The Michigan Engineer News Center

In Memoriam: John Edward “Jack” Powers

John Edward "Jack" Powers, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, passed away suddenly on June 10, 2016.| Short Read

John Edward “Jack” Powers, an alumnus of our department who served as a faculty member from 1965-1982, passed away suddenly on June 10, 2016 in North Carolina.  “Jack was an integral member of the department and he will be missed,” says Chair Mark Burns.

Scott Fogler says, “When I came to Michigan, I remember that Jack was willing to take the time to talk to young faculty.  He took a genuine interest in us and provided support as we began our careers. I have always been grateful for his help.”

His contributions to teaching and research in separations and thermodynamics greatly impacted the field. His thermodynamics laboratory was unique, producing some of the most precise data yet achieved in the calorimetry of gases and liquids near the critical point. Jack made significant contributions to the teaching program in engineering education by the development of a unique problem-solving approach in the teaching of separations science and engineering. He was also very active in industrial consulting in various areas relating to energy resources.

Jack was born in Wilkinsburg, PA on October 12, 1927. When he was growing up, his family moved often and football was his saving grace. Before Jack’s junior year of high school, his family moved to Montclair, NJ. By his senior year, he was vice president of his class and co-captain of the football team. With that famous twinkle in his eye, he used to say, “I was small, but I was slow.” Nevertheless, he was always a fierce competitor!

Jack went to Cornell for college, and football. After completing one year, he was drafted, but continued to play football in the Army. After leaving the Army, he chose to go to Michigan to continue his education, where he graduated with honors from the Department in 1951. He played football at Michigan also and was a member of a Big 10 champion wrestling team. On January 1, 1951, he played in the Rose Bowl. The following day, he married Harriet Ann Fenske and moved to California, skiing along the way for their honeymoon.

Marguerite Eileen (Marnie) and Patrick Michael were born in California while Jack earned his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The family moved to Norman, Oklahoma where Jack became the chair of the Chemical Engineering Department. Daughter Judith Lynn was born in Oklahoma. After doing research in Germany for a year, the Powers moved back to Ann Arbor, where Jack taught and did research in the Department of Chemical Engineering until he retired as a professor emeritus in 1982.

After retirement, Jack moved out to Castle Valley, UT, where he played bridge, ran rivers, including the Colorado, and puttered around on his land with his backhoe, dump truck, semi- and cherry picker. He cut down trees in the La Sals, milled the logs, and created “the house that Jack built.”

In 2003, he moved to Pittsburgh to live with his daughter and her family. Jack loved the time he spent with Marnie, Jim, and especially his granddaughters, Ruth and Sarah Tynen. Jack moved with the Tynens to Orem, Utah and North Carolina.

Jack was fun, funny, generous, and energetic. He was a great man and he will be missed.

Portrait of Sandy Swisher


Sandy Swisher
Communications & Alumni Relations Coordinator

Chemical Engineering

(734) 764-7413

3118 Dow

The outside of the Ford Robotics building

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