In memoriam: Siegfried Holzer, Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of civil and environmental engineering
Siegfried M. Holzer, an Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, has passed away at age 86.
Born in Radstadt, Austria, in 1936, Holzer was known for his expertise in finite element analysis of structures, nonlinear analysis of structures, and multimedia in instructional design.
He immigrated to the United States in 1956 and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas. He then earned his doctorate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1972, building his career there over the next 30 years.
Holzer led Virginia Tech’s drive to join the Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education (SUCCEED) to revitalize undergraduate engineering education. The initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, was focused on faculty development, outcomes assessment, student development, and technology-based curriculum delivery. Holzer led the faculty and student development portions to improve the cooperative learning environment through seminars, the creation of an active support network to share experiences, and hands-on experiments with interactive multimedia. He was passionate about creating a mentorship program for new faculty.
A 2010 Virginia Tech story about SUCCEED credited the program’s success to Holzer’s “obvious passion for teaching.” His classroom commitment was further recognized with an abundance of awards, including the State Council of Higher Education’s prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award and the Chi Epsilon National Teaching Award. He received numerous Virginia Tech honors, including the Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching of Engineering Subjects, the Wine Award, the Diggs Teaching Scholar Award, and the Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education.
The Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech named Holzer an Alumni Distinguished Professor in 1995. An Alumni Distinguished Professorship is a permanent appointment, reserved for recognition of faculty members who have touched the lives of generations of Virginia Tech alumni through outstanding contributions to the university's instructional program.
“Siegfried was a valued colleague during my career at Virginia Tech,” said Sam Easterling, a professor emeritus in civil and environmental engineering. “He was a kind and gentle soul that garnered respect and admiration for those with whom he interacted. There have been thousands of students that passed through this department that were impacted by his passion for teaching and learning.”
Holzer was widely known for his ability to engage students to be excited about learning for a lifetime and practiced that lesson himself, always developing new ways to transmit information to be most successful for student learning.
William Knocke, a professor and associate department head in civil and environmental engineering, remembers Holzer as a special colleague. “Sieg won almost every teaching award that was given in our department, our college, and at Virginia Tech,” he said. “After years of superb work in the classroom, he became interested in the active learning approach. One day he walked into my classroom and said ‘I’ve been doing it wrong all these years!’ As a result, he completely restructured his approach in the classroom. He was always striving to do the best he could to help his students learn to learn.”
In 1985, Holzer published “Computer Analysis of Structures: Matrix Structural Analysis Structured Programming.” The textbook was designed to help engineering students acquire a precise understanding of the matrix development methods and to gain experience in developing well-structured programs. It was regarded as one of the top textbooks on this subject area for civil, aerospace, and mechanical engineering students at the time. Later in his career, Holzer’s focus shifted to creating interactive multimedia learning environments to teach structural analysis topics.
Outside the classroom, he loved being outdoors. He enjoyed reading and volunteering to teach English to foreign students.
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