William C. Kessler

For his outstanding contributions to developing U.S. manufacturing and production technology, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to William C. Kessler.

Director, Manufacturing Technology Directorate,
Wright Laboratory
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
BSAAE '64, MSAAE '65


In 1965, after earning bachelor's and master's degrees at Purdue in aeronautical and engineering sciences, Dr. Kessler began a 10-year career at McDonnell Douglas in engineering and management, earning a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in 1974.

Dr. Kessler joined the Air Force in 1975 as a senior materials research engineer and in 1981 was appointed Special Assistant to the Director of the Air Force Materials Laboratory. Since 1988 Dr. Kessler has headed the Manufacturing Technology Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a program that pioneers manufacturing developments for all Air Force products. He is the Air Force's foremost authority on advanced manufacturing and production technology.

Since 1988 Dr. Kessler has headed the Manufacturing Technology Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a program that pioneers manufacturing developments for all Air Force products. He is the Air Force's foremost authority on advaced manufacturing and production technology.

Dr. Kessler also has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton since 1975, teaching graduate-level classes in numerical methods and transport phenomena in the School of Chemical Engineering.

  • "Having good technical roots is one of the key characteristics of being a good engineer, but you need more than that. You need a spirit of entrepreneurship, of exploring different ideas. You also need good judgment-you can't pursue all ideas, so you have to focus on the few ideas that have the potential for payoff. Finally, you need the capability to communicate your ideas so that those ideas can become reality."

  • "The major change that I see coming in engineering is a drive toward the engineer with a multidisciplinary background-the 'renaissance engineer. Integration is what we worry about now. How do you not only design something for performance but also factor in design considerations of cost and manufacturability and ease of maintenance?"

Advice for the engineering student:

"Realize that you're in it for the long haul. Be willing to accept the discipline and hard work it takes to get through Purdue. Take the long view: the payoff will be immense."