'A life well lived'

Scholarship helps students pursue the excellence Dr. Mel Snyder embodied

Snyder photoKelly Colson, right, a senior from Paxton, Neb., majoring in aerospace engineering, is the inaugural recipient of the Professor Melvin H. Snyder Scholarship. She is shown here with Dr. Snyder’s wife, Kay, at the water tunnel in the College of Engineering.


Doug Pringle didn’t take any classes from Melvin Snyder during the time that he attended Wichita State University, but he heard plenty about his reputation as a remarkable teacher and mentor, both during that time and in the following years.

   “He was known as an excellent teacher who cared greatly about his students and his profession. He was highly thought of by his peers. It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Pringle, president and managing trustee of the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation.

    When Dr. Snyder, an aerospace engineer who taught at Wichita State for nearly 50 years, died on Feb. 25, 2012, Pringle informed Dr. Snyder’s family that the Wiedemann Foundation wanted to do something to honor his memory. The family had established the Professor Melvin H. Snyder Scholarship upon his death, so Pringle committed $50,000 from the foundation to support it.

    “Mel had such a fine reputation, such an amazing background, that I really wanted to help pass on his legacy to some students who would possibly go on to make the kind of contributions to aeronautical engineering that he did,” Pringle said.

     Kay Snyder said her husband would have loved that he’s still helping students.

Mel had such a fine reputation, such an amazing background, that I really wanted to help pass on his legacy.

– Doug Pringle

president and managing trustee of the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation

    “He always said one of the most important things in life was to give someone a boost — to help change a life,” she said. “He always wanted to be there for his students. He kept office hours and they knew he would always be there when he said he would be there.”

     It was Kay Snyder who decided that preferential treatment would be given to female applicants for the scholarship, which is designated for those majoring in aerospace engineering.

     “I remember when Mel had his first woman student and he was so happy to see that,” she said. “He was happy to see the advances, the mileposts that women made, and he always championed the cause of women engineers.”

      The first recipient of the scholarship is Kelly Colson, a senior from Paxton, Neb., who will graduate next spring.

    “I’m very thankful for the scholarship,” she said. “Since I was a kid I thought this would be a really cool and challenging area to be in, and the scholarship has helped me so much to be able to pursue it.”

      Dr. Snyder was a professor, researcher and administrator in the department of aeronautical engineering, now aerospace engineering. Through the years his research efforts centered on work on delta wings, agricultural-aircraft design and wind energy conservation systems. He also served as director of the National Institute for Aviation Research’s Center for Basic and Applied Research at WSU.

    He was born on Sept. 22, 1921, in Wilkinsburg, Pa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1947; a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Wichita in 1950; and his Ph.D. in mechanical/aeronautical engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1967.

    In the midst of his college years from 1943 to 1946, he served in the 9th Air Force. He was an aircraft engineering officer for the P-47 Thunderbolt pursuit aircraft in England, France and Germany, and was engaged in the Battle of Normandy as well as the campaigns of northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government in 1956.

    Dr. Snyder joined the University of Wichita faculty in 1947, reached the rank of professor in 1957, and served 14 years as chairman of the Aeronautical Engineering Department. He retired in 1997 as professor emeritus of aerospace engineering and director emeritus of the Center for Basic and Applied Research, National Institute for Aviation Research.

   During sabbaticals and summers, Dr. Snyder worked for the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Rhode-St-Genese, Belgium, and NASA Langley in Virginia and NASA Lewis in Cleveland, Ohio.

   “His was a life well lived,” Pringle said. “That doesn’t come along that often.”

circle arrow If you would like to establish a scholarship in memory of a loved one or to help a deserving student, please contact Terre Johnson, WSU Foundation vice president for major gifts, at (316) 978-380 or at terre.johnson@wichita.edu.

 
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