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Engineering alumni fund award to honor late professor

Award for student excelling in advanced simulation course


The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University recently received a gift of $50,000 from two alumni to create a student award in honor of a late industrial and systems engineering professor.

Michael Gardner and Robin Hayward, both '80s alumni of the industrial and systems engineering program, established the Dr. Helmut Zwahlen Award for Outstanding Student Achievement in Simulation. The annual award will provide $2,500 for an undergraduate student who is excelling in an advanced simulation course.

Zwahlen, who taught simulation, joined the Russ College in 1971 as an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering. He later became Russ Professor of Industrial and Systems Manufacturing Engineering and also a research professor with the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment.  

Gardner, of Findlay, Ohio, said Zwahlen was known for his high
expectations of students. He hopes that an award for "the best of the best" will preserve Zwahlen's efforts.

"In Dr. Zwahlen's simulation class, all the aspects of a real-world
situation had to be distilled and recreated – simulated – within the
confines of a computer program," Gardner explained. "Only with rigorous preparation and above-average effort was one able to succeed," added Gardner, president of Superior Trim, which manufactures interior trim components for heavy trucks.

Department Chair Bob Judd concurred. "Alumni remember him as a
demanding teacher," Judd said. "In addition, he was a prolific researcher whose work led to the creation of high-visibility highway
signage in use on American highways today, where it continues to save lives."

Judd added his gratitude to the pair of alums.

"We"re so grateful that Michael and Rob honored Dr. Zwahlen with their gifts. This award is an excellent way to keep the legacy of one of our most distinguished faculty," Judd said.

Hayward, senior operations analyst at Superior Trim and also of
Findlay, participated as a subject and lead researcher in Zwahlen's
work for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He and Gardner also wanted to recognize the global influence of Zwahlen's research.

"The opportunity to be involved in projects and research that had a
real-world impact was significantly more influential on me as time has gone on, as opposed to the classic textbook education," Hayward said. "Dr. Zwahlen taught with an intelligent practicality that helped his students understand how what we learn can apply to real-life situations."

A native of Switzerland, Zwahlen died in March 2010. The recipient for 2011 will be announced in May at the Russ College's annual student award banquet.