Beloved SMU Professor emeritus Jack Holman left
legacy of research, students and love of music

SMU Professor emeritus and alumnus Jack Holman, a renowned engineering researcher and educator who spent more than 50 years at SMU, first as a student and then as a faculty member, died in Dallas May 1 while recovering from surgery.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU Professor emeritus and alumnus Jack Holman, a renowned engineering researcher and educator who spent more than 50 years at SMU, first as a student and then as a faculty member, died in Dallas May 1 while recovering from surgery. He was 78.

Dr. Holman’s lifelong love of music sparked an enduring friendship with singer Anthony Kearns of The Irish Tenors.  Mr. Kearns will sing at Dr. Holman’s memorial service at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church.  Dr. Holman was a member of the Lovers Lane choir for 50 years, and recorded and photographed many of the performances at the church for their archives.

Dr. Holman retired from SMU as Brown Foundation Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 2005 after a 45-year teaching career on the Hilltop, where he regularly won outstanding teaching awards.  He also served terms as head of SMU’s department of civil and mechanical engineering and as assistant provost for instructional media.  He was voted outstanding faculty member by the student body 13 times, and had the honor of having the Mechanical Engineering Department Complex named for him.

“Professor Holman literally wrote the book(s) on heat transfer, experimental methods, and thermodynamics,” said Marc Christensen, dean of SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. “Over the years, alumni returning to campus have fondly remembered Professor Holman’s lectures and advice.  He made a tremendous impact on so many lives.  He is a major part of the legacy at SMU Lyle and will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Holman was born in Dallas July 11, 1934 and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1951.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at SMU in 1955 and his Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering, also from SMU, in 1956.  He earned his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University in 1958 and spent two years of active duty as a research scientist in the Air Force Aerospace Research Laboratory before joining SMU as associate professor of mechanical engineering in 1960.  He began earning professional recognition almost immediately, receiving the Mechanical Engineer of the Year award from the North Texas Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1961.

Dr. Holman published over 30 papers and was the author of three widely used textbooks: Heat Transfer, first published in 1963, Experimental Methods for Engineers, first published in 1966, and Thermodynamics, first published in 1969.  All were published by McGraw-Hill, have been reprinted multiple times and have been translated into at least six languages.  He also is the author of the utilitarian monograph What Every Engineer Should Know About EXCEL (2006) published by CRC Press.

A member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Dr. Holman was past Chairman of the National Mechanical Engineering Division.  He was a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and past Chairman of the ASME Region X Mechanical Engineering Department Heads. 

“He was such a giant in the field of thermodynamics and heat transfer,” said Bijan Mohraz, professor of environmental and civil engineering in SMU’s Lyle School.   “He was one of those who had a knack for taking the most difficult subjects and writing them in a very clear and concise manner.  As a result of that, his books were very popular. At one time, the book on heat transfer was being used in over 130 universities throughout the United States.”

Dr. Holman was a prolific researcher, serving as principal investigator for research sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.  He also conducted research for the Strategic Defense Initiative – the Ronald Reagan-era program known as “Star Wars.”

Over the course of his career, Dr. Holman won some of the most prestigious national awards available to members of his profession, including the George Westinghouse Award from the American Society of Engineering Education in 1972; the James Harry Potter Gold Medal, awarded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1986; and the Worcester Reed Warner Gold Medal, the distinguished literature award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, in 1987.  In 1993, Dr. Holman was the recipient of the Lohmann Medal from Oklahoma State University, which is awarded annually to a distinguished engineering alumnus. In 1995, Dr. Holman received the Ralph Coats Roe Award as the outstanding mechanical engineering educator of the year from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Dr. Holman is survived by his wife, Katherine; his son, Blake Holman, and daughter-in-law, Joan Holman; his daughter, Bevin Holman Lonngren, and son-in-law, Kent Lonngren; and his grandchildren John Holman, Emma Lonngren, and Lawrence Lonngren.

In lieu of flowers, Dr. Holman’s family requests that memorials be made to the Dallas Area Parkinsonism Society, 6370 LBJ Freeway #176, Dallas, TX, 75220 or at; to the Lovers Lane Sanctuary Choir Fund, 9200 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX 75220; to the Jack P. and Katherine K. Holman Scholarship Fund, c/o Jesuit College Prep, 12345 Inwood Rd. Dallas, TX 75244 or to a favorite charity.