In memoriam: Norman Eiss, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering
Eiss, who taught at Virginia Tech for more than three decades, was known among his colleagues as a mentor to both peers and students.
Norman Smith Eiss Jr. was born March 13, 1931, in Buffalo, New York. He died peacefully in his Blacksburg home on June 12, 2023, at the age of 92.
Eiss graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1953 and began work at DuPont's rayon plant in Buffalo, New York, as a mechanical process engineer. He left the company a year later to become an officer in the U.S. Air Force, specializing in radar maintenance. In 1956, he joined the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, where he worked as a mechanical engineer for seven years. He took time off to earn a master's degree and Ph.D. from Cornell University, where he also taught as an instructor in mechanisms.
Upon completing his degrees, Eiss joined the faculty of the Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1966 and remained a Blacksburg resident for the rest of his life. He was named the George R. Goodson, Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech in 1989 and retired as a member of the department in 1998. Following his retirement, he was named a professor emeritus.
During his time at Virginia Tech, he authored numerous papers related to polymer wear mechanisms and surface topography characterization. Eiss was an active participant in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, the American Society of Engineering Education, and the American Society of Testing Materials. He had a long record of service to these societies, including chairing numerous technical and planning committees and national and international conferences. He served as a director of the tribologists’ society, and in 1988, he was inducted as a fellow.
"Norm was an amazing colleague, an excellent mentor, and a wonderful friend," said Professor Mehdi Ahmadian. "When I first joined the department in 1995, he advised me on many matters that were helpful to my success. I enjoyed my conversations with him. He always had great stories to share. He will be dearly missed."
In addition to a strong academic career, Eiss enjoyed an eclectic mix of other interests. This included traveling, gardening, hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, and playing tennis. He was an active supporter of numerous organizations including the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, the LifeLong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech, Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA at Virginia Tech, the Moss Arts Center, AARP, and the Warm Hearth Foundation.
A celebration of Eiss’ life will be held on Saturday, July 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Tall Oaks Room at Warm Hearth Village Center.