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Ohio University celebrates the life of professor emeritus of electrical engineering, former associate dean

Anna Hartenbach | Aug 20, 2018
Essman
Essman chats with a guest at the open house for the newly completed Paul C. and Beth K. Stocker Engineering and Technology Center, formerly Crook Hall dormitory, in 1985.

Ohio University celebrates the life of professor emeritus of electrical engineering, former associate dean

Anna Hartenbach | Aug 20, 2018
Essman chats with a guest at the open house for the newly completed Paul C. and Beth K. Stocker Engineering and Technology Center, formerly Crook Hall dormitory, in 1985.
Essman chats with a guest at the open house for the newly completed Paul C. and Beth K. Stocker Engineering and Technology Center, formerly Crook Hall dormitory, in 1985.

The Russ College of Engineering and Technology and greater Ohio University community are honoring the life of Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and former Associate Dean Joseph Essman, Sr., who passed away on Mon., Aug. 13, surrounded by family at his home in The Plains, Ohio.

Essman, BSEE ’57, MS ’61, joined Ohio University in 1957 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. During his 51 years of service at OHIO, he served as an assistant, associate and full professor; assistant and associate dean; and special project administrator for the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) and Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS).

The Russ College’s first associate dean, from 1981-1995, Essman was the face of the college and a role model for many – gentle and kind, he was always generous with the time he spent advising new faculty members, said Dennis Irwin, Dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

“Joe was one of the first people I met when I interviewed at Ohio University in 1986. I’m very sad that he’s gone,” Irwin said. “There are whole generations of faculty, staff and students that are mourning today,” he added.

Essman worked alongside Russ College Dean Emeritus Richard T. Robe as the college hit seminal growth milestones: the $8 million Stocker endowment, which still supports students and faculty; dedicating Stocker Center, the former Crooks Hall dormitory, in 1985 during the college’s 50th anniversary; and renaming the college in 1994 for Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ.

“In working with him during my time as dean, I developed a high respect and regard for him as he carried out very important responsibilities with the students in the college,” Robe said. “It was my joy and privilege to work with him and the others. He was an important member of the team during those important years of growth and change.”

Essman strived to increase high school student interest in engineering, offer outreach to women and minorities through summer programs, and increase the visibility and importance of engineering to society.

“He was one of the few people that I knew who was highly interested in motivating young students around the country to become engineers of any kind,” said Costas Vassiliadis, assistant chair and associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), who has been a friend of the family since Essman interviewed him in 1988.

In 2009, Essman was honored for his work with JETS, a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting engineering, and TEAMS, which he brought to Ohio in 1984. In 2000, the Russ College Board of Visitors recognized his exemplary leadership and service on both projects by bestowing upon him a Faculty Leadership/Service Award.

EECS Department Chair David Juedes worked with Essman on TEAMS for nearly seven years.

“He was always incredibly polite and well-mannered,” Juedes said. “He was a mentor and friend to many, and I’m very happy to have gotten the chance to work with him and call him a colleague.”

Essman and his wife, Billie Jo – who were both OHIO alumni -- established the Joseph E. and Billy Jo Essman Scholarship in 1992. They also made a charitable contribution toward the emeriti suite in the Academic & Research Center, the Russ College’s academic facility, in 2007.

Essman was a member of the American Society of Electrical Engineers, Emeritus Association, Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Engineering Foundation, Eta Kappa Nu, Green and White Club, and the Ohio Bobcats Club. He earned a Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1972.

Born in Sciotoville, Ohio, he is survived by his wife; his daughters and sons-in-law, Deborah Ann Essman, Diana Lynn and Mike Blevins, and Denise and Harold Gregory; two sons and daughter-in-law, Joseph Essman Jr., and Charles and Amber Essman; nineteen grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William Charles and Margaret Will Essman; his brother, William Essman; his daughter-in-law, Kathy Essman; and a brother-in-law, Richard Crisp.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.