Wieslaw Szydlowski, longtime associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering, dies at 81

Wieslaw Szydlowski, longtime associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering, dies at 81

Calendar Icon May 29, 2019      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

  • Wieslaw Szydlowski explains the design of an engine to students Matt Thompson (left) and Maggie Clay as it is drawn on the glass walls of the Olsson Room inside the Engineering Library in Nebraska Hall. (University Communication photo)
    Wieslaw Szydlowski explains the design of an engine to students Matt Thompson (left) and Maggie Clay as it is drawn on the glass walls of the Olsson Room inside the Engineering Library in Nebraska Hall. (University Communication photo)
Wieslaw Szydlowski, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering, died May 18, 2019. He was 81. (University Communication photo)
Wieslaw Szydlowski, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering, died May 18, 2019. He was 81. (University Communication photo)

Wieslaw Szydlowski, associate professor emeritus of mechanical and materials engineering who taught engineering for more than 50 years, passed away May 18. He was 81.

Szydlowski, who was born in Brest, Poland on March 1, 1938, graduated with an engineering degree from Technical University in Warsaw, Poland and spent 19 years on the faculty there. He then moved to Lincoln, where he spent nearly four decades teaching mechanical engineering, retiring in 2017 at age 79 after 35 years at the university.

His first experience at Nebraska came in 1975, when Szydlowski was invited to teach for one semester as an invited guest of the mechanical engineering department. He returned to stay in 1983 as a visiting faculty member and became an associate professor in 1992.

Szydlowski won numerous teaching awards, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Engineering in 2010 and seven Parents’ Recognition Awards from the Parents Association at Nebraska, the last in 2018.

“Wieslaw impacted thousands of students over more than a half century. His excellence and dedication to students set a standard for the department,” said Jeff Shield, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Szydlowski, known to colleagues and students as “Wes” or “Syd”, was a beloved teacher for more than 50 years and passed along his expertise in kinematics, robotics and machine design through sketches he created for students during classes. He was well-known for creating his own teaching materials and textbooks. He kept in both his office and home a personal library of materials he had collected, including thousands of overhead transparencies he created.

In addition to his academic career, Szydlowski was a true Renaissance man who spoke numerous languages and enjoyed painting, sculpting and photography. As a young man, Szydlowski was a champion bodybuilder in Poland and continued lifting weights well into his 70s. Often, when students would ask him for a better grade, Szydlowski would challenge them to an arm wrestling match. Rarely did he lose.

Szydlowski is survived by his wife of 23 years, Laura; sons Piotr and Mikolaj; stepchildren Maureen Linke, David Parks and Benjamin Parks; and grandchildren. He was preceded in death by both parents and first wife, Lucyna. A funeral mass was held May 22 at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church. Memorials are requested to Capitol Humane Society or Food Bank of Lincoln.