Daniel Frederick

Civil Engineering, Class of 1944, BS
Applied Mechanics, Class of 1948, MS

“A measure of a man is in the company he keeps.” This often-quoted truism, when applied to Daniel Frederick, speaks decisively of a career rich in achievements. Dr. Frederick directed a period of intense growth in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM), a relatively small department within the college, from 1970 until 1989.

One measure of the growth was in the stature of the ESM faculty. Upon Dr. Frederick’s assumption of the department headship, ESM had an allocation of only 20 faculty positions. Dr. Frederick’s first hire was Dr. Ali Nayfeh, who was to go on to lead a truly exemplary research program and be named a University Distinguished Professor.

Prior to Dr. Frederick’s appointment, no distinguished or named professorships existed in ESM. By the 1988-89 academic year, the faculty numbered 38, two of whom held named professorships, another two occupied the position of Alumni Distinguished Professor (ADP), including Dr. Frederick, and yet another duo were University Distinguished Professors (UDP).

The faculty also excelled in teaching. Dr Frederick encouraged experimentation with new methods of teaching, aimed at improving the learning process. Each year during his tenure, the department conducted an effective teaching program, required for all new faculty, and conducted by previous winners of teaching awards. The results were impressive.

During the Frederick years, five won the University’s Sporn Award for Teaching Excellence, four were named Wine Award winners (another teaching award), and another five were admitted into Virginia Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence. Glen Kraige, a recipient in each of these categories, went on to receive the State Council for Higher Education’s Outstanding Educator Award.

The research program was another indicator of Dr. Frederick’s stewardship. The year prior to his appointment as department head, sponsored research expenditures totaled an almost insignificant sum of $44,284. During the last fiscal year of his tenure, the ESM department had achieved research expenditures of $3,800,000, ranking it as one of the top research departments in the nation in 1989. Correspondingly, the graduate student enrollment increased from 49 to 165. Dr. Frederick assumed an active role in this achievement, coordinating and administrating at that time the largest single research project ever funded at Virginia Tech. Called THEMIS by its funding agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the interdisciplinary project between ESM and civil engineering ran from 1969 until 1975. THEMIS provided the foundation for the large and successful research program in composite materials at Virginia Tech. In addition, seven of the ESM faculty during Dr. Frederick’s tenure received the Alumni Research Award, a remarkable number when one considers the scope of departments in the university.

When Dr. Frederick retired in 1992, he had the distinguished record of teaching every semester of his 45 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech. The university honored him with the title of ADP Emeritus. He is the co-author of two books and the author of numerous other publications. The American Society of Civil Engineers presented the Huber Research prize to him, and the Mechanics Division of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) awarded him its Outstanding Educator Award. He served as President of the Society of Engineering Science, the American Academy of Mechanics, the Association of Chairmen of Departments of Mechanics, and the Mechanics Division of ASEE.

He is a Virginia Tech graduate, earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1944 and his master’s degree in applied mechanics in 1948. The University of Michigan awarded him his doctorate in engineering mechanics in 1955.

Dr. Frederick continues to reside in Blacksburg with his wife of 50 years, Frances. They have four children and 11 grandchildren.

Class of: 1944 (CE), Class of: 1948 (AM)
Year Inducted into Academy: 2002

Dr. Daniel Frederick