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Dr. David Sikarskie


David Sikarski

Dr. David Sikarskie


















A Legacy of Action:
Dr. David Sikarskie

Professor of Engineering Mechanics


Professor David Sikarskie, 61, served as a dean of engineering and as director of special programs in the ME-EM department.

Sikarskie came to MTU in 1985 as dean and returned to the faculty in 1990. He was a leader in his field of research, including structural mechanics, composite materials, and engineering mechanics. But he is remembered by his colleagues and friends for other qualities. "He was a special guy in many ways," said Department Chair William Predebon (ME-EM). "Dave had the ability to see the big picture, to see the forest in the trees. He was a very objective and ethical person, and at the same time, he was very concerned about young faculty and students, particularly undergraduates."

Sikarskie viewed engineering as a profession that contributed to society, and he passed that vision on to his students. PhD student Scott Miers was inspired by Sikarskie to leave a career in private industry and return to academia. "

He changed my entire life," Miers said. He convinced me that I was PhD material. Before that, it was the job in industry after graduation, but then I saw what he had done with his life, saw the joy of teaching and connecting with students. "The idea came from him, and I've been running with it ever since." Faculty and students got together April 27 to remember Sikarskie. "Everyone commented on his ability to put the other person first, to help you out no matter what he was doing," Miers said. "You were always number one, always the most important. For me personally, I felt honored and privileged to be his graduate student. I had three years of my life planned with him, and I was never so excited." "And I can't let him down," Miers said. "He was a wonderful man." Before coming to MTU, Sikarskie was professor and chairman of the Department of Metallurgy, Mechanics, and Materials Science at Michigan State University. Previously, he was a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and on staff at the Ingersoll-Rand Research Center. He earned MS and ScD degrees in Applied Mechanics from Columbia University and a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

Associate Professor Madhukar Vable (MEEM), a Distinguished Teaching Award winner, came to MTU in large part because of Sikarskie, who was his PhD advisor at the University of Michigan. "He was one of the most optimistic persons I have ever met," Vable said. "He would work within the system all the time, trying to make it better. He embodied the saying, 'If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.'" Sikarskie was famous for taking care of his students. "When I was in grad school, he asked me, 'Madhu, do you need a car?' and he gave me his old car, a Pinto, for about a dollar. . . . He was very generous, a friend all the way. And at the same time, a tremendously professional person, a man of very high integrity. We are all going to miss him." An outdoorsman, Sikarskie routinely included his students and colleagues in his activities. "He loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and canoeing, and he was always trying to get others to go," Vable said. "He enjoyed life, he lived it to the hilt, and he stretched himself all the time." Thus, Vable takes some small comfort from the fact that Sikarskie died doing something he truly enjoyed. "

Some people might ask why a 61-year-old person would want to ride a bicycle twenty miles. . . . But he was just being Dave, enjoying life. Hard as it is, that's the consolation." "Those of us fortunate enough to be Dave's students became part of the Sikarskie family, spending many hours visiting and working on our research projects at their home and at their cabin and regularly enjoying 'international cuisine' dinners with other graduate students at the Sikarskie home," remembers another former PhD student, Nick Altiero, now professor and the chairperson of the Department of Materials Science and Mechanics in the College of Engineering at Michigan State. "Dave was not only a wonderful teacher and mentor, but he also became a very dear friend. Dave served as a model for me as I pursued my own academic career and I always felt most flattered when I was compared to him in my teaching and advising style or my research work. . . . "The academic community and the engineering profession have lost a very special man, and I and Dave's other students have lost our mentor and our friend."