George Raithby, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1983

Mechanical Engineering

George Raithby has been a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering since 1969. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1978. Professor Raithby is an outstanding scholar, who enjoys a national and international reputation as a leading authority in free-convection heat transfer and in the use of computers to predict the flow of fluids. Professor Raithby has been a successful and influential teacher of engineering students at all levels, from first year to postgraduate studies, and in all sizes of groups from the very large classes in the first and second year to individual consultations with graduate students. The nomination of George Raithby for the Distinguished Teacher Award was a remarkable collection of letters from students who had been taught by him as undergraduates, from others who had been his graduate students, and from his colleagues. Those letters were remarkable both for their number and for the quality of their praise. Most of the students who wrote about professor Raithby had studied three subjects with him: calculus, thermodynamics, and heat transfer - three subjects seldom in the top ten hits of the engineering curriculum. They all agreed that their understanding of this material - an understanding which has repeatedly proved important to them - was a reflection of his teaching. Time and again, phrases such as these appeared in their letters: “systematic, clear, and concise presentation,” “stress on understanding the fundamentals,” “concern with the education of his students.” These students found professor Raithby to be a very considerate teacher in many important ways. One of these ways was expressed in this unforgettable phrase: “protecting the dignity of the confused.” George Raithby has a clear philosophy of teaching, and that philosophy is well understood by his students. One of them has summarized it in this way: “It is not his purpose as a professor to train a breed of engineer dependent on handbooks and equations, but rather to educate and aid his students in their development as competent professionals. He regards teaching as an extremely important responsibility and is concerned not only for the welfare of his students, but also (for) that of the engineering profession as a whole.” All of this has made professor Raithby an effective and influential teacher of engineers, and many careers have been shaped by his example and by his advice. It is also evident from their letters that his students and colleagues have enormous respect for George Raithby. He is described as modest, quiet, very hard-working, and self-effacing - the last few minutes must have been an ordeal for him - in the words of yet another former student, a man “totally dedicated to his mission of teaching students.”