College Mourns Loss of Engineering Professor Harry Williams

Harvey Mudd College engineering Professor Emeritus Harry E. Williams Jr. passed away suddenly at Pomona Valley Hospital on Sept. 23 from complications following a stroke.

Williams joined Harvey Mudd in 1960 as a professor of physics, pending an opening in the Department of Engineering. A year later, he moved to engineering where, for the next 40 years, he taught courses from fluid and solid mechanics to thermodynamics and more, helping to build the department from its infancy.

In addition to his teaching he also worked as a consultant and researcher for the United States Navy, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, General Dynamics, Aerojet and Boeing. His research interests included structural mechanics, thermo-elasticity, vibration of cylindrical shells, and the motion of quartz crystal resonators and related mathematical techniques. Williams was a regular contributor to top journals in applied mechanics and published numerous articles.

For his many years of distinguished teaching and service to the College, Williams was named an Honorary Alumnus in 1999. The Harry E. Williams Mechanics Prize, established in his honor, recognizes a senior engineering major for his or her proficiency in and enthusiasm for the application of mechanics in engineering problems.

“Needless to say, (Harry’s) faculty colleagues and generations of students have benefited greatly from his insistence on and example of excellence,” said longtime colleague John Molinder, emeritus professor of engineering.

Born in Pasadena, California, on March 11, 1930, Williams attended Cathedral High School in Los Angeles before receiving a degree in mathematical engineering from Santa Clara University in 1951. From there, he went on to the California Institute of Technology, where he earned his master’s of science (1952) and PhD (1956) in engineering.

He met Jane Helen Johnson, the love of his life, at Caltech, and they were married in Pasadena in 1955. In 1956, Williams received a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship, and he and Jane spent a year at the University of Manchester, England, where they lived until 1957. Williams fell in love with England and returned many times during his life, including two years spent there with his family on sabbatical.

Williams retired in 2000 but remained an active part of the Harvey Mudd community as a professor emeritus, maintaining an office and continuing to publish collaborative works.

“Harry was a true scholar and never stopped pursuing things that interested him,” said his family in a written statement. “He loved his life at Harvey Mudd College,  brainstorming with his colleagues and enjoying riding his bicycle there every day to have lunch and a swim with his friends until the very end.”

Williams is survived by his daughters Robin Williams and husband Christopher Rooke; Kim Williams Littlefield and husband Les Littlefield; Bryn Williams Caisse and husband Eric Caisse; Devon Williams Bishop’s husband John Bishop; and granddaughters Austyn Elizabeth Caisse, Hannah Jane Caisse, Hayden Kathryn Rooke, Fiona Rose Bishop and Ivy Elizabeth Bishop.

Williams’ family will hold a memorial service in Balch Hall at Scripps College on Saturday, Oct. 24, at 11 a.m. On Monday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m., the Harvey Mudd College Department of Engineering and Office of the Dean of the Faculty will hold a memorial event in Hixon Court.

Harry Williams memorial website