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March 16, 2000

OBITUARY: Wesley M. Rohrer Jr.

Retired Pitt associate professor of engineering Wesley M. Rohrer Jr. died of cancer March 9, 2000, at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital. He was 78.

Rohrer taught at the University for more than 40 years, beginning at the Johnstown campus in 1947. He joined the faculty of the School of Engineering's Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1949.

A Johnstown native, he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Pitt in 1947 and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961.

Gene Geiger, Rohrer's friend and colleague for almost 50 years, said, "Wes was a man who always moved rapidly. I remember the first time I met him he ran right past me, taking steps three at a time, and I said 'Who is this guy?' We got to be great friends and I worked as a consultant with him many times. In the 1970s we were Danforth Foundation fellows together."

Rohrer was a humorist who collected odd names and loved puns and plays on words, said Geiger, who is professor of mechanical engineering at Pitt. "He was very social and would often invite students to visit his home. A bit liberal for an engineering professional, perhaps, and always on the go."

At Pitt, Rohrer served as president of the University Senate in 1981-82 and 1984-85. He retired from the University in 1991.

Rohrer held professional membership in a number of organizations, including Pennsylvania Professional Engineers, the American Institute for Research, the Combustion Institute, the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Society for Experimental Stress Analysis.

Among his non-Pitt positions, Rohrer was adviser to the World Bank in the early 1980s, which included fieldwork in Argentina and Zimbabwe.

He consulted and was a frequent witness on causes of industrial accidents, particularly explosions. Rohrer was a consultant for NASA during the investigation of the 1986 Challenger explosion.

After retiring from Pitt, Rohrer worked as a full-time consultant for Cannon Boiler Co., New Kensington, and sat on its board of directors. He also was a consultant for the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania.

Rohrer held patents for a leak detection system for nuclear reactors and industrial scrubbing agents, and he published papers and handbooks on energy conservation.

He was active in local politics, serving as Blawnox Borough council president in the mid-1990s.

"Some would focus on Dad's engineering studies and his work as a consultant. But his first professional love was always teaching," said Rohrer's son Wesley M. III, who is an assistant professor of health information management in Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. "Dad was able to make thermodynamics not only interesting but enjoyable."

In addition to his son Wesley, Rohrer is survived by his wife, Margaret; another son, William of Olympia, Wash.; a daughter, Susan E. Kellermann-Rohrer of Concord, Mass.; two brothers, William of Johnstown and David of Edgemont, Ark., and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at a date to be determined.

The family requests that donations in Rohrer's memory go to St. Edward's parish in Blawnox or the Pittsburgh Oratory, Ryan Catholic Newman Center in Oakland.

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