William Mykolajenko

William Mykolajenko, an engineer in research at U-M-Flint who dedicated 39 years to the University, died July 21. He was 81.

Born in Lazyrhki, Ukraine, Mykolajenko came to Flint in 1950 after being educated as a design engineer in West Germany. He joined U-M-Flint in 1965. Although he spent much of his career as an engineer in research, he served most of the departments within the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), especially Physics, Engineering Science, Biology, Chemistry and Psychology.

Known to many as simply Bill or Jenko, his commitment to excellence earned him a reputation unmatched at U-M-Flint. His peers saw him as a quiet and unassuming man who always went above and beyond the call of duty. Putting others above himself was a defining characteristic of Mykolajenko. “He never asked for help, but was always ready to help others,” says Mojtaba Vaziri, chair of Computer Science, Engineering Science and Physics.

New or old, simple or complex, Mykolajenko’s engineering knowledge was beyond comparison. He designed and constructed a large amount of the technical equipment in the engineering labs. Mykolajenko was innovative and made it possible for U-M-Flint to have research equipment that is the envy of many colleagues at other institutions.

Students, faculty and staff all have benefited from Mykolajenko’s work. A Foucault pendulum, carbon-60/carbon nanotubes production chamber, a resistance furnace, assorted vacuum fittings, low temperature cryostats, spark-timers, various electronic apparatus, and heads for a solid-state laser are examples of projects that he constructed in the physics and engineering labs. Most of Mykolajenko’s designs turned out to be better and less expensive than the original, which saved the University thousands of dollars.

“Bill was a mechanical, electrical genius who was able to build scientific equipment with leftover parts, that did amazing things,” says Larry Kugler, professor of mathematics and former dean of CAS.

Mykolajenko’s value was revealed widely in 1997 when he retired. For about one year a replacement was sought but only dead ends were found. “We found it would take three individuals to do what (Bill) did for us,” Vaziri says.

Mykolajenko returned in 1998 as the University’s only active retired employee.

Although his knowledge was in engineering, his greatest strength was in helping others. Whether it was fixing a color-mixing box for the Psychology Department 30 minutes before class began, or helping build a plinth table for a co-worker’s son who has motor delays, Mykolajenko always was willing and ready.

He was especially instrumental with student projects. At any time, Mykolajenko would help students locate the right parts, build a design and advise them on construction.

In 2002 he was named winner of the annual Margaret Rogers Award for Excellence, which recognizes outstanding performance of an individual in CAS. Until the time of his death, he remained involved in several projects and was looking forward to many more years at U-M-Flint.

“He was a wonderful man and an irreplaceable asset to U-M-Flint,” Kugler says.


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