical Arts committees. He and his wife established the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Endowed Enrichment Fund in 2004, whose earnings have funded the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Competition since 2014.

His gentlemanly charm, unwavering support of the ChE Department, and his philanthropy will be greatly missed. Dale is survived by his wife, Nancy, daughter, Susan Clair, son, Stephen, sister, Doris Mason, four grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

Most people who were acquainted with Professor Briggs know that when you saw him in the Dow Building or on campus and asked him, “ How are you?” he would almost always reply, “Better.” And if you asked him why he was better, he would explain that “The good Lord asks that we try to make ourselves and the world a little better every day,” and adds, “I like to think I’m making a little progress.” Those of us who knew him will agree that he succeeded.

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Sandy Swisher
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Chemical Engineering

(734) 764-7413

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Metal rods that are part of the molecular epitaxy beam apparatus at Michigan Engineering. Photo by Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

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