Nebraska Engineering remembers BSE leader Splinter

Nebraska Engineering remembers BSE leader Splinter

Calendar Icon Sep 27, 2012      Person Bust Icon By Carole Wilbeck | Engineering     RSS Feed  RSS  -  Submit a Story

Dr. William "Bill" Eldon Splinter
Dr. William "Bill" Eldon Splinter

Dr. William "Bill" Eldon Splinter, 86, George Holmes Professor Emeritus of Biological Systems Engineering, died Sept. 26 in Lincoln.

Today@UNL noted: “He served UNL as a professor, department head, dean, vice chancellor and museum director.” (Read more of the text at UNL College of Engineering Dean Tim Wei said, “In many ways Bill was the heart of our Agricultural Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering programs, and he will be greatly missed.”

Splinter was born Nov. 4, 1925 and grew up at his family’s irrigated farm near North Platte. Attending college in Lincoln, he chose Agricultural Engineering as a major and later described entering that program of study as finding another home: “I had now found people who spoke my language.” He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1943, and received a M.S. and doctorate from Michigan State University in 1951 and 1955. Bill was a veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy, including duties as a radar operator.

He taught at Michigan State and North Carolina State before returning to Lincoln in 1968 to head Agricultural Engineering (now Biological Systems Engineering). Splinter was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1984. He also served as national president of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, and was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At Nebraska, Splinter was named interim vice chancellor for research in 1990, and was vice chancellor for research from 1992 until retiring in 1993. He returned as interim dean of engineering (1994-95), a post he again held from 2001-02. In September 2002, he served as interim director at the University of Nebraska State Museum. Most recently he played a vital role in developing the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum. He retired as director of the tractor museum in 2011.

UNL's Splinter Lab is named in his honor, and he called it one of the greatest honors in all of his professional recognition. He wrote, “This facility has special meaning to me as I had laid out the design to specifically house the major noise generating functions of the department … the tractor testing lab, the engines lab, the machinery lab and the shop along with flexible research laboratories.”

With his late wife, Eleanor, he established both a student scholarship fund and an endowed professorship at UNL. As recently as this month, Splinter was working on the history of the Biological Systems Engineering programs, for their centennial being celebrated this year.

A memorial service for Splinter is 11 a.m. Oct. 1 at First Lutheran Church, 1551 S. 70th St. Visitation is 2 to 8 p.m. Sept. 30 at Roper and Sons Mortuary, 4300 O St. Memorials in lieu of flowers may be sent to Grace Lutheran Church in Walton, Neb.; University of Nebraska Foundation; or Larsen Tractor Museum. Condolences or personal reflections may be conveyed online at

The College of Engineering extends our sympathies to Splinter's family—his wife, Betty; and his two sons, two daughters, and grandchildren—and friends, especially in the UNL BSE department.

Submit a Story