Mike van Driel '91
I just heard this news, breaks my heart – it brings a smile to my face when I think about the time we spent talking not just about fluid mechanics and how a then emerging field of CFD could be applied to blood and the human body, but sports as well. He was a big fan of the NFL, my thoughts went to him immediately when I heard the Rams are coming home. I will miss him dearly, no one ever put the mathematics behind the physics of fluids and thier usefulness in mechanical applications so elegantly and clearly. His balance between theory and pratice is the hallmark of what we all get from Mudd, and I am proud to say I benefited from his teachings immeasureably for this reason. My dearest heart-felt condolances to his family.
Bob Blackman '89
Fellow committee member.
I sat with Prof. Williams on the Disciplinary Board in 1986-7. He had an unwavering sense of what honorable conduct was and expected HMC’s students to behave well in all circumstances. I learned a great deal from him about what to expect from others and how to behave when I was called up on to judge my peers.
Lauren Render Cobb '88
Student & Friend
A handful of years ago now, as I walked across the street from dropping my children at their elementary school another mother called out to me, “Did you attend there?” with a nod towards me. Initially confused I realized I was wearing a Harvey Mudd t-shirt, so I replied that I had. We fell into conversation and realized that her father had been my structural engineering professor, Harry Williams. She was Devon Bishop. Through her I had the pleasure of becoming re-acquainted with Harry as we both waited on Wednesdays, me to pick up my children and he his lovely, vibrant grand-daughters. I enjoyed our conversations; he never failed to recall where we left off and to inquire further and he shared of his pursuits freely. To know him as a friend these past few years has been a gift and I am grateful for the serendipitous time with him.
Interview of H.E. Williams by MMG on Jan. 8, 1993
In 1958, Harry Williams was working at JPL, going to school (CalTech Ph.D. program), and trying to find a job. He took a (part¬time) extension-program position with UCLA, teaching a night course on fluid dynamics at a Van Nuys site. During this time he wrote a letter of inquiry to U.C.¬San Diego which was just getting underway. For months he did not receive a reply. Finally he received a response which started, “In answer to your letter of ten months ago, . . . “. Harry thought it best to look elsewhere!
Harry wrote to the University of Washington and to U.C.¬Santa Barbara. One day, while looking in the real estate section of the L.A. Times, he saw a picture of a proposed building to be constructed at this new place (in Claremont). There was also a story in the newspaper about Al Focke who was leaving the navy in San Diego, from NEL (Navy Electronics Lab), and was going to Harvey Mudd College.
Harry wrote to Al Focke and received an instant response. Harry came out to Claremont and talked to Joe Platt. Joe said that HMC hadn’t yet hired an engineering chair, but that when they did, Joe would put Harry’s name into the hopper. When the first Chairman, Warren Wilson arrive, he informed Harry Williams that “he wanted an older guy.” So Harry went back to JPL colleague, Jack Alford, and told him, “You’ve been talking about going into teaching, here’s your chance to put up or shut up!” Jack acted!
A couple of years later, in 1960, when the Physics Dept. at HMC need to fill a slot, Al Focke called Harry and offered him the job. Then, in 1961, when the engineers needed to fill a position, Harry switched over. He could have stayed in the physics slot, because Al Focke had the philosophy, at variance with that of Warren Wilson!, that—physics or engineering background—it made no difference, either could do engineering. But Harry wanted to put his hat in the engineering ring, so he made the move.
At that time in mid¬1961 other engineering slots were being opened up. Harry called Sedat Serdengecti, a former classmate at CalTech. Harry told Sedat that he knew of Sedat’s interest in systems analysis and that HMC Chair Warren Wilson was planning to introduce systems analysis into the curriculum, so Sedat should phone Warren. Sedat was also hired that year, Fall¬1961.
Several years later, Harry was walking around CalTech one day and met a friend who was on the CalTech electrical engineering faculty. The latter told Harry that he had a graduate student who was looking for a teaching position and wondered if there were any openings Harry knew of. Harry directed him to HMC which led to the hiring of John Molinder (in 1970).
Harry Williams first memories of the Clinic come from his assignment by Jack Alford to a committee to oversee a project on design of a fountain as part of the LIBRA project (so must have been about 1971, maybe 1970). The student team included Randy Hanveldt. Project was a bit idiotic; was treated by the students as “make work.” Students drove around the County photographing fountains. Harry Williams tried to introduce engineering principles into the project. He advised the students to calculate water flows, horsepower, distances water streams would squirt. The project lacked an outside client and was not a success.
Another project, maybe 1970 or 1969, involved student Walt Foley, then a senior (who was doing some consulting in Greenland in parallel). The client-sponsor was Phil Wessels, a consulting engineer and part¬time HMC prof. The project goal was to design a switching mechanism. The project was a sensible one; the team could see the results of their work and interact with the client.
Harry was not present at the faculty seminar called the Green Room Massacre. He probably was not on sabbatical—just not wanting to sit through what probably was going to be an acrimonious meeting. Bob James was a leader of the opposition and might be able to recall the date and details of the meeting.
Harry Williams recalls two issues which caused much tension.
1. Could/should we accept funds from Ford Foundation for this purpose (Clinic development)?
2. Can faculty receive pay for project work done in place of the traditional one-day per week off-campus consulting work?
In summing up, Harry believes the Clinic became a success when we hit on real projects with student teams working for real clients. In the early days it was “like pulling teeth” to get good projects. Early funded projects, e.g. one done for Santa Fe International as client, were obtained through HMC trustee contacts.
Kirk Norenberg '81
I took his Strength of Deformable Solids class my junior year. I enjoyed his straight forward development of concepts and came away each day feeling that I had learned something. His course was part of the foundation of my 30+ year career as a mechanical engineer and his approach was something I tried to emulate as a mentor to young engineers.
Murray Thompson '72
Dr. Williams was one of my favorite professors during my years at HMC and one of my most important mentors who made a lifelong impact on me both personally and professionally. I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing.
Russell Merris '64
HMC was founded on a vision for which there were few if any models. Above and beyond outstanding engineers, mathematicians and/or scientists, Mudd graduates were to be broadly educated, socially responsible leaders “with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.” The challenge of turning that vision into reality fell to Joseph B. Platt. Despite budgetary constraints, Joe managed to assemble a faculty with the academic credentials to be taken seriously, the courage to take a leap into the unknown, and the creativity to design a curriculum that surrendered a third of its precious core disciplinary class time to the humanities and social sciences. Along the way he seems to have expected that such a faculty would just naturally be comprised of gifted teachers – an expectation that, apart from a few shining exceptions, was belied by attrition rates in the first four classes that approached 50%.
It goes without saying that Harry Williams ranked among the shining exceptions. For all I know his 1960 recruitment served as the model on which HMC subsequently built a faculty that excelled in both teaching AND professional achievement. Be that as it may, Harry, himself, was a role model for my own 40-year professorial career, riding a bicycle to campus not excepted.
I think it was Harry’s participation in my 45th reunion that precipitated his transition from former teacher to friend. The breakthrough came over lunch when we discovered a shared connection to former UCSB Chancellor Huttenback and a shared dismay over the dismantling of the HMC library. The last time I saw Harry was in May 2014, again over lunch, this time during my 50th reunion. Seemingly healthy, happy, and as physically and mentally vigorous as ever, I remember him asking how the Egyptians derived a formula for the volume of a pyramid without calculus.
While wanting to go suddenly may be selfish – it is, after all, a shock to survivors – nevertheless, it is certainly the way I would choose for myself.
Goodbye, Harry. You will be missed.
Lisa Roeckner Hebert '80
Feeling very sad about this news. I remember Professor Williams and value all the many things he had to offer his students. He will be sorely missed.
Robert De Pietro '69
Student, Advisee and Admirer
Professor Williams was my senior year Advisor and Advisor for my Senior Year Engineering Project.
When Professor Duron and I first spoke of the idea of a Fellowship Program in research, I recalled my Senior Year Engineering Project and how meaningful and sucessful it was under the direction and mentoring of my Advisor, Professor Williams. I feel that the Fellowhip Program, in some ways, mirrors the Senior Project.
When I was accepted to Graduate School At UC Berkeley, Professor William advised me to go since he knew they were doing state of the art research there in structures and in the development of Finite Element Analysis.
I also had the experience of taking a senior year Structural Mechanics Elective from Professor Williams. I was the only student in the class.
We developed a relationship that speaks of him and the essence of the HMC Education.
At Alumni Weekend in 1999 I was given the honor to introduce Professor Williams as was made an Honorary Alumnus by the Alumni Board of Governors.
I will miss him when I come to campus or to College functions. For me, Harry represents a strong personal connection to HMC.
Zee Duron '81
Advisee, colleague, friend
There are so many memories of Harry. Mine include my time as his student in Solids, as his advisee, and as one of his many faculty colleagues in Claremont. Harry was a scholar who sought out simple solutions to complex problems, who thought carefully about how things worked, and who illustrated his approach through his wonderfully vivid calligraphy. Upon his retirement, Harry gave me his academic regalia. Every time I wore his robe I could feel his presence, and for that closeness, I will be forever grateful.
Clare (Pitkin) Livak '75
Professor Williams made Fluids seem so easy. He had a way of explaining principles that made sense. I enjoyed his classes.
Doug Hathaway '80
One of two indelible memories of Dr. Williams occurred the afternoon before Thanksgiving. I had a mid afternoon class and was the only person to show up for the class. He looked around, and said “well, you have me for an hour, what do you want to do?” We went into the classroom and worked out problems on the board for the entire hour, one-on-one. To me, that experience defines HMC and Dr. Williams.
Chuck Lemme '66
Dr. Williams was a fantastic teacher in that he had a way of explaining complicated stuff using the fundamentals of the subject so that the subject matter became part of your world view. He taught me strength oh materials and thermo and when I was the only one to sign up for his elasticity class, instead of cancelling it, he taught me one one one in his office. I have very fond memories of him. He was one of a kind.
Knowing that I’m a die hard Michigan football fan, Harry loved to make fun of the Wolverines, especially after each loss. As a result, I always dreaded going to work following a Michigan defeat, knowing that Harry would stop by sooner or later to give me some grief. Anyways, in 2000, UCLA played host to Michigan at the Rose Bowl early in the football season. I believe at the time Michigan was ranked #2 or #3 in the country, and was heavily favored to win the game. Desperately wanting to get even, I invited Harry to the game, thinking that I would finally have the last laugh. To my dismay, Michigan lost that day. I don’t remember much of the game, but I do remember how much fun I had with Harry. Never thought I would ever enjoy a game in which Michigan was on the losing end. To this day, every time I watch a Michigan game, I would think of Harry. I will miss him.
Harry had already retired by the time I began my faculty position at HMC in 2005, but he was always active both physically – with his regular swims – and intellectually. Harry would stop by my office to see what I was up to in class, in clinic, and in research; he read the reports of several of my clinic teams out of pure intellectual curiosity. He gave me a hard time for preferring running to swimming and told me I was going to fall apart someday from all of the impact. For all of these reasons (except the whole running vs. swimming debate!), I always thought of Harry as a role model; my husband and I always say we want to be like Harry when we “grow up”. Harry was an important fixture of the department and I cannot believe he is gone; he will be sorely missed.
HARRY WAS A TRUE SCHOLAR. HE WORKED PRIVATELY ON SUBJECTS THAT INTERESTED HIM, HOWEVER THEY MIGHT ARISE. ONCE, WHEN WE WERE TEAM TEACHING MATERIALS, A THIRD LECTURER REMARKED THAT A PHASE TRANSFORMATION WAS “INSTANTANEOUS”. OK WITH ME, BUT LATER HARRY SAID, “NOTHING IS INSTANTANEOUS” AND STARTED TO LOOK INTO IT. I THINK THAT HE WORKED FOR A YEAR, OR SO, ON THIS!
JOAN AND I WILL MISS HIM TERRIBLY.
Harry was my colleague for ten years until he retied from work in 2000; he was my swimming mate for 25 years until he retired from life in 2015. During these 25 years, almost every noon of the week, we would meet in the hallway and get on our bikes, in his case, his tricycle in recent years, and ride down together to the pool. We and a few other swimmers formed a small group and we would chat everything in the lockers room, mostly without our clothes on, from mathematics to politics, from soccer games to the latest movies. Since I came back from my sabbatical in England some years ago, Harry and I had one more hot topic, our trips to England. He was so fond of his experience there, that we could talk in length the towns and villages we had both visited, even some swimming pools we had both enjoyed.
When my daughter Joanna became old enough to enjoy water at about five or six, I took her to the pool, where she met harry. The two got along so well since the first day, that they would splash water on each other whenever they saw each other in the pool. Harry became “the grandpa who splashed water on me” to Joanna ever since. When I told Joanna, now a senior in college, over the phone that her grandpa who splashed water passed away, there was a long silence on the other end…
A few years ago, when Harry’s wife Jane passed away, he told me how he would try to hold his emotion most of the time when he was with others, and he would only let himself shed tears when he was in the pool, where he was alone, comforted by no one but the soothing water. Now, when Harry himself is gone, it is the turn for others to mourn him, for some, also in water.
I last saw harry in June, right before I left school for the summer. When I came back in August, I was expecting to see him right away, in the hallway or in the pool, like all previous summers. But I found him in neither place. The news that he was in hospital did not come with too much of a surprise, as that had happened before. But, I didn’t realize, this time it was different.
Harry passed away at 12 noon, the time when he would get on his tricycle and head to the pool. His last thought must have been the pool, the calming blue water, sparkling under the sun. Having been swimming with Harry for 25 years, I cannot believe he will never be in the pool again. His elegant strokes in free style have been so deeply imprinted on my mind, whenever I swim in the pool, I can feel he is swimming in the lane right next to mine. Harry, I am sure there is a beautiful pool in heaven, and you are there every noon, like an old but most reliable clock, never missing even once. You will never retire from swimming there again.
Harry Williams was truly a “one of a kind” member of the Harvey Mudd community. He was a meticulous scholar who set very high standards for the accuracy of his own research and for the work of students in his courses or Clinic teams. On a personal level, he was a truly sweet and generous man. During my years as dean of faculty he would occasionally disagree with some decision I made, and he wasn’t shy about letting me know about it; but that never interfered with our warm friendship and our mutual respect.
After his retirement our paths didn’t cross very often until I moved into an emeritus office just across the hall from him. He used his office and continued to work on detailed analytical mechanics problems almost every day when he was not at the beach or away visiting a daughter. It was always fun to take a break and chat in his office. He always kept up with the latest news about the college and especially about other emeriti.
With his 55 years at the College Harry truly carried a lot of institutional memory. We’ll all miss him a lot!
I had the pleasure of knowing Harry since the summer of ’93 when I assigned myself to lifeguard at the Harvey Mudd pool. We would later enjoy the World Cup games at the Mudd Hole and I always looked forward to Harry and Mitz showing up at the CMC pool for their swim/lunch.
Amazing changes to our campuses we have seen in Harry’s time. I’ll miss him as a friend and part of our history at the Colleges. Rest in peace Harry….
Harry and I were members of a group that we called the “Harvey Mudd Swim Team” – an informal group of faculty and staff colleagues (mostly in their 40s-70’s) that swam together most days at the CMC pool. Harry was always joyful and made all of us feel happy to be together.
I met Harry on his bicycle on 12th street on my way to my first day at Mudd. He remembered who I was, remembered where I came from, remembered I had two young daughters, asked about the weather in London, asked how Manchester United were doing, told me how he had just been pulled up by the police for straying on his bicycle into the center of 12th street (this at a time when 12th street was absolutely devoid of traffic) and finished by asking me if I’d like to go for a swim at lunchtime. I felt as though I was engaging in the casual conversation of two friends who had seen each other every day for the past ten years. Naturally the recollection of the warmth of that meeting on my first day at Mudd deeply colored my subsequent friendship with Harry. He has always been to me Chaucer’s “very perfect gentle knight”, lover of “chivalry, truth, honor, freedom and courtesy”. I mourn his passing and extend my deepest sympathy to his family
I CAME TO KNOW HARRY EDWIN WILLIAMS, JR., WHEN I CAME TO HARVEY MUDD IN 1991. HE AND I SHARED A BOND FOR APPLIED MECHANICS AND APPLIED MATHEMATICS. WHILE WE OFTEN STARTED FROM DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINTS AND TOOK DIFFERENT PATHS, WE ENJOYED ARRIVING AT THE SAME ENDPOINTS TOGETHER.
IN OUR JOINT WORK HARRY ALWAYS STARTED FROM THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM. AT TIMES THIS COULD BE INFURIATING, AS HE WOULD NOT TAKE SHORTCUTS, NOR WOULD HE SIMPLY ACCEPT THE PUBLISHED WORK OF OTHERS, NO MATTER HOW WELL KNOWN THEY WERE. HARRY APPROACHED EVERY PROBLEM FROM FIRST PRINCIPLES, PERIOD.
BUT MY RELATIONSHIP WITH HARRY WAS MUCH MORE THAN ABOUT WORK. INDEED, I CAME TO KNOW HIM AS A MAN WHO FRAMED HIS LIFE THROUGH THE THINGS THAT MATTERED MOST: FAMILY, FAITH AND FRIENDS.
HAVE ANY OF US EVER KNOWN SUCH A DEVOTED AND DOTING FATHER AND GRANDFATHER? DID WE NOT KNOW WHERE HARRY WOULD BE WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR MASS OR HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS? AND DURING MY ALL-TOO-FREQUENT SOJOURNS AT POMONA VALLEY HOSPITAL AND CASA COLINA REHAB, HARRY CALLED JOAN OFTEN TO STAY ABREAST OF MY CONDITION, AND VISITED QUITE REGULARLY SO HE COULD SEE FOR HIMSELF.
FINALLY, HARRY WAS QUIET AND UNASSUMING. HE MIGHT EXPECT A LOT FROM HIS STUDENTS, BUT HE ASKED FOR NOTHING FOR HIMSELF. HE JUST WANTED TO WORK ON MECHANICS PROBLEMS THAT INTERESTED HIM, AND TO ATTEND TO HIS FAMILY, HIS FAITH AND HIS FRIENDS — AND, OF COURSE, FREESTYLE!
HARRY WAS TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL AND PASSED AWAY WHILE JOAN AND I WERE IN ITALY. I STILL CANNOT GET USED TO THE FACT THAT I CAN NO LONGER TALK WITH HARRY. I MAY NEVER GET USED TO THAT.
Harry always says hi and smiles. Quite often in the past, I found him enjoying a nice and relaxed sitting next to the Scripps Denison library, sometimes with his swimming buddy. Now every time I walk past that corner of the small garden, I feel he is just sitting there resting in peace. He will be mostly missed.