Deaths in the Family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

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University of Notre Dame Archives

Thomas J. Mueller loved airplanes. Growing up in a neighborhood near Chicago’s Midway Airport, he sought a career that would allow him to pursue aeronautical research and solve problems in aerodynamics.

The first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree — in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology across town — Mueller did his doctoral work at the University of Illinois, then joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1965 and taught for 40 years. He died December 4 at age 88.

In the 1970s, after contributing to the understanding of blood flow in artificial heart valves, Mueller began investigating new problems in aerodynamics. Of particular interest were the complex movements of air around different airfoils, and his work earned international recognition among fluid dynamics researchers.  

Meanwhile, he devoted himself to increasing the size and strength of the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering department’s graduate program, serving as director of engineering research and graduate studies from 1985 to 1989. He supervised 31 master’s degree and 20 doctoral candidates while writing 80 journal articles and several books. Then, during and after an eight-year stint as department chair, came other honors: the Roth-Gibson professorship and a James A. Burns, CSC, Graduate School Award for distinction in teaching.

“He really changed the culture of the department and made it more focused on well-educated Ph.D. students,” says Professor Joseph M. Powers, a longtime colleague. Mueller mentored younger professors and strove toward an atmosphere in which faculty could focus on teaching and research.

As a great admirer of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, Mueller and a colleague in 1989 published a book of the former University president’s inspirational quotations. He also co-authored a 2004 history of the aerospace and mechanical engineering department.

Mueller was a dedicated family man. Sarah Mueller, his wife of 59 years, preceded him in death. He is survived by five children, including South Bend Mayor James Mueller ’04, and nine grandchildren.


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Courtesy of the Houghton family

James E. Houghton ’49, ’63M.S., viewed teaching as his vocation. He was always available to his students and committed to imparting the fundamentals of engineering and visual communication.

The professor emeritus of aerospace and mechanical engineering died October 22 at age 100.

Houghton was born in Buffalo, New York. When he was a teen, his family moved to South Bend, where he graduated from Central High School. He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in Europe during World War II.

After the war, Houghton enrolled at Notre Dame, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and the University’s Miles O’Brien Prize for excellence in mechanical drawing. He then worked for several years as a draftsman in the engineering department at the Studebaker automobile plant.

In 1952 the University hired Houghton as an assistant professor of engineering drawing. He taught full time while earning his master’s degree. He would serve as assistant chair of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and was honored in 1980 with the Paul Fenlon Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. He taught at the University for 41 years.

In retirement, Houghton remained in South Bend, enjoying hobbies that included gardening and woodworking.

He was preceded in death by Margaret Houghton, his wife of 65 years, and is survived by two sons, James ’71 and Richard ’83, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.