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Family tradition leads distinguished graduate to excel

Dr. William Bower, 2012 Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award recipient, followed in his father’s footsteps at Purdue. William Bower, Sr., who graduated with a BSME in 1941, was lost during World War II, just two months before his son was born.

When Dr. William Bower received his Outstanding Mechanical Engineer award in November of 2012, he tried to put his professional accomplishments in perspective — it wasn’t easy. Bower (BSME ’67, MSME ’69, Ph.D. ’71) chose to share some emotional personal details, speaking about his late father and his personal dedication to following in his family’s legacy.

Bower’s father, Lieutenant William Bower, Sr. (BSME ‘41), enlisted in the United States Navy after Pearl Harbor and later volunteered to enter the submarine service. As a crew member and engineering officer aboard the USS Albacore, he patrolled the northern coast of Japan between Honshu and Hokkaido during World War II. The Albacore and her crew were lost on November 7, 1944, after the submarine came into contact with a mine. Dr. Bower was born two months later, and was affectionately named after his father.

“When I was growing up, I never knew my father, so I learned all I could about him from other people,” Dr. Bower said. This included trips to the Purdue campus with his mother, where his father had not only been an exceptional student, but had also been a passionate supporter of the Purdue football team, an active member in his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, and a musician. “His career was cut short,” he said of his father. “There are contributions that he would have made that he never got a chance to. He missed out on achievements and experiences because he was lost at such a young age.”

Lieutenant Bower was entitled to wear the Presidential Unit Citation with a bronze star, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Submarine Combat Pin. He was also awarded the Purple Heart. Inspired by Bower, Sr.’s honors by his country and community for his services his son was left to proudly carry on the family name and traditions — starting with a Purdue engineering degree. Bower earned his BSME from Purdue in 1967, 26 years after his father proudly walked those same halls and graduated. Dr. Bower remembers studying the memorial wall where his father’s name is inscribed along with other Purdue students who were lost at war. He also met faculty members that remembered his father and even shared a thermodynamics professor, David S. Clark. Through these experiences, Dr. Bower gained insight into more than just mechanical engineering, formulas, and creative ways to solve problems, he was provided with supplementary lessons on life he missed growing up.

Beyond the significance Purdue holds in Dr. Bower’s heart because of his father, he attributes his successful career to the foundation that he received from his mechanical engineering education and the support and encouragement of the School’s highly regarded faculty members. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” he said. “When I look back, I feel deeply honored by the opportunity of going to this school, getting a great education, and having these accomplishments.”

Today, Dr. Bower is a Senior Technical Fellow for the Boeing Company’s Research and Technology division- a distinction achieved by only one-tenth of 1 percent of the Boeing technical work force. He has been with Boeing and McDonnell Douglas Corporation (which was acquired by Boeing in 1997) for forty-two years where he specializes in Active Flow Control technology for commercial and military aircraft.  In 1999, he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He received the St. Louis Section AIAA Technical Management Award in 2004 for Recognition of an Outstanding Accomplishment in Technical Management. He also received the NASA Certificate of Recognition for Advanced Aircraft Noise Reduction Technologies and the Boeing Certificate of Recognition for Advancing Active Flow Control Technology.

In November of 2012, Dr. Bower was awarded the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award by the School of Mechanical Engineering, and he identified it as one of the most meaningful awards he received in his professional career. “The Outstanding Mechanical Engineer award is the greatest honor I have ever received …there are many awards given out by various professional organizations that I am involved with, but to be recognized by my own school is amazing,” said Dr. Bower. “I was able to continue my father’s legacy and make contributions to the same field that he dreamed of being a part of. The Outstanding Mechanical Engineer award means that I was able to carry on something he wasn’t able to do.”

William Bower, Sr. (BSME'41) and Dr. William Bower (BSME '67, MSME '69, Ph.D '71, OME '12)