From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

A Tribute to Professor Emeritus Gene Callens

Dec 9, 2013 | Reflection

callens_gI often comment about the Tech culture that has been established by the many faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who have contributed to the values, traditions, and principles that make this a great institution.  One of those faculty members who contributed much to Tech’s culture passed away this week. Dr. Gene Callens retired as Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering in 2006 and passed away on December 5th, 2013. Gene worked as a research engineer for 17 years with the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in aerospace and technology project management before coming to Tech as an Associate Professor in 1983. At AEDC, he led many advanced test programs that significantly influenced national space and defense activities. Test programs included work for the Galileo Probe for NASA, and other research and development programs for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and industry. Gene continued some of that research at Tech such as a NASA project that studied rocket exhaust plume characterization and an Air Force project in the area of terminal ballistics phenomenology. Gene served as principal investigator for 16 projects while at Tech. Gene received many awards for his research.  He was awarded the prestigious von Karman Prize for outstanding research  in hypersonic, separated flow phenomena in 1967,  and the Gen. H.H. Arnold Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1974 for outstanding contributions to aerospace sciences and development of snow erosion testing techniques. Gene was a natural leader and was the epitome of a servant leader, with an unwavering commitment to serve those whom he led.  He served as Academic Director of several programs in the College of Engineering and Science and Interim Director for the Institute for Micromanufacturing. He also served as President of the University Senate. Gene was a tremendous teacher and taught some of the most demanding courses in mechanical engineering. He brought his practical experiences into the classroom and helped students learn through those examples.  Most importantly, he taught students how to learn, how to systematically approach challenges, and how to have confidence in their abilities to solve problems. Gene earned a bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering and a master’s in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. He received his doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Tennessee Space Institute and a diploma with honors from the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Rhode-Saint-Genese, Belgium. I had the great fortune to work with Gene as a colleague for several years. After I became Dean of the College of Engineering and Science, Gene helped me to work through some of the College’s most difficult challenges. I learned a lot about leadership and life from Gene. He was a true professional in everything that he did. He was always positive and his positive energy made the most difficult obstacles seem as small bumps in the road. He always did the right things for the right reasons, and that served as his guiding principle. Gene lived life with a passion. He was passionate about research, and amazingly, continued to research some of science’s greatest unknowns even as he knew his life was coming to an end. He published some of that research on a web site at Gene was passionate about teaching, and while students detested his tests, they loved his classes.  That’s the way Gene wanted it. Above all, Gene was passionate about his family.  He and his wife, Barbara, raised 10 wonderful children.  Kathy and I were truly blessed to become part of the Callens family when one of Gene’s daughters, Shannon, married our oldest son, Chad. Gene was a colleague, mentor, and friend. His imprint on the culture of Louisiana Tech University will long remain.