Remembering Professor and Chair William W. Predebon

Dr. William W. Predebon Sr., of Houghton, retired professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, at Michigan Technological University, died unexpectedly at the young age of 80 on July 21, at UP Health System-Portage Hospital in Hancock.

William W. Predebon

Bill was born in Trenton, New Jersey, to Walter and Josephine Predebon. After high school Bill attended the University of Norte Dame where he received his bachelor’s of science in Engineering Science.

While at Notre Dame, Bill boxed for the Bengal Bouts, founded by Knute Rockne, which was a charity event whose proceeds benefited the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. He competed in the 155 lb division and was the boxing champion at Notre Dame in 1964. Through his undergrad, he developed lifelong friendships, and it is where he met his future wife of 56 years, Mary Ann Montgomery. Bill was in the Army/ROTC as a commander of the Irish Moroder’s Drill Team. Upon graduation, Bill was commissioned as a Lieutenant and he would eventually be promoted to Captain later in life.

He received both his master’s and doctorate from Iowa State University. In 1967, while pursuing his degrees, he married Mary Ann and they were blessed with two beautiful children, Nadine and Bill Jr. Predebon. After his PhD, he was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He then stayed on as a civilian after his military obligation was fulfilled. In 1975, Bill and his family moved to Houghton, Michigan, where he took a job as a Professor at Michigan Technological University (MTU).

Throughout his career at MTU, Bill earned recognition for advancing engineering education. He retired in June 2022, after 25 years as the Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) and nearing 47 years at the University. Under his watch, the department made great strides in conducting interdisciplinary research, growing the doctoral program, expanding research funding, and updating the curriculum and labs.

He led the ME-EM Department to rapidly evolve its educational methods, infusing into undergraduate and graduate curriculum the knowledge and critical skills to use big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in solving engineering design problems.

A Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Bill has received numerous additional honors at MTU, including membership in the Academy of Teaching Excellence; the Outstanding Service Award for his work with the student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers; the first annual Martin Luther King Award by the Black Student Organizations; and the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Honorary Alumni Award, and the Diversity Award.

Bill led efforts to create the Michigan Tech Learning Resource Center for Self-Paced Programmed Instruction, the ME-EM Engineering Learning Center, as well as a distance learning doctorate degree in mechanical engineering, and a Design Engineer Certificate program with General Motors in 2000. More than 600 GM employees earned the certificate.

He received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and was inducted into the Pan American Academy of Engineering, which brings together engineers from across the continent of North America, South America, and Mexico—a total of 18 countries.

Throughout his life, exercise was an important part of his lifestyle; many may know he was a fixture at the MTU Student Development Complex’s gym. He was a huge supporter of the MTU sports teams; he was a season ticket holder to volleyball, basketball, football, and ice hockey. This also was evident outside of his duties at MTU, where he was known as “Coach Wally”. He enjoyed coaching his son and teammates from little league, senior league and legion baseball. Bill was also a figure on the alpine ski hill, supporting his children’s ski endeavors in the Central United States Ski Association and Houghton High School Ski Team.

Bill was passionate about whatever he did, whether it be his strong work ethic, his family, or his devotion to faith. Throughout his life, his curiosity fueled the continued pursuit of knowledge.

He was predeceased by his parents and his brother, Walter.

Surviving him are His wife: Mary Ann Predebon; His daughter: Nadine (Jeff Beaupre) Predebon; His son: Bill (Sheri) Predebon Jr.; His grandson: Tyler (Sarah) Brooks; His granddaughter: Madison Brooks; His half-sister: Patty Davis; His feline companion: Poe.

The O’Neil-Dennis Funeral Home is assisting with funeral arrangements and the Celebration of Life Ceremony. To leave online condolences, please go to

The Celebration of Life Ceremony will be held on Saturday, September 16, at 11 a.m., at the Isle Royale Ballroom in the Michigan Tech Memorial Union Building. There will be a buffet luncheon to follow. The celebration is open to the public and all are welcome to commemorate his life. Lunch will follow the ceremony, provided by the church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests you donate money to K-SNAG, the Copper Community Art Center, or your charity of choice.

7 responses to “Remembering Professor and Chair William W. Predebon

  1. Dr. Predebon was a great professor. I had him a long, long time ago for an undergraduate mechanics course. I recall siting in his office going over material and he had great patience. Truely one of my mentors. I have been a professor for 30+ years myself and now an Associate Dean for Research.

  2. While I only met Dr Perdebon several years after I had graduated for Michigan Tech, I worked with him because our company, along with General Motors, had supplied software to the ME-EM department and I was our company’s representative whenever there was some event which we were part of at the University. I also had the pleasure of meeting him for breakfast, lunch or dinner on those occasions when he was visiting Southern California, either for an alumni event or to attend various conferences and symposiums that he spoke at or was simply attending. His enthusiasm for what was going on at MTU was always apparent, like when my wife and I were at my 40th alumni weekend event back in 2011 and he was so excited about showing us the NASA satellite project that the students had been working on. And I also can’t forget the cruise on the ‘Ranger’ that he sponsored during the alumni weekend.

    John R. Baker, P.E. BSME ’71
    Irvine, CA

  3. I suspect that my story regarding Dr. Predebon is simply a repeat for so many. I first met him as a student, and I became one of the school’s employees working in the self-paced Statics, Dynamics, and Strengths-of-Materials lab with Dr. Predebon as my boss. He instilled in me both technical and life skills that helped me to become both a successful engineer and business owner. Thankfully, I got to see him a few times over the years both at MTU when I would visit, and at ME-EM sponsored events in the Detroit area. I was very sorry to hear about his unexpected passing, and I know that he is missed. I wish his family and his coworkers and friends peace. Thank you, Bill, for showing me the way, and for all of your positive impact on the school and everyone around you. Godspeed.

  4. I had the great fortune to be in the first class Dr. Predebon taught at MTU in 1975 – a statics class. (Based on his youthful appearance, I would have guessed he was in his mid to late 20’s. I only much later found out he was 35 at the time). I found him very likable and was one of those professors that not only had a command of the subject material but could convey that material to students effectively and with patience. He was passionate about teaching and made himself generously available to help students outside of class. I looked back at notes I took during his class (yes, I am a pack rat) and there were a number of notes added during his office hours where I commented how he had clarified something covered earlier in class.

    Fast forward to August 2022. My son transferred to MTU for the 2022-2023 academic year as a junior and was renting a house directly across from campus. During the time we helped our son move in, I found out Dr. Predebon had retired just weeks before. On the possible chance I could wish him well in retirement and in person, I walked over to the ME-EM building, found Dr. Predebon’s name in a directory and went up to his office. He wasn’t there at the time but I spoke with a couple of women working in the office area and they told me he often came in to visit. One of them called him while I was there and found out he was coming in that afternoon and they would call me when he arrived. Bottom line? I got to see him after all. He was kind enough to talk with me for about 75 minutes, speaking proudly about the ME program and his involvement in helping build it to what it is today. Even after all these years, he was still passionate about the mechanical program and indicated he would stay actively involved to some extent into retirement. After our chat, his office staff took pictures of us standing side by side to preserve the memory of that moment in time.

    I find it shocking that he passed away this year, on my son’s birthday no less. His mental and physical state belied his age of 79 (at the time I saw him). I know 79 is not that old these days – I’m only 12 years away from that age myself. What I’m trying to say is that Dr. Predebon acted and looked like someone 15 to 20 years younger than he was. Living a healthy, active, loving and wholesome life will do that to a person, something Dr. Predebon did by all accounts. He was a highly accomplished person, a great ambassador for Mechanical Engineering at MTU and a good man. I will cherish the time he spent talking with me early in his retirement and the pictures I have of us as well as the memories I have of him as my statics professor.

My most sincere condolences go to his family. I hope they can find some comfort in knowing the positive influence he had on so many of the fortunate students he taught as well as the many people he worked with and mentored.

    Armando A. Diccion, BSEE ’78
    Fenton, MI

  5. I enjoyed Dr Predebon’s Fluids class back early in his career. One of my more memorable professors. Many times I quoted his exam question on whether a beer would cool faster standing up or on its side. Doing the math, I seem to recall it cooling faster on its side but the difference was negligible. I can no longer do the math and I learned far better ways to cool beers quickly. He used real-world examples from aviation, rivers, and weather to illustrate his lectures. I loved seeing his posts as ME-EM Chair, and I will miss him. Thank you for the memories, Dr Predebon.

    Bob R
    MTU ME-EM 1984

  6. I remember meeting Dr. Predebon during the convocation ceremony when I graduated out with my MS (Mechanical Engineering) in May 2010. We shared a drink and also had a picture taken together. He also once gave me a ride in his car. I also remember him telling me during that ride that he was originally from Italy and that he knew Sonia Gandhi who is also Italian and was at that time the president of the Indian National Congress political party and one of the most powerful women in the world.

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