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Wayne Wymore
Wayne Wymore (1927-2011), shown here in a 2004 photograph.

UA Systems Engineering Pioneer Dies at 84

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UA Systems Engineering Pioneer Dies at 84

Feb. 25, 2011
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Aspiring pilot unexcited by engineering turned to math and established first academic department of its kind.

Professor Emeritus Wayne Wymore, who in 1960 founded the world's first academic department of systems engineering at the University of Arizona, died Feb. 24 age 84.

Wymore graduated from Ames High School in Iowa in 1944 and after a few months working on a surveying crew, enlisted in the Army Air Force. World War II was ending and Wymore never got to complete flight training. Instead, he was assigned for duty in Panama and Peru, studying and observing weather.

After his discharge in 1947, he attended Iowa State University, where he selected civil engineering as his major. In an autobiographical perspective published in International Journal of General Systems in 2004, Wymore said the engineering curriculum was "not very exciting."

He changed his major to mathematics with minors in physics, statistics and psychology. "Most importantly," he wrote, "I married Muriel Farrell, a student in applied art." He left Iowa State with bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics.

Despite offers from Bell Labs to work in New York or at Sandia Labs in New Mexico, Wymore opted in 1950 to study pure mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Son Farrell arrived in 1950 and daughter Darcy in 1953.

After earning his PhD, Wymore went to work for the Pure Oil Company in Crystal Lake, Ill., as a mathematical and computer consultant. The long commute, looming executive status, and suburban life didn't appeal, so Wymore cast his net wide for something more suitable. "Among the first and most enthusiastic responses to our enquiries was the University of Arizona, from the office of the Dean of Engineering," Wymore said.

In 1957, he accepted the position of director of the Numerical Analysis Laboratory and professor of electrical engineering at UA, and stayed at UA until he retired in 1987. In 1960, at the request of College of Engineering Dean Thomas Martin, Wymore established and headed the world's first academic department of systems engineering.

The full text of Wymore's autobiographical perspective can be found here:

Autobiographical Retrospectives
International Journal of General Systems
Vol. 33, No. 6, December 2004, pages 593-610

The Wymore wake will take place Sunday, Feb. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., at 4301 N. Camino Kino, Tucson, AZ 85718. The family can be contacted via Mel Wymore at 520.299.6663 or

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation is sent to the systems engineering honor society, Omega Alpha. Send donations to Dr. Elizabeth McCrae, Treasurer, Omega Alpha Association, 1200 Lakewood NW, Ste. 120, Blacksburg, VA 24060.

The Omega Alpha Association is an IRS 501c(3) educational association. Donations are tax deductible and will be matched by an anonymous donor.