Forman, George W. - KU Alumni Association
GEORGE W. FORMAN
Calder M. Pickett, Interviewer
Oral History Project
K.U. Retirees' Club
University of Kansas
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Archivist, The Spencer Library
NEWS from the UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS News Bureau, Lawrence, Kan. 66045.
Larry Khupp, Director
Story by Charla Jenkins
FORMAN NAMED TO HEAD MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT
LAWRENCE—George W. Forman, professor of mechanical engineering at the
University of Kansas, has been named chairman of the Department of Mechanical
Professor Robert Gatts,
the former chairman of the department, continues
on leave from K.U. for the second year as the Program Manager for Energy
Engineering at the National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C.
Forman has been a member of the K.U. faculty since 1955 and was promoted
to full professor in 1969.
He received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical
Engineering degree from the University of Illinois and his M.S. in Mechanical
Engineering from K.U. in 1957.
Before joining the K.U. faculty, Forman spent 15 years in private
industry as a design engineer.
His areas of specilization are in machine design,
vibration and stress analysis and he is a consultant in the area of design for
a number of companies.
Forman is also a consultant in accident analysis and
has often appeared as an expert witness in court cases.
Forman is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and
in 1966, he received
the Gould Award at K.U. for Excellence in Teaching in
the School of Engineering.
NEWS from the UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS Division of Information, Lawrence, Kansas 66045
Larry Knupp, Director
Story by Ken Fulton
FORMAN HONORED FOR MERGER EFFORTS
George W. Forman. chairman of the University of Kansas Department of
Mechanical Engineering, has been honored with a plaque from the Tau Beta Pi fraternity
commemorating his decade of efforts which resulted in the merger of Sigma Tau and Tau
Beta Pi, national engineering honorary fraternities.
The distinguished service award was presented to Forman because he was most instrumental
in achieving the merger of the two fraternities.
Original efforts to join the two
societies began in 1928, when a merger was proposed and voted on by the councils and
conventions of both organizations.
The measure was narrowly defeated; merger became a
lost issue and traditions kept the two organizations separate.
Forman began working to merge the two fraternities in 1963 because he thought one
strong engineering honor society would be better than two organizations competing with
K.U. had both Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Tau chapters.
"In some dozen schools both organizations existed side by side.
They served nearly
the same purpose so there was no need for duplication," Forman said.
This January, after years of work by Forman and others, the 34 chapters of Sigma Tau
were either merged or converted in Tau Beta Pi, which will continue to be the name of
the merged societies.
Tau Beta Pi was founded in 1335 at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
Tau Beta Pi
serves the field of engineering in the same manner Phi Beta Kappa serves liberal arts
Since its founding, the society has initiated more than 180,000 members.
Sigma Tau was founded at the University of Nebraska in 1904.
It represented the
western portion of the United States while Tau Beta Pi represented the eastern portion.
Sigma Tau had initiated more than 43,000 members since its founding.
Forman has been teaching mechanical engineering at K.U. since he joined the faculty
Before coming to the University, he spent 15 years in private industry as
a design engineer.
His areas of specialization are in machine design, vibration and
In 1966 Forman received the Henry E. Gould award for excellence in undergraduate
He was cited for his "project oriented" undergraduate teaching, his "classroom
performance" and his "extensive industrial experience" which he brought into his teaching
In 1970 Forman was named a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
an honor awarded fewer than one per cent of the Society's 60,000 members.
He was made
a fellow for his more than 25 years in mechanical engineering, his many technical
papers and research reports, his professional work and his teaching ability.
A large part of Forman*s attainments are represented in the fact that he has
become a full professor without having a Ph.D., said Elmo Lindquist, associate professor
of mechanical engineering.
Forman is able to relate the subject matter to his years of industrial experience;
this is a real help to the students, Lindquist said.
In addition to his teaching duties, Forman has served as a consultant to a wide
variety of industries and governmental agencies in the last 20 years.
Five faculty members of the University of Kansas School of
Engineering and Architecture have been nominated to receive the Henry E. Gould award
for excellence in undergraduate teaching for 1966-67.
The award memorializes Henry Gould of Kansas City, a 1931 graduate of K.U.,
who was president of the national mechanical contracting firm, Natkin and Company,
at the time of his death.
It was established last year through a $10,000 endowment
by the,widow, Mrs. Meredith Gould, and by Natkin and Company.
Nominated for the award were Louis C. Burmeister, assistant professor of
mechanical engineering; the late C. J. Choliasmenos, assistant professor of aerospace
engineering, killed in an automobile accident last December; George W. Forman,
associate professor of mechanical engineering; Don W. Green, assistant professor of
chemical engineering; and Harry E. Talley, associate professor of electrical engineering.
The winner of the Gould Award will be announced at the Engineering Exposition
Banquet, April 22.
Dr. Burmeister's nomination from the students was based on his "direct,
practical, and down-to-earth approach" to his classroom subjects.
In addition, he
was cited for his "open door" policy regarding office hours and his approachability
by the students.
His development of a new undergraduate laboratory emphasizing
measurements and instrumentation was also a factor in his nomination, as were his
major contributions to the improvement of the mechanical engineering curriculum.
C. J. Choliasmenos, killed in an Arizona automobile crash last December, was
nominated for his "excellence in teaching, devotion to students, and service to the
A collection of letters from his students supporting his nomination
emphasized his dedication to teaching, his desire to help the student, and his
outstanding and inspriring classroom lectures.
In addition, he was cited for his
non-academic work in supporting the student chapters of the honorary aerospace
engineering society and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and
his activities in speaking before high school classes, science clubs, and civic
Dr. Forman's nomination cited his "project oriented" undergraduate
teaching, his "classroom performance," and his "extensive industrial experience"
which he has brought into his teaching activities.
Outside the classroom,
his activities include being faculty advisor for the student chapter of the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and chairman of a committee for
developing the mechanical engineering professional curriculum.
Dr. Green's nomination for the Gould award was founded on his "rare
combination of deep technical knowledge and a sense of personal commitment
to teaching that marks the truly fine teacher."
His students and colleagues noted
his "innovations in teaching," "natural gift of presentation," and "ability
to impart knowledge in such a manner that students aspire to learn."
addition to his classroom activities, Dr. Green was cited for his technical
knowledge and his activities as advisor to student professional societies.
Dr. Talley1s nomination was based on "a combination of competence in
his field, teaching ability, and a sincere desire to assist and guide students."
Cited in his nomination were the wealth of industrial experience in the field
of semi-conductor technology which he has applied to the development of advanced
undergraduate course and to everyday practice in the classroom, his "unique
ability to communicate with students, both during the classroom lectures and the
ensuing office hours," and his "enjoyment of inter-personal relationships" in
the assistance and guidance of students.
Nomioations for the Henry E. Gould award for excellence in undergraduate
teaching are made by the student honorary societies, Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Tau,
by the departmental student organization, and by faculty members.
selecting the winner will include both performance in the classroom and
student and professional involvement outside the classroom.
The University of Kansas
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, 1959Areas of Specialization
Machine design, vibration, stress analysis
Kansas City, Mo Jr College
Univ of Illinois
Univ of Kansas
Kansas State Univ
BS Mech Engr
Univ of Kansas 1955-59
Butler Mfg Co 1953-55
Marley Co 1946-53
United Aircraft Corp 1941-46
Sandia Corp, Albuquerque, NM
Bendix Corp, Kansas City, Mo
J. F. Pritchard Co, Kansas City, Mo
Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, Mo
Havens Steel, Kansas City, Mo
Member, American Society for Engineering Education
Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Registered Professional Engineer, Missouri
Publications and Patents
"Analysis of Operations of MC-1197, " Report E-187, Bendix Corporation
(Classified under Atomic Energy Act of 1954)
"Study of Cold Gas Motors, " E-194, published in AEC Complex by Bendix
Corporation, 19 62
Publication identified as "SCDR-168-59" (title and contents classified),
"Cooling Tower Fan Performance, " Transactions of ASME, Paper 59-SA-17
"Response of a Free-Free Beam to an Impact Load" (classified papers,
Sandia Corporation) 1962, 1963
U.S. Patent No. 2,477,8 68, Low Pitch Removable Mechanical Stop
(assigned to United Aircraft Corporation)
U.S. Patent No. 3,113,755, Vibration Damping and Shock Mount
(issued December 10, 1963 to G. W. Forman and Don Stevens)
C: This is February 28, 1991, and I am Calder Pickett and this is going to be an
interview with George W. Forman, retired for several years now from the School of Engineering,
a man I've known for a long time, one of the very nice and able people of the University of
Kansas, and, George, I'm going to start by having you talk about some early things, some
memories and so on. I'd like you to start by giving us the date of your birth and where you were
born and then telling something about your parents—who they were, what they did, your family-
just some background like that to get us started.
G: Very fine, Calder. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on December 9, 1919 and
lived with my folks in Salt Lake City until I was a 10 year-old lad. My father was a CPA and
lawyer and was a member of the faculty of the School of Business at the University of Utah.
I remember as a child spending one year in New York City when my dad was on sabbatical leave
from the University and I attended the first grade in New York City.
C: Where did you live in Salt Lake?
G: 1324 East 4th South. Aren't you amazed that I remember the address?
C: No, that's the kind of thing I remember. I remember things very well from a long
time ago. Recent things I have trouble with.
You're not alone.
G: We also lived on University Drive just diagonally across from the old training school
not far from where the stadium is as I understand it. The new stadium, of course, was built since
we lived there. But my father was a member of a homestead family in northwestern Kansas.
He was literally bom in a sod house in northwestern Kansas. My mother's father was a medical
doctor, actually official government physician for the Oklahoma Strip before it was open. After
it was open, he settled with his wife in the town of Ashland, Kansas, where my mother was bom
and where I often spent summers as a youngster.
C: So you had the Kansas background...
G: ...Even as a small child, yes.
C: I don't usually ask people to talk about their religion, but the fact that you lived in
a Mormon community like that, it interests me. What was your background?
My background in religion was the Methodist Church, and one of my prize
possessions is a Masonic ring which my father owned and wore and came from Salt Lake City.
I happen to be a 32nd degree Mason, myself. And that contrasts to some degree with the
C: Apparently, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church, was a Mason and stole some
of the ritual from the Masons which is now part of the ritual of the Church.
G: That's correct, and as I understand it much of the very early history of the Mormon
Church was involved with Masonry and the split was involved with a difference of opinion
related to Masonry, I'm not sure just how.
C: I don't recall just what that was. Well, of course, Salt Lake City is pretty good sized
and contrary to the notions that some people have about it, it is also a place of considerable
tolerance. There are more non-Mormons there than Mormons. Did you feel the pressure at all
when you were a child?
G: Not at all, no. My closest friend, Jim Barker, was a member of a strong Mormon
family. We've maintained contact over a good many years. It's been a couple of years since
I've seen him now, but we had very high respect and regard for the Mormon Church and we
C: Did you have brothers and sisters?
G: I have one brother who was a medical doctor—a surgeon. He's been gone for several
years now, graduate of the University of Kansas School of Medicine; and a sister who was also
a University of Kansas student. Her husband, Dave Fisher, is still alive. He's in Topeka. My
brother and sister have both been gone for a number of years. It might be of some interest: we
left Salt Lake City when I was a 10 year-old lad. My father formed and operated his own retail
inventory control consulting business and we moved quite often and I actually went to eight
different grade schools all over the country. I'm probably one of the few people who graduated
from grade school twice-first the sixth grade in Denver, Colorado, and started to a junior high,
and then we moved to Kansas City and the school system there was a 7/4 plan and I entered the
seventh grade in Kansas City and graduated from grade school at the seventh grade level. So
I graduated from grade school twice. High school: I attended high school and it's always been
rather fascinating to me, again from one end of the country to the other I had four semesters of
Spanish in high school, first in Missouri and the second in New York City, the third in Little
Rock, Arkansas, and the fourth in San Francisco.
C: Now, in all of this jumping around from school to school, did you have any teachers
in elementary school who were good enough that they were any kind of force...what I'm getting
at is that I am increasingly interested in why people are why they are and the different forces
that perhaps made them that way. Family. You came obviously from a family with educational
background, so you were I'm sure thinking about college in all those years. But sometimes we
also have teachers that help to set us on our paths.
G: I think of three. One at the grade school level, Miss Vanlandingham, by name, who
was a very loving person and just know that all of her students that were going to do well and
were going to go through school at the college level, a wonderful person. At a high school level,
a man named Clegg who taught chemistry in New York City, at Richmond Hill High School, I
admired greatly and I am sure influenced me in the direction of strong interest in physical
C: Yeah, well, of course, this is what I wonder is what makes a person become an
G: I at one time thought I was going to be a medical doctor, as was my brother, and I
attended some medical school lectures with my brother while he was in medical school at the old
Bell Memorial Hospital and I was freshman and then a sophomore at the Kansas City, Missouri
Junior College. Frankly, the nature of the instruction in medicine failed to excite me to the
degree my studies of mathematics and physical science did, so I decided I was going to go the
route of mathematics and engineering.
C: George, you were born in 1919, so that means you would have been leaving Utah
about the time the depression was striking. You apparently were in a family that was in good
enough shape you didn't have some of the throes of the depression hit you the way that they hit
some people, then.
G: Oh, probably not. Although I remember my family drove the same automobile for
quite a few years during the depression. We were never hungry and never with any serious
problems related to adequate funds to maintain life and we did a good deal of traveling around
the United States.
C: Did you ever have any jobs when you were a little boy to help make money?
G: I worked one summer as a teenager in Kansas City at the Jones Store Company as
a stock clerk. I recall being paid $10.50 a week and thought I was rich.
C: That was a lot of money then.
G: Oh, it was a lot of money then. One summer—the summer of 1936, actually-I spent
the entire summer in western Kansas with an aunt and uncle on a cattle ranch. It was my job
to keep the fences up on a 22,000-acre ranch for which I was paid nothing because it was a
family operation but I thoroughly enjoyed my summers. We ran out of water, incidentally, that
summer and had a nice big herd of Hereford cattle and moved those cattle across country in an
old-fashioned cattle drive. I was on horseback sun-up to sun-down for the better part of a week
and never wanted to see a horse again.
C: How far did you go on the drive?
G: Those cattle were on a piece of land down the Oklahoma Strip. We moved them
from there up to Coldwater, Kansas, which was probably, oh, fifty miles, something like that.
C: Have you ever read that book, The Last Cattle Drive?
G: I certainly have.
C: That is one of the funniest books I have ever read.
G: It was very fascinating to me.
C: Yeah, and to think that it is probably an authentic story. Oh, that didn't actually
happen, but it still gives you...
...it was well done.
C: Oh, yeah. That really was.
G: I thoroughly enjoyed summers in southwestern Kansas as a teenager. I have one
remaining cousin in that part of the world that I am in contact with from time to time. My older
son and I for years have gone out and left part of the world hunting each fall although in recent
years we haven't been as active as we were years ago. But those years were fascinating. After
attending the junior college in Kansas City, I went to the University of Illinois—
C: ...now you're just a little fast here. Where did you go to high school?
G: Southwest High School, Kansas City, Missouri; Richmond Hill High School, New
York City; Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas; Lowell High School in San Francisco;
and Drew School in San Francisco.
C: And so you graduated from...
G: I never graduated. I have a diploma which I received six months after I was in
college. I was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley because I had all the credits
I needed for a high school diploma but there was no graduation at the end of summer school.
So I was admitted and started school at the University of California. My folks moved back to
Kansas City in September of 1937. I came with them and started right into Kansas City Missouri
Junior College, two or three weeks late. Didn't have any trouble making it in.
C: So you don't have the memories of one school and the different...
G: I do not have a strong group of friends from high school era. My wife's friends sort
of adopt me in that regard.
C: Well, that's really amazing, all of those schools. Did you get yourself involved in
activities when you were in high school? Sports or anything like that?
G: To a limited degree. In San Francisco, Lowell High School, I was a member of the
track team and I often brag that I won a second place in pole vault at one time. The truth of the
matter is that there were only two of us entered on that particular day, but I have a newspaper
clipping and a scrapbook indicating that I won a second place in the pole vault. I think people
high jump higher than I could pole vault. But it was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
C: So though you didn't technically graduate, you did get through high school in 1937?
C: Ok, '37. How did you happen to go to the junior college? Was it close?
G: It was close. When my family moved back to Kansas City my dad bought into and
was a part owner of the Duff and Repp Furniture Company when we did move back to Kansas
City and I came with my mother and father and went up to the junior college.
C: Where is it?
It was down at 11th and Locust Streets in Kansas City where now part of the
municipal government buildings rest. It was originally the old Central High School building, but
it has been torn down now for many years. But it was a very fine institution and a highly
respected institution in the academic world. One of my teachers at the junior college was a very
fine man by the name of Jim Bird, sort of took me under his wing along with three close friends
of mine and was very influential in my decision to attend the University of Illinois largely
because of the outstanding reputation in the School of Engineering.
C: So you were thinking right then of going into engineering?
C: Well, how does one decide that he wants to go into engineering? Do you remember?
G: Well, as I said at one time I thought I was interested in medicine but I became more
interested in mathematics, physics, chemistry in my junior college (Missouri years), and under
the influence of Jim Bird attended the University of Illinois for my last two years.
C: Well, you must have been good at them, too, because I've had a lot of students over
the years who got started in the School of Engineering but found that they just couldn't cut it in
some of the...
G: Well, I think we all do well in the things we enjoy and we find a challenge. Yes, I
had a virtually "straight A" record at the University of Illinois and nearly that good at the old
junior college. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing.
C: So you went when to the University of Illinois?
G: In the fall of 1939, then received the bachelor of science degree in June of 1941.
C: Now, this campus was the one in...
C: Oh, well, isn't the school located in both?
The engineering school is on the Urbana side as I recall and the main
administration buildings and so forth were located on the Champaign side.
C: Where did you live?
G: Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
C: When did you pledge?
G: In the fall of 1939 and as I entered as a junior at the University.
C: You pledged right off.
G: Pledged right off along with Len Martin and Vic McMahill, two close friends from
Kansas City. We went there together and enjoyed our friendship for many years.
C: How much did it cost to live in the house then, do you remember?
G: Roughly $50 a month, I want to say $48, maybe $52 in my senior year, but it was
in that neighborhood. Tuition at the University of Illinois for out-of-state students was $36 a
semester, I recall that clearly. It cost for an academic year something in the neighborhood of
C: Well, you know, that kind of interests me, because as you know I was also in the
SAE fraternity and it cost me $5 to pledge, it cost me $25 to go active, and it only $30 a month
to live there, but I had so little money that I washed dishes every night in that house in the years
that I was there.
G: Well, you're the winner for it. I think that those of us that at least in part paid for
our way, which I did, I spent summers I recall very vividly as a Fuller Brush salesman in Kansas
City. The Fuller Brush Company reserved the south part of Kansas City territory for college
students to sell brushes. It was a wonderful experience and frankly I made pretty good money
for that era in selling brushes and I got a lot of background in human relations and how people
react and so forth. I was grateful for that job.
C: Have you ever gone back to that fraternity house there?
G: Yes. I've maintained contact with a few people. One in particular, I guess, Madden,
by name—Dean Madden—was an engineering student; a freshman my junior year, and a couple
years ago he was chairman at the University of Illinois Board of Regents. He did very well for
himself. He owns and operates a manufacturing company in Decatur, Illinois. I'm very proud
of my association with those people.
C: Well, I have a really sad story. My chapter several years ago was kicked right off
the campus. I still never learned what they did. The whole idea of that whole tradition in a way
being obliterated. I was going to write National and tell them that the least they could do was
to tell some of us why this thing had happened. Oh, we had some remarkable people in that
house. The boys did something-maybe the kind of stuff that the kids do in the fraternities here.
G: I doubt that there is a vast difference between then and now. We had hazing in our
fraternity; it didn't really hurt anyone physically. It taught a certain amount of self-control. We
had an all-American football player who was well liked but at the end of the football season
traditionally drank a little more than he should and it taught us all a certain amount of tolerance.
I think the value of a fraternity to me and to most people is in teaching tolerance and forming
life-long friendships with those that share your experiences, outlook and point of view. I'm
grateful for my experience in the fraternity.
I've been alarmed from time to time at the
directions that they have taken. Here at the University of Kansas the house is so big with so
many students and members that I doubt that they ever really get to know each other in the sense
that we did in our chapter at the University of Illinois. We weren't that big.
C: You know, I had the experience for five years, I was chapter advisor here. Wasn't
much fun. This was the counter-culture time and I sometimes had the feeling as I sat there in
chapter meetings that I was the only person that really cared about whether the place was going
to keep going. We couldn't keep seniors in the house. They all wanted to move out of the
house. And of course there was at that time drinking was getting bad, drugs were getting bad,
some of them played cards all night long and I finally had it and I also wasn't feeling very well
at that time so I gave up about 1971. But I still have good feelings about it.
G: I no longer have any contact with the house here in Lawrence at all and haven't had
for years. I've had the feeling that those of us on the faculty who are alumni from other chapters
were foreigners to the local operation; we weren't considered to be necessary or our inputs
weren't particularly sought for or looked for, so my contacts have just been minimal. Both of
my sons, incidentally, are members of the local SAE chapter, but they no longer maintain any
contact. They were "town boys" so to speak, and I don't think had the same experience or
admiration for the organization that I formed as a member in a relatively small group of men.
But I'm very pro-fraternity. I hope it persists and I hope that the difficulties of today's era, as
you mentioned with drugs and the like, can be put behind us at some time.
C: Tell me a little bit about, did you have any, uh... well, now I think you did talk a little
about teachers you had there.
G: Yes, one grade school, one high school, one college.
C: I mean at the University of Illinois.
G: Oh, at the University of Illinois. Yes, the chairman of the department was in SAE
and an advisor to our fraternity and thought well of our group and was very pleasant. I think the
only "C" grade that I received at the University of Illinois was given to me by Professor
Leutwiler. He told me in a very blunt way that to avoid any criticism because I was a member
of his fraternity he would not give me a good grade. And that's the way it was; I've always felt
bad about it.
C: That's kind of unfair, though, you know.
G: Nonetheless, I thought highly of him and I think he probably thought highly of me.
I would hope so.
C: You know, I went back to Utah State to teach for a couple of years after I had been
in college. I was inundated by the girls from the Chi Omega sorority which my wife was in, and
the boys from the SAE, but they all learned quite rapidly that that did not mean a thing. They
still had to do the work; they still had to get the papers turned in; they would be graded the same
way other people would be graded; and those girls sitting there they found that they couldn't just
flaunt their charms.
G: Well, that's the way it should be. Over the years I think I followed that clear position
throughout my teaching at the University of Kansas. I had a few students from time to time who
were members of the SAE fraternity and I respected them and they respected me, I hope, but
there was no prejudice one way or another.
C: You graduated then in 1941. Now, that's just in time for World War II. Did you get
in the service?
G: I have a very unclear record from the military. I went to work for the Hamilton
Standard Division of the United Aircraft Corporation on graduation from the University of
Illinois in the summer of 1941. After Pearl Harbor came along I recall clearly going to the Navy
office to see if I could get a commission rather than waiting to be drafted, and learned in a rather
blunt sort of way that I was in the Navy, I just hadn't yet received the official word, but there
were fourteen of us in the corporation whose selective service records were turned over to the
Commander of the Second Naval District in Boston and we did receive formal orders and told
to remain on our jobs at United Aircraft and Hamilton Standard where I was throughout the
entire war involved in the design of propeller propulsion equipment for American-made aircraft.
Pratt and Whitney and Hamilton Standard used the same facilities, same test facilities, much of
the same design problem was shared. I spent many long hours in design of propeller systems
for Allied Aircraft. I was deeply involved with the B-29. I laid out the propeller installation in
the P-51B Mustang which was one of our greatest fighters. It was a hard job in a way; work
long hours day and night; always was grateful that I didn't get shot at, but on the other side was
always a little bit provoked that I wasn't a part of the direct war effort.
C: Were you in uniform?
C: Never. You were never in uniform but you were still in the Navy.
C: You must have been pretty good to have gotten an assignment like that.
G: Well, I don't know if it was good, fortunate or unfortunate, I say, but I never felt that
I didn't do my part. As I say, I was deeply involved in the design of a lot of our equipment.
I was granted the patents on the reverse pitch hydraulic propeller which after the war was used
extensively in commercial aviation for many years. It was a good job. Following the end of
World War n, my wife and at that point in our lives, two sons, wanted to move back to where
our families were.
C: Now, when did you get married?
G: 1941. Summer-August. Right out of school.
C: You've been married that long. Where was your wife from?
G: Kansas City, Missouri.
We met each other when we were students at Southwest High School in plain
geometry in class. Ruth went to the University of Illinois along with me.
C: You've been married a long time then.
G: Forty-nine years. We will reach our 50th next summer.
C: When did the children come along?
G: Larry was bom in late 1942 and his brother a year later during the war...
C: And Jane would've been a long time after that.
G: Well, Jane didn't show up for another ten years. Something didn't work quite right,
but we finally got our little girl and I've often said that unless there's a difference between love
and spoiling them, then she doesn't have a chance. But I'm convinced there's a big difference
because I'm very proud of her and I don't consider her to be spoiled.
C: Yeah, I figured she'd be about the age of my daughter—early fifties.
G: Uh, '37.
C: Carolyn was '50 and my daughter Cathy was at '53. Now you were with United
Aircraft until 1946.
G: After the war was over and I was released by the Navy, yes.
C: Why don't you talk a little bit about the other jobs you've had, the work you did in
business before you got into education.
G: Well, in teaching, incidentally, while we were living in Hartford, Connecticut I taught
night school at the Hilliard Junior College. I taught mathematics at the Hilliard Junior College
night school was kind of fun.
C: Was that the aircraft company that was there?
G: In Hartford, yes. After the war we moved back to Kansas City I entered the employ
of the Marley Company, manufacturers of water cooling towers. I taught night school at the
Kansas City Missouri Junior College for two or three years. Taught mathematics and so forth.
C: Did you do that because you needed the money or you just did it?
G: No, I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. In fact, I remember Leon
T. Mart, founder and president of the company, called me in his office one day and said,
"George, I understand you're teaching night school. If you have that much time and energy,
maybe you need to spend it in behalf of the company." To which I responded, "I'm not doing
it, I hope, in an improper way. I'm doing it because the young people who are in this class are
returned veterans and I would like to help them." And Leon Mart looked me in the eye and said,
"George, is there any way I can help you?" He was that kind of a wonderful guy and he
approved of it when he understood my reasons for doing it.
C: What did Marley manufacture?
G: Water cooling towers, industrial equipment, air conditioning and so forth. The steam
coming out of the power plants and the co-op plant over here in town, and so forth, are Marley
cooling towers. The giant fans and gear drives and so forth, those are my design.
C: Oh, my gosh. And that until '53. And then Butler?
G: Then I spent two years with Butler as director of new products research which frankly
proved to be a disappointing venture. I took the job with the understanding that they wanted to
build a materials and true research organization primarily related to the agriculture industry.
Management of the company did not support what I considered to be a research effort; they
thought the task should be that of looking at the competitors and seeing what their best features
are and bringing them back for incorporation into the company's products rather than attempting
to understand a phenomenon from a research point of view of what really goes on. So after two
years I threw it in and came into teaching here at KU full time.
C: Was Butler the company that manufactured those tin houses?
G: Greenbins, yes.
C: Well, not just that. At the University of Denver where I taught we lived in a Butlerit was called a Butler. It was temporary housing.
G: Ok, prefabricated steel buildings.
C: Well, that was it. The windows were kind of isinglass. If the wind blew the way it
is blowing here today, the whole place, oh, it was an awful way to live, but that's all we could
G: That's interesting. One of the studies that the group I was responsible for at Butler
made an in-depth study of nonmetallic materials-plastic, fiberglass reinforced materials and
skylighting used in their building is a polyester/glass material—and the study indicated that for
a very reasonable investment the company could make a clear, good profit and regain its capital
investment in less than two years time. The management of the company said, "We're still
fabricators. What do we know about plastics? We don't want to get into that." Which was very
disappointing to me. There was a captive product market for it and it would've been a good
venture. Since that time, incidentally, they have moved in the direction of becoming plastic
C: That was pretty short-sighted.
G: I thought so, yes. So I ended up with the feeling that there was no future promise
for true research effort within that company.
C: Now, how did you happen to come to KU?
I had met dean T. DeWitt Carr through a professional society meeting of the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and in casual conversation with him inquired about
the possibility of joining the faculty and he encouraged me to visit further about it and it all
ended up that I entered KU as an instructor graduate student.
C: You didn't have a master's degree yet.
G: No, I started a master's level study along with teaching and got the master's degree
two years later and was promoted to assistant professor and eventually associate, full professors,
and then chairman of the department.
C: Who was the head of mechanical engineering then?
G: Dr. Ed McBride was my first boss. Wonderful man. I always thought very highly
of Ed and see him from time to time now. Incidentally, he is one you should interview for this
C: Well, I think they've got him.
G: Oh, have they?
C: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.
G: That's fine.
C: Yes, he was a very nice man.
G: Very fine man.
C: Who else was on the faculty?
G: Bill Smith, of course, was in electrical. In mechanical, Harold Kipp, Ivan Nemecek.
At that time the manufacturing side of engineering was over in the old Fowler shops.
C: Where the school of journalism is now. Fowler shops.
G: Well, I'm thinking of the new Fowler shops. The old Fowler shops over by the
power plant was not the building that was put up right after World War II as a museum for
World War II production machinery, which has largely been disposed of now. It was a good
group. Ralph Tate was there at that time; he's been gone for years.
A dedicated group of
educators with genuine interest in the welfare of students. The concept of academic research had
not yet blossomed in the sense that it did in later years. They were educators rather than
C: The School of Engineering is so large; do people in mechanical engineering tend to
be associated most with people in mechanical engineering or do they mix it up with the other
G: Oh, when I first came to KU it was pretty well mixed up because we were all in the
same building, old Marvin Hall. I suppose in associate context we were more in contact within
departments than across the entire school although contact across the entire school was quite
prevalent. I enjoyed the contacts of the early years at KU. Unfortunately most of those people
are either gone or moved away or no longer active. There are very few left. Ralph Tate has
been gone for many years. Don Haines is an example. Don's still around. I see him from time
C: I saw him at the ball game the other night.
G: Doing very well, too, I think. T. DeWitt Carr has been gone for years. He was
followed by Bill Smith as dean. I have, as I say, fond memories of my associations in my early
years with the School of Engineering. I also taught for the math department for some while.
Co-teaching the differential equation course with various people in the math department. Tom
Crease I think very highly of, Marty Hanna. That was a fun course. As it originally started
being co-taught in the usual size classroom of 30, give or take a few students, the last several
times I taught it was in the auditorium at Strong Hall with 175 students.
It was a dismal
experience. That kind of a subject cannot effectively be taught to that large of a group in my
judgment. But we did it, and I don't know that the students suffered too much. I've always
been inclined to believe that what a student learns is 80% a consequence of his efforts and 20%
is a result of the encouragement of the teacher.
C: Yeah. Where did you folks live when you came to Lawrence?
G: The first year that I taught, I commuted from Prairie Village and during the summer
of that year we built a home at 1655 University Drive and we lived on University Drive up until
five years ago when we moved out to where we are now—Woodfield Meadows.
C: The same home then for thirty years.
C: You're one of the few people I've talked to that didn't have to suffer through living
in Sunnyside and places like that.
G: No, I suppose that in contrast with that I commuted from Prairie Village for a year
but frankly really enjoyed it. It gave me close to an hour twice a day to relax.
C: Time to think.
G: Time to think; time to enjoy the countryside.
C: I think that there's a lot to that. The times that I've dealt with that kind of thing I've
felt that was a very good experience. What are the classes that you taught here, George?
G: Oh, I think that at one time or another I've taught virtually all of the required courses
in the undergraduate program in mechanical engineering. My principal field of interest has been
In addition to the courses in machine design, kinematics.
I've taught the
courses in production, that is manufacturing machine tools, I've taught thermodynamics and heat
transfer and as I mentioned I taught in the math department or co-taught courses with the math
department, I should say.
C: The vita that I got on you, see how young you look back in those days?
G: Wasn't that a handsome picture?
C: Oh, yeah. I gather this would've been 1959.
G: Probably was printed someplace along in the early 60's.
C: Yeah, you were chairman of the department, 1973? Was that when it was?
G: Yes, 1973 for six years I was chairman of the department starting in 1973.
C: When did you do the consultantships?
G: Oh, I've been doing consulting work ever since I joined the faculty.
I was doing
consulting for a number of manufacturing firms in Kansas City during the first year, 1955-56,
Barnes Manufacturing Company in Kansas City; Mid-States Metal Products; J. F. Pritchard and
Company; oh, I've done consulting for a lot of people. I notice on that brief resume, Haven
Steel Company. I did some work for them. I've been involved in consulting ever since, well,
prior to joining the faculty at the University of Kansas, and in summer periods since being at the
University of Kansas I've spent summers in Albuquerque and California, and one summer in San
Jose, Costa Rica, as part of the international program. My consulting has been split between
mechanical design and litigation. To date I'm rather heavily involved in litigation as associated
C: You're still doing that kind of stuff?
G: Haven't been in court since yesterday. I testified at a trial in Atchison, Kansas,
yesterday. And we won, incidentally.
C: You're not really retired then, are you?
G: Oh, no. Not by any matter of means. No, I enjoy it.
C: George, would you talk a little bit about some of the organizations with which you
I see American Society for Engineering Education; American Society for
Mechanical Engineers; and you are, what, a registered professional engineer.
C: What does that mean?
G: Well, the fifty states have laws in each state that the consulting engineer must be
registered and in general must be a graduate of an accredited institution and have at least four
years of accredited experience and for many years pass a two-day examination to become
registered. I've been registered in both Kansas and Missouri for many years. In the way of
organizations, I'm proud to have been made a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers which is an honor granted to something less than 2% of its membership. It is the
principal large organization for mechanical engineering. I'm no longer active, as such, but I am
a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Society of Automotive
Engineers, various groups of this sort that have served the engineering professions. One of the
difficulties is that there are just too many engineering societies and lack of a unification of a sort
that would correspond to the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association.
In the way of honor groups in engineering, as you perhaps know, going back to around 1880, Phi
Beta Kappa decided that it would admit to its membership only students in liberal arts. As a
consequence, the various professional groups formed their own honor societies; the field of law:
The Order of the Coy; the field of Medicine: Alpha Omega Alpha; offhand I don't know what
the name of the one is for journalism or what its society is, but the field of engineering there
were two formed~one back in Lehigh in 1880 something or other or 1890 something or other
and up here at the University of Nebraska Sigma Tau was formed largely because of the
consequence of the difficulty of communication in that era. I was a member of both and was
the last national president of Sigma Tau and was instrumental in merging the two organizations
into one and now there's one national honor society or fraternity for the field of engineering and
its called Tau Beta Pi.
C: Yeah, this was one of the news releases that I got from 1975—actually it brings in a
number of these things here. It talks about you being named a fellow of the American Society.
You probably have these things yourself somewhere in your files. In 1966 you received the
Henry Gould award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.
G: I believe that's correct, yes.
C: Was Don Green a mechanical engineer?
G: No, Don is a chemical petroleum engineer.
C: Yeah, this is the story I see, that... no wait, the rest of it should be here somewhere.
They've chopped off a number of people who were nominated to receive that, some of the other
people: Burmeister, Schuleostomat, is that how you say that?
G: Yes, he was Greek if I remember right and in aerospace engineering.
C: Yeah, killed in an automobile accident. I don't remember him, and Don Green and
Harry Talley. And you're the guy that got it.
G: Apparently so.
C: Well, that is a pretty wonderful thing. Are there any students that you had over the
years that have turned out so well that you kind of feel that you helped set them on their path?
G: Well, that's a fascinating question. I've reflected on this one a number of times.
C: You often wonder if you're the one that did it or if they would've done it anyway,
G: Not only that, but you don't know whether to be ashamed or proud from time to time.
Let me give you some examples. President of General Motors Europe, Bob Eaton, who was one
of my students, Director of the Navy Underseas Labs in San Diego, California; Frank Gordon
was one of my doctoral students; Jim Straight, who is, I believe, one of the principal directors
now of the Los Almos Scientific Laboratory, he was one of my students; more close to our
neighborhood, chief executive officer of the Union Wire Rope Company up in Atchison was one
of my students; the now retired president of the Bendix Allied Signal organization in Kansas City
was one of my masters level students. I think that's enough. I'm proud of them.
C: Are there any whose pictures are in the post office?
G: Probably are.
C: I guess you kind of wonder about some of the people who didn't turn out so well,
G: I was met in the hall up at school—I still have a desk over there for which I'm
grateful and meet over there and am called upon from time to time to fill in for somebody in
class and lecture to the students and I enjoy doing it, but I met a young man in the hall just the
other day who stopped me and reintroduced himself as being from Saudi Arabia and graduated
in 1984. He was very pleasant and I just commented to him that I just hope they get things
straightened out over in that part of the world...
C: Did you ask him why he wasn't over there?
G: He had just come back and was, in fact, going back home soon. Why he was here
I don't know.
C: Yeah. I was thinking about a little thing back in the time of the, I guess when the
war broke out between Iran and Iraq. Some student from Iran at KU was asked about that. Oh,
he had very strong patriotic feelings. They said, "Why don't you go over there?" He said, "I
can't go over there until I graduate."
G: I've enjoyed the foreign students over the years.
C: You probably get a lot in engineering.
Quite a few.
I recall with pride visiting in the School of Engineering at the
University of Costa Rica. Bill Smith and I were down there, oh, it's been a number of years
C: Now, were you in the University of Costa Rica program?
G: Yes. The first wave.
C: Oh, you were?
G: Yes, the very first group and I've been back two or three times since. Bill and I went
there seeking the possibility of some cooperative research which I could go into in some detail,
but I don't know that's its appropriate, but we walked into the government testing laboratory and
a young man walked over and said, "Hello, Professor Forman, it's nice to see you." It turns out
that he was one of my former students. I've run into them here and there and elsewhere. In
Germany, one at one time.
C: How much traveling have you done associated with your career?
G: Oh, I think I've had contacts in the consulting sense...
C: You did consulting work overseas then?
G: I testified in one lawsuit in Munich, Germany, a few years ago?
C: How did you get into the lawsuit part of this? Does it just happen that you do it?
G: It pretty much just happens.
It was referred to me by Dean T. DeWitt Carr. A
compressor in southwestern Kansas had blown up and he had been contacted by the Northern
natural gas people and wanted an engineer to investigate the accident and he asked me if I would
do it and I did it and it was rather enjoyable and it just sort of spread from there in one way or
another. I've been involved in consulting for people, oh, General Motors, as a result of former
students. I've been involved as a consultant to a variety of government agencies at a National
Transportation Safety Board in conjunction with accident investigation and in particular anti-lock
brakes that are used in vehicles. The Kansas Department of Transportation I've served as an
About half of what I've done as a consultant has been involved with
design of products and machinery and the other half associated with litigation. I mentioned that
I testified in a lawsuit yesterday. It was a vehicular accident case. It was rather enjoyable in a
sense for me. It gives me something to do which I feel is worthwhile. I am concerned with the
present status of the practice of law in the United States as associated with design of product.
If someone is injured by a machine, it is often held that the machine was at fault, where as a fact
the accident was in consequence of the operatorof the machine being grossly negligent, reckless
or improper in the actions he has used in operating the machine. Example, there are lawsuits on
file against automobile manufacturers—Porsche and Mazda, specifically—where they have
advertised their vehicles are capable of 130 m.p.h. speeds, which they are, and if somebody gets
hurt is it the vehicle's fault? Now, this is the question that faces the American public in many
C: Well, I think that this all goes back to the attitude that prevails in a lot of sectors of
society that people are not responsible for the things that they do to somebody else, that some
teacher who didn't teach them well enough. This has just become a pattern in America, I think.
G: I agree with you. I am right at the present moment a member of a national committee
of the Defense Research Institute, which is the big organization of defense attorneys, and the
committee is concerned with actions that might be taken to insure that testimony of a technical
nature is not prejudiced and "bought" testimony. There are people around the nation who will
sell themselves and testify in accordance with whatever it takes to get paid, and I for one fight
that. I look at a lot of cases for both defense and plaintiff and call them the way I see them.
If they don't like my opinion, they don't have to engage me. I wish that all people would
practice in that sense. There's a lot of defective and unreasonably dangerous machinery that is
sold and marketed largely by inexperienced individuals who fail to recognize the dangers
associated with their machines, and I am on record and have testified in a number of lawsuits
related to this. For example, a while back I was involved in a lawsuit where a little girl was
killed when her long hair became tangled in the belts of a mini-motorized tricycle that had
unguarded belts and her long hair became entangled with the belts and it killed her. It is clearly
foreseeable that those should have been guarded if you're going to let kids use it; it ought to be
built to where their hair won't become entangled. Numerous industrial accidents; I just had one
that settled last week-never went to trial-where an individual lost a hand in a machine that
should have been guarded and wasn't.
C: Well, are machines today, including cars, not as well built as they used to be or is it
that we simply have more lawsuits? I often wonder whether years ago GM would have to be
recalling an entire line because of a certain defect.
G: No, they're clearly better built today than they were many years ago, but it has also
become a pattern of operation that our drivers ignore speed limits. If you drive the legal speed
limit of 55 m.p.h. around the south end of Kansas City you're holding up traffic.
C: I don't think a car should go 130 m.p.h. You see, this is what...
G: Well, that's part of my question. It shouldn't go that fast, but whose fault is it if it
rolls off the curb at too high a speed-is it the car's or the driver's?
C: I see these commercials on television showing some car shooting at high speed on a
mountain road that clearly is covered with rain, and I think this is terrible thing to be showing
to the consumer.
G: I agree.
C: Because the way some, especially young people, the way they drive anyway, and they
think this is the way, and the little typed thing down at the bottom of the screen that says you
shouldn't drive this way, who reads that?
G: Yeah. I agree, but I think we should also recognize that education is a fair major at
fault for not adequately forewarning, cautioning, training people related to safety. Your driving
education programs...there's no clear answer. For example, I went over to Illinois, oh, it's been
a couple of years ago now, with an old friend of mine who was an airline pilot for many, many
years. We went over in his airplane, a beautiful little model 35 Bonanza to investigate an aircraft
accident for a law firm in Dallas. We spent the day looking at the accident sight, finally found
what we needed to explain the cause of the accident; probably should have stayed over night but
we decided that we would climb back in his airplane and come back and spend the night in
Lawrence. Well, we were about three feet off the runway in Lawrence and the horn went off.
We both instantly knew that we didn't have the landing gear down. My friend flying as captain
for many years had lapsed into the thinking that, I sitting in the right seat, had gone down the
checklist and put the wheels down. He was wrong. I had not put them down. Well, I'm glad
that the warning system was on his aircraft because we simply pulled it up, went around, put the
wheels down and came in and landed. Question: is that machine defective so as to be
unreasonably dangerous if it is not equipped with the landing gear warning system? Suppose we
had made a belly flop landing. Was it the airplane's fault or was it the pilot's fault? This is
typical of the kind of questions being asked today. I personally think it would have been the
pilot's fault. It is my understanding that the FAA now requires landing gear warning systems
on all aircraft with retractable landing gear. That's not a bad idea, but it doesn't relieve the pilot
of his responsibility. And it has the distinct disadvantage that the operator becomes more and
more dependent upon the machine to think for him rather than be completely and adequately
trained and equipped to handle the difficulties that may come about.
C: This is the kind of thing that you're...
G: I am deeply involved with this kind of thing.
C: Something I want to ask you about, maybe this is not anything that affected your life
very much, but do you have any vivid memories of the good "ole," what I call the "bad ole days"
of the late 60's on our campus when assaults were being made on the ROTC building and rallies
were taking place in the stadium and the union was burning and things like that.
G: Yes, I have a couple of interesting reflections. When Larry Chalmers, our chancellor,
asked the faculty to guard the buildings and be present to observe any misactions throughout the
night and the like, I agreed to do it for the engineering shop complex behind Marvin Hall,
provided I could pick my own crew. And it was agreed that I would. The crew I picked without
exception had top secret military clearance. I didn't have to worry about them. I knew of the
level of their involvement.
C: You mean faculty?
G: Faculty, yes. Without exception with "Q" clearances.
C: You guys had that kind of stuff over there?
G: Not over there, we did not, no. But we were all involved in it in relation to military
C: That's interesting. I didn't know anything like that.
G: It was my crew that found the young man trying to torch the military science
C: Oh, is that right.
G: Yes. So, yes, I have that recollection. I have the recollection and I have slides
someplace that I took from the top of the stadium. Maybe these ought to be in the archives of
the University someplace that I took with the Leica camera with a telephoto lens of Larry
Chalmers down in the field at the stadium surrounded by large personnel who were guardinghim
during that final meeting during which time it was decided whether or not the University would
be shut down.
C: We were all down there that awful day.
G: It was exciting, huh.
C: How about your classes. Did any of these nuts—I think they were nuts, most of them-
-anyway, did any of these people show up in your classes, or wasn't engineering hit by that?
G: No, I didn't have any interruptions in any of my classwork. As I remember, we
stopped a week early and did away with finals week or something like that, but I have no direct
involvement with any of that.
C: You didn't have any who felt that engineering wasn't "relevant"?
G: Not that I recall, no.
C: I think they were mainly in the college in the social sciences, political science and
oh, believe me, I had my share of them in some classes.
G: Probably in the social sciences more than anyplace else.
C: Yeah, that would've been the case. Well, I had quite an argument with one of your
colleagues whose name I won't mention for the record about Chancellor Chalmers, and he and
I disagreed very strongly on the man and I guess that you and I might, too, so we won't get into
that. Let's see. There's just a few more things. Oh, I know what I wanted to ask you about.
Did you ever have to get yourself involved in either school or university committee stuff? Of
course, as chairman of the department you would have had that.
G: Yes, I was chairman of the School of Engineering committee on programs for gifted
students. I'm not sure I used the right term, but the students with outstanding abilities—very high
IQ's. I recall one student in particular that we treated in a special way. He didn't take the
introductory course in strength of materials; we put him immediately into the advanced course.
Let him pick up what he needed with a little coaching from the introductory course. We did the
same thing in thermodynamics and a number of other ones. We didn't have enough left to offer
him a master's degree; he had taken most of those courses as partof his undergraduate. He went
to the University of Illinois and two years later had a doctorate.
C: Boy, he was gifted.
G: He was gifted. And frankly, I, in reflecting on this, I'm not all sure that it was a kind
thing to do. He turned out to be a very obnoxious individual in that he felt that he was better
than anybody else. I think those edges have been worn off now, but he was not an admirable
C: You know, I taught a section of honor students for many yearsG: ..."Honor students" are the words I should have used.
C: ...and I had to bring those kids down frequently. I had to let them find out in many
ways that they were not really better than other people. But, of course, a lot of them knew that
and were troubled by it. They didn't like the pressure. Many of them got it from their parents.
G: Yes. I recall one other university-well, a university committee in which I served at
one time, and that was the traffic and parking committee and I reflected my own experience from
the University of Illinois.
As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, possession of
automobiles was outlawed. The town was too jammed up for students to have automobiles and
I recommended that the University seriously consider this as a policy. Well, it didn't ever get
off the ground; we didn't want to hurt the little fellows' and girls' social status. I still think it
was a mistake. Are they here to drive automobiles or are they here to go to school?
C: Do you know how many cars we have in front of our fraternity house? Two. One
of them was a 1929 Model A that had a hole in the roof, and the other was a 1941 Ford, and
when we had a formal dance or something like that, one of the guys would go home and borrow
his dad's car and four couples in tuxedos and formals would go to those dances together. That
was when we came to realize that you can't-this is when I came to know that there isn't going
to be too much in a sexual way going on when you have...
G: When you have eight people with you-
C: -When you have eight people wearing tuxedos and formals packed in. Really, that
was the pattern.
G: I recall that committee experience was a disappointment with views of the faculty.
Maybe I was clear off on one side of things, but having personally experienced it I felt it would
be proper and as a result the trends and the way the campus has gone now with parking and
traffic eliminated from the main drag-Jayhawk Boulevard right down the main campus-itis now
just one continuous train of buses.
C: Yeah, the buses have just taken over.
G: Which I think are worse than it was.
C: Following the buses up Indiana, which is the way I would go to school during those
last years that I was teaching, that was a painful experience; and then get on campus and being
stopped by the—how about promotions and tenure and that kind of stuff? You must've had some
of that when you were chairman.
G: Oh, yes, and I think before I was chairman I served on a promotions committee-
promotion and tenure committee for the School of Engineering for a year or two, although I don't
recall anything that was of a controversial character.
C: George, this may be kind of a personal sounding question, but were you one of the
guys that did a lot of publishing? Was that part of your pattern or were you involved more in
teaching and consulting and so on?
G: Oh, I didn't do a lot of publishing. Yes, I've published in the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers.
C: Did your school require it?
G: Oh, not in any formal way, but it was sort of implied that I guess along around
probably 1970-75, someplace in there, it became a necessity if one wanted to advance in the
academic rank or the like, even as he was expected to do research, whatever that may mean. I
don't mean to knock research; I feel that it is a very worthwhile undertaking and I've been
involved in research related to materials, I've been involved in research related to design for
many years. But I think that a vast majority of the publications are just there because of the
requirement that they publish. I continue to publish. I just sent in an article the other day toTau
Beta Pi~an article entitled, Passive Suicide-Who's Fault? As reflected in the kind of thing
we've been discussing in the past of operator error and machines. I've published rather
extensively as a resultof summer activities in consulting in classified areas. My publications are,
by and large, of a secret character which are not available to the public in general.
C: Did you get yourself involved in much community stuff in your years here? Didn't
ever run for the city commission, did you?
G: No, I have not been involved in community affairs to any significant extent. I have
been a consultant to the City of Lawrence in relation to accidents where City of Lawrence
vehicles are involved in accidents, I've served as an expert, and I have a couple of cases live
with them at the moment. But as far as politics, per se, no, I haven't.
C: Politics interest you?
G: Oh, it interests me, yes, but not in an active context. It interests me in the context
of a philosophical sense. I have recently watched with considerable interest the development of
history, the position of the Russian empire at the moment, its switch to a free-competitive
enterprise in contrast with the United States increased governmental control of business. They
seem to be moving towards a middle ground in some way or another.
C: Do you read a lot?
G: Oh, a fair amount, I guess, yes.
C: Beyond your own field from what you've just said.
G: I enjoy reading the Atlantic monthly, things of this sort, and the journals of my
C: Of course, I see you at all the KU basketball games. Are you a big fan of KU sports?
G: I enjoy football and basketball as a casual observer. The color, the fascination, yes
I find its a fascinating experience, but I'm not avid in the context of becoming personally
C: You don't go into despair if KU loses a game it was supposed to win?
G: No, not at all. I'm alarmed at the magnitude of collegiate athletics. Example: the
new billboard in the center of our fieldhouse.
C: I hate that. I think it's obscene.
G: I personally do not feel that our athletic program should be of a scope where gross
advertising takes precedence.
C: Every time that the floor announcer pushes Pizza Hut or Coke I sit there and I seethe
because I don't think they should be doing that.
G: I think it's disgusting.
G: And I hope that something will happen to curtail it one of these days.
C: Well, I'm afraid we're headed in the other direction. I sometimes wonder whether
some of our classes are going to be sponsored sometime. As a matter of fact, in our school—I
came to feel that I had to be very careful at some times about the comments that I made about
different newspaper organizations. We have a lot of backing from the Gannett Company. Every
time I got to Gannett in my history class, I was afraid because I knew what I was going to say
because I always told my class that Gannett was not a first-class organization. And it is not, but
I was always worried about that because I knew how much good they were doing us. And I bet
that would be a case with engineering with all of the companies, for example, that you've been
associated with in your consulting.
G: It's a little different character, I think. The degree to which individual business
enterprises attempt to influence education is something that, in the field of engineering, is largely
lacking. I don't see anything of this sort, although, there is some of it The manufacturers of
materials, they wish to push their materials before the students so that the students are aware of
them, maybe use them eventually in the design of their enterprises. I don't sense any significant
meaning to it in the same way that consumer industries, this business of restaurants and soft drink
concerns and motels and hotels and this kind of thing-advertising in a gross sort of way. That
just makes me cold.
C: I look up there and see the Sonny Hill and I think how I hate those Sonny Hill
commercials on television.
G: My reaction is that I'll walk before I buy an automobile from them.
C: Yeah. Have you and Ruth been able to do much traveling or anything like that since
you've been retired?
G: Oh, a fair amount, yes. We've been in Europe a couple of times. This summer we
were on a wonderful cruise up the inside passageway up to Alaska.
C: Isn't that nice.
G: It was delightful, and we went down through the Panama Canal. Next autumn, we're
scheduled to go on a tour of a small tourist boat up through the Erie Canal, up through northern
New England and around there.
C: Hey, that sounds nice.
G: I understand that quite a few KU couples have been on it. They look forward to it.
C: Yeah, that sounds like a good one.
G: We've enjoyed that kind of thing and we've travelled around the country from time
to time. We've enjoyed viewing the countryside.
C: Do you see your children much?
G: Not as much as we'd like.
Our younger son in California is vice-president of a
consulting firm and is terribly busy. He has two big projects—multi-million dollar projects—in
building power lines and he eats and sleeps occasionally but works awfully hard. So they don't
get back this way; we're going back there in late March to visit with them. Our other son up
in Illinois we see regularly. And, of course, our daughter Jane, we see her.
C: Are there grandchildren?
G: We have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
C: You have two great-grandchildren?
C: Oh, my word! And here you and I are about the same age.
G: Oh, I think I'm quite a bit older.
C: Two years.
G: Well, that's quite a bit.
C: Not very much. Our oldest grandchild is only five. Of course, you know, we lost
one who would be nine.
G: Well, our oldest grandchild is 23, I guess, and he has a little boy and his sister a
couple years younger has a little girl. Those arc our son John's two. And our other son, Larry,
has three children. His oldest son is now a sophomore at the University of Chicago.
C: That's quite a place.
G: And his daughter is a senior in high school, and his third is a sophomore in high
C: I don't like the word "hobbies" very much, but do you have anything like that? Do
you get out here and play golf?
G: No, I haven't played golf for years. I used to play golf a great deal with my father
and brother when they were alive, but I haven't played for years now. I play around with
photography a great deal. I claim to be the slowest photographer in the West.
C: You collect rocks.
G: Only as a joke. I do play around, as I say, with photography, and I claim to be the
slowest photographer in the world. I have proof of it. I have prints of pictures that I made in
1977 from negatives that I made the day the Golden Gate bridge opened in 1937. It took me
forty years to print those pictures.
C: Oh, my.
G: But they turned out rather interesting.
C: Well, photography is a good hobby. I take slides so I can bore people to death with
G: Well, I do a lot of photography in conjunction with accident investigation—industrial
accident investigation, in particular. You get pictures of whatmachines were thatwere involved,
and so forth. Cameras are so far advanced today from what they were a few years ago, it's taken
a lot of the fun out of it. You simply point the thing and press it and you get a picture
C: Well, after all the trouble I've had with cameras, I'm kind of glad to have one like
that. I had a camera go on the blink on me while we were on vacation this last September, and
just died. Electronic camera. Loading—oh, I think loading cameras can be a painful kind of
G: Well, engineers don't have the trouble with things like that like journalists do.
C: That's right. You're able to do things. Well, are there things you would have
included yourself that I haven't been getting to as we've been talking here today?
G: Well, the only thing that goes through my mind at the moment is that I'm very
grateful for the support and friendship of a little girl named Ruth who's been my close friend for
almost fifty years.
C: Are there any friends of special note that you've made while you've been here in
Lawrence? People who you've been associated with, I mean besides the ones in the School of
G: Oh, not that I would single out as such. One of my very closest friends going back
many years, Lenny Martin, is gone now. He was one of my fraternity brothers at Illinois. He
and I were very close for many years. The friendship of the character that if either one of us had
called the other and said, "Hey, I'm in a bind. I need a couple of thousand dollars tomorrow
morning." Either one of us, if we could've we would've had it in his hands.
C: That's a good kind of friendship.
G: We were that close, enjoyed each other's company. But he's been gone and I no
longer have that kind of very close friend. But I think that kind of friendship is formed in early
C: Well, that's the kind I have. The man I consider my closest friend, 1927, it goes back
that long. George, I'm wondering if there's anything that you would like to say in a kind of
summing up of your life here at KU and in Lawrence what your experience has been here. I
know that's come out in the other things that you've said, but I mean by way of just kind of a
G: Well, I would reflect the pleasure that we have enjoyed in our life here in Lawrence.
It's been a good life. I've enjoyed the community; I enjoy associations with the University and
its activities. It has many advantages in contrast with the hustle bustle of living in the big city
and working eight hours a day. I think the University should continue to foster the importance
of education in contrast with its thrust in the area of research.
I don't mean in any sense
minimize the importance of research, but I do sense in the last few years that the emphasis has
shifted from genuine interest in the welfare of our young people and that has been disturbing to
me from time to time. Example: in the field of engineering, the majority of the new members
of the faculty are peoples from alien background which is fine, but if it results in an environment
in which the welfare of students is secondary then I think we're not doing our duty and I'm
afraid that in some instances that is what has been going on. I appreciate the opportunity to visit
with you and I hope this accomplishes the task that you are undertaking.
C: Well, thank you, thank you very much, George. It's been a good interview.