In memoriam: Bill Sullivan, professor emeritus in industrial and systems engineering
Sullivan, who taught at Virginia Tech for 12 years, is remembered for his significant contributions to research and his mentorship to peers and students.
William G. “Bill” Sullivan, professor emeritus in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) in the College of Engineering, died on June 27. He was 81.
Sullivan was born in Philadelphia. He spent his childhood between Canada, Iowa, and California before moving in 1951 to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he graduated high school. Sullivan attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and economy. After graduation, he was chosen as one of three graduate fellows to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering.
Sullivan was a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Arizona State University before arriving at Virginia Tech in 1989. Sullivan was an active member of multiple professional organizations, including the Institute of Industrial Engineers (now IISE), the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineering. He served as the founder and coordinator of Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing for over 25 years.
Sullivan made significant research contributions in engineering economic analysis, activity-based and parametric-cost estimating, multi-attribute decision modeling, environmentally conscious engineering, and the microeconomic aspects of lean and agile manufacturing. He authored over 19 books and over 144 scientific publications and gave numerous technical presentations at national and international meetings. He retired in 2001 and was granted emeritus status in 2003.
Sullivan is a two-time recipient of the Eugene L. Grant Award for the best paper in the Engineering Economist. In 2018, Pearson Publishing awarded Sullivan its highest and most prestigious award: the National Engineering Economy Teaching Excellence Award.
“Bill was an integral part of the ISE community at Virginia Tech for many years,” said department head Eileen Van Aken. “He served as a faculty mentor to me when I was an assistant professor and was always kind and gracious. He was a wonderful colleague, and he will be missed.”
In addition to his success in the field of industrial and systems engineering, Sullivan had a passion for education and connecting with his students.
Sullivan is preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Janet, who passed in 2015, and his grandson, Alexander, who passed in 2022. He is survived by his two children, Tracy and William; his son-in-law, GT; his granddaughters, Anna and Audrey; and his younger brother, Dwight.
For more information about Sullivan’s arrangements, please see his full obituary.