University of Michigan
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December 15, 2018

Obituary: Dale E. Briggs

May 23, 2016

Obituary: Dale E. Briggs

Topic: Obituaries

Dale E. Briggs, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, died March 17 at the age of 85 after living a long, productive and inspirational life.

Dale E. Briggs

He was born in 1930 in Alton, Illinois, and when he was 1 year old, his family moved to Pontiac, Michigan. Briggs enrolled in the Navy Research Officers Training Corp and attended the University of Louisville, majoring in chemical engineering and where he graduated in 1953. 

In 1955, the U.S. Navy transferred Briggs to the University of Michigan NROTC Unit.  He began his teaching career with the freshman class for two years and completed his active duty in 1957.  During his time as a teaching fellow, Briggs began working with Professor Brymer Williams in Chem-Met 2 in 1958.  Their research work in heat transfer developed into many great opportunities and experiences which resulted in Briggs being elected to the Board of Directors of the Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers while he was still a graduate student.

Briggs was appointed as an instructor in 1961 and then promoted to assistant professor upon completion of his Ph.D. in 1968. He was the first to require undergraduates to use digital computers in chemical engineering course assignments. He served as undergraduate program adviser from 1981-97, during which time he mentored hundreds of students as they prepared for their careers. As program adviser, he was instrumental in broadening the curriculum to permit chemical engineering to become a popular stepping-stone to medical school and other professional degrees.  

He served on the faculty until May 31, 1999, when he retired as professor emeritus. Over the span of his 38-year career in the department, he taught almost every subject in the curriculum except kinetics and process control. However, he had a special affinity for teaching design, using his expertise from consulting for industries ranging from petrochemicals to a distillery.

Briggs served in a variety of roles on university faculty committees, including member of SACUA, 1984-87; chief marshal for University Events, 1991-99; and member of the Board of Control of Intercollegiate Athletics, 1994-98. While on the faculty, Briggs received many awards including the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Teacher Award, 1982; the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award, 1990; and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Hall of Fame Award, 2016. 

In 1988, Briggs established The Master’s Flowers business, where he donated flowers to his church, the Veteran’s Hospital, the College of Engineering and the School of Music. He taught Bible classes at the Washtenaw County Jail from 2007 until December 2015, and served on more than 100 Doctor of Musical Arts committees. 

Briggs and his wife, Nancy, established the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Endowed Enrichment Fund in 2004, whose earnings have funded the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Competition since 2014.  He is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughter, Susan Clair; son, Stephen; sister, Doris Mason; four grandchildren and one great-grandson.