Society News

Dr. Glen N. Williams, 1938–2016

Authored by Steve Holt and photos by Stan Chamberlain with input from many of Glen’s friends.

A distinguished and longtime member of the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, Dr. Glen Nordyke Williams, age 77, died April 3, 2016 at the College Station Medical Center, Texas, after a courageous, eight- year fight with cancer.

Glen was born on November 15, 1938 in Port Arthur, Texas. As a boy, he enjoyed spending time on the family rice farm near Crowley, Louisiana, and often recalled shoot-
ing water moccasins from the bridges over the bayous. As a teenager, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout, and spent summers unloading oil drums and sacks of sugar from barges on the Intracoastal Canal, where he learned the meaning of hard work, and gained a lasting respect for the men around him who made it their living. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur as a member of the class of 1956.

Glen entered Texas A&M University as a member of the Corps of Cadets, serving as the Executive Officer 3rd Group Staff during his senior year. During one Christmas break, he met his wife-to-be, Mary Drago, also from Port Arthur, at the public library. They were married in Port Arthur on April 24, 1960, and he graduated with a BS degree in Civil Engineering the same year. Within a short time, he earned an MS and PhD in the same field, entered the Air Force, and served three years at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His military ser- vice to his country was always a source of pride for him and his family. During this time, the Williams family grew from two to seven, inspiring him to become a master tickler, model airplane builder, and giver of piggy-back rides, despite there being nothing to grab because of his perpetual flattop haircut.
The majority of Glen’s career started when he moved his family back to Texas, and was hired as a professor at Texas A&M University. His time there spanned 41 years, and was spent doing research in a wide variety of areas, including the growth of pine forests, optimal flow through fluid networks,

motion of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, computer visualization, autonomous underwater vehicles, and computer modeling of a Slinky in motion. He often said his favorite part of the job was the students, and with more than 4300, he influenced and inspired many, serving on 69 MS committees and 46 PhD committees. Many of those relationships have lasted to the present day. He was one of the original founders of the Computer Science program at Texas A&M, and received many honors over the years, including The Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award, and the election to Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. As Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, he was instrumental in establishing Texas A&M University at Qatar. He was proud to be registered in the State of Texas as a Professional Engineer.
Glen’s family knew him as a loving father and grandfather who exemplified integrity, honesty, kindness, faith, strength, and courage. He never tired of fast-pitch softball, handball, fishing, grilled cheeseburgers, Aggie football games, and Friday night fun at the movies. His 21 grandchildren will always remember their times with “Poppop” or “Gupapa” at the beach cabin, and getting to go out on the boat to catch flounder and redfish with him. Sharing those times with his family and friends was more important to him than whether the fish were biting. Glen and Mary were happily married for 56 years. As he would phrase it, “’nuff said.”

Glen is survived by his wife Mary and their children, Janna and Glen Williams, Jim Williams, Dana and Edward Rhomberg, Kathy and Michael Roth, Karen and Joseph Ogden, and his grandchildren: Megan, Glen III, Colton, Jackson, Lauren, Zachary, Joshua, Mary Elizabeth, Kathryn, Caroline, Christopher, Alaina, Jonathan, Nicholas, Hannah, Tyler, Matthew, Kathy, Concetta, Sam, and Mark.

Glen served as the President of the IEEE OES for two terms, first from 1990–1993 and later from 1999–2000. He was awarded the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984, elevated to the IEEE Fellow Member Grade in 1995, received the OES Distinguished Service Award in 1996, and the IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000. He also received the newly created “OES Emeritus Award” in 2014, along with the late Col. Norman Miller and Stan Chamberlain.

In 1991, as Desert Storm was brewing in the Middle East, travel for potential attendees was limited and cancellation was being considered for OCEANS 91. Glen took a strong stand and provided unwavering leadership to keep OCEANS 91 on track for Honolulu, and it exceeded expectations.

Glen was instrumental in bringing the OCEANS Conferences out of Northern America and especially to France, which

was encouraged by Rene Garello, and he also provided strong leadership for Brest in OCEANS 94 and Nice in OCEANS 98. Our President Garello recently stated that he was in this sense his mentor inside the OES. Together they visited the Hamburg facilities right after the OCEANS conference in Nice in 1998 for a possible OCEANS there. In Nice, Joe Vadus was the nominee for OES President but Glenn said he had more tasks yet to complete as a President, and so he asked Joe if he could continue for another term, which was granted.

Glen was also a strong supporter for the newly formed Reconnaissance Committee and participated in early activities, including recon visits to Bergen and Oslo, Norway and Hamburg, Germany with Recon Chair Bob Wernli. Also, at Bob’s request, Glen completed compiling the history of all the OES EXCOM members which is also now on the website.
In his second term, the OES explored various options for delivering the newsletter to its members. Finally, with such faithful advocates as Joe Vadus, in early 2000, Glen announced “for the foreseeable future, the OES will continue to publish the Newsletter in both hard copy form as well as the web-based electronic versions, with the hard copy version delivered to all the members”.
Another major initiative he spearheaded was to make the Society’s publications more easily available, so the OES released

its OES Digital Archive on CD-ROMs. The digital archive included OES-sponsored conference proceedings from 1970 to 2000 and the IEEE JOE from 1974 to 2000 for a total of 9600 papers on six CD-ROMs with a search engine by AstaWare providing full-text search. Before the next generation of the OES Digital Archive was planned, the IEEE Xplore Web-accessible database of current and past issues of IEEE periodicals, including those of the OES, came online and eliminated the need for an updated OES archive.

In 2008, Glen teamed up with OES colleagues Stanley G. Chamberlain, Joseph Czika, Jr., and the late Norman D. Miller to research and publish a capstone historical document “The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society at Forty: The Challenges of an Evolving Society”. It was published in the IEEE JOURNAL OF OCEANIC ENGINEERING, VOL. 33, No. 1, JANUARY 2008.
In the words of Sally Chamberlain, the wife of our Past President Stan Chamberlain, “Glen was a giant of a man, with an equally big heart that had room for absolutely everyone. No one made me feel more welcome at an OCEANS Conference than Glen and his wife Mary”.

Glen truly had a remarkable career and legacy that he left behind with his family, friends, colleagues and the OES and he will always be sorely missed by all.