Dr. William W. Predebon, emeritus professor and retired chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), passed away on July 21. He was a beloved member of the Michigan Tech community.
Bill dedicated much of his life to building and supporting the ME-EM department, and the impacts of this work will continue to be felt well into the future. We lost a great friend and stalwart supporter of the department and University.
Information about Bill’s upcoming Celebration of Life Ceremony is available on the O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home website.
Bill was born in Trenton, New Jersey, to Walter and Josephine Predebon. After high school Bill attended the University of Notre 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 masters 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.