Eror, former chair in engineering, fought for his faculty

Nicholas Eror

Nicholas G. Eror Jr., emeritus professor in the Swanson School of Engineering and former chair of its Department of Material Science, died on Nov. 24, 2020.

Harvey Wolfe, retired from what is now the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, recalls the years with his colleague: “Nick was a gregarious and kind man. He cared deeply about his faculty. We would meet every couple of weeks for lunch to discuss the strategies and difficulties of serving as department chair in the School of Engineering. He wanted to take advantage of everything the University offered for his faculty and was ready to fight over anything he thought was unfair. Even after we retired, we would have an annual phone conversation about what was happening at Pitt and interpreting the benefits for retirees.”

Eror was born April 9, 1937 in a small mining town in Utah and raised in Salem, Ore. He attended Yale on a full scholarship, where he received his bachelor’s degree, then earned his Ph.D. in materials science from Northwestern University.

He worked as a research scientist at Sprague Electric in North Adams, Mass., where several patents were filed from his work. He also taught calculus as a part-time instructor at nearby Williams College at the same time.

Wishing to return to Oregon, Eror took a position at the Oregon Graduate Center in Beaverton, moving his family to a farm in a rural part of the state. For the next 20 years, he worked as a research scientist and advisor while tending his prune, walnut and filbert orchards.

In 1989, Eror joined Pitt after a nationwide search to fill the chair position, staying in his post until the mid-1990s and retiring a decade ago.

Larry Shuman, Distinguished Service Professor of Industrial Engineering, noted Eror’s large and ambitious Chautauqua Workshop Program, which brough National Science Foundation-funded professional development courses to faculty in many locations covering engineering disciplines as well as other science subjects. “He was somebody who was passionate about education,” Shuman said.

“I always found him to be a very supportive and pleasant person,” said Gerald Meier, professor emeritus in the department. He recalled Eror remaining very active as chair and professor. Even after his retirement, Eror attended seminars and thesis defenses. Eror’s own doctoral thesis concerned point defects in inorganic compounds, and he continued researching that subject, moving into high-temperature super-conductor research as well.

Nicholas Eror was predeceased by his wife, Mary, and is survived by his companion, Josephine Olson, professor of business administration and Katz excellence in service faculty fellow at Pitt, and his seven children.

— Marty Levine