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Alumni Spotlight: Dick Rosenberg, Honorary Member of ASME

DickRosenbergIn 2003, MABE alumnus Richard “Dick” Rosenberg was named Honorary Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for his contributions to the engineering profession.

ASME awards the honorary membership to persons who have made distinctive contributions to engineering, science, industry, research, public service, or other pursuits allied with and beneficial to the engineering profession. Since its inception in 1880, there have only been 350 awardees. This award ranks second only to the ASME medal in terms of stature.

Born in New York City, Rosenberg realized at age eight he wanted to become a mechanical engineer. His interest in engineering was sparked by a Gilbert Erector Set his father purchased for him.

Rosenberg had a rocky start to his engineering career. On his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the US Navy and served for three years. He then enrolled in college and began pursuing his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. However, college was not easy for Rosenberg, and after three years as a student with a declining academic record, he decided to drop out of the University of Virginia.

“Although I had several years of an engineering education, I did not have a degree and job opportunities,” Rosenberg said. “I concluded that I had better do something because at the current rate the future looked pretty bleak.”

So, Rosenberg began looking for work and applied for a job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), but he could not start work there until he received security clearance. While awaiting clearance, he accepted a job at Dupont, but the job was not what he’d expected. Rosenberg realized he could do better, and began working at ORNL when he received his clearance. At ORNL he worked as an assistant engineer with several other young men – all of whom had engineering degrees. Rosenberg soon realized not having a degree was holding him back in his career.

Rosenberg’s life changed completely when he met the love of his life, Esther Druker. Druker agreed to marry Rosenberg only if he promised to return to school and get his degree in engineering. That was enough motivation for Rosenberg. He resigned from his position at ORNL and applied to the University of Tennessee. Joel Bailey, ME Department Head at the time, conditionally accepted Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s performance during his first quarter would determine if he could remain in the program.

“I had to be able to demonstrate that I was a better performer than what the record showed,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg maintained an “A” average for four quarters and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1954.

“I shall be forever indebted to Joel Bailey for giving me that chance,“ Rosenberg said.

After graduation, Rosenberg returned to work at ORNL. But because he desired to use his education for civilian applications rather than weaponry, he decided to move on.

Rosenberg held various engineering positions throughout his career with Westinghouse Atomic Power Laboratory, American Standard, and General Atomic. He retired from General Atomic in 1986 as Supervising Engineer Manager of the reactor Mechanism Branch and second in command over the Fort Sr. Vrain High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor Project.

Rosenberg’s involvement with ASME began early when he joined as a student member in 1946. He became an active member in 1961 and has held several ASME positions including: San Diego Section Secretary/Treasurer, Chairman of the San Diego Section, Region Secretary, and Region Vice President. He was elected ASME’s 106th President in 1987, and he held that position for one year.

“Because I recognized early on that I would have nothing if it weren’t for the fact that I was an engineer, I have always felt it was my obligation to give back to that profession,” Rosenberg said. “I chose to do that via participation in ASME.”

Rosenberg is a member of the Society’s Committee of Past Presidents and is still involved in the affairs of ASME.

In addition to being named an ASME Honorary Member, Rosenberg has received the ASME Centennial Medallion, the ASME Dedicated Service Award, and was named the San Diego Engineer of the Year in 1988.

Rosenberg’s advice for aspiring engineers is straightforward.

“Don’t go into engineering if the primary motivation is to earn a lot of money,” Rosenberg said. Do go into engineering if you feel that is what you want to do as the principal activity of your waking hours for the rest of your life. Have as much respect for those under you as you do for those above. Don’t feel you have to do everything yourself. It is more important to be able to ask the right questions and then know how to find the answers, and the ability to communicate orally and in writing is as important as the mastering of technical knowledge.”

Since retiring, Rosenberg has consulted for the United States Atomic Energy Commission at the Rocky Flats, Colorado facility and led technical groups to Europe and Asia as part of the People to People program. He is now fully retired, and he and his wife have taken full advantage of the opportunity to travel—visiting all seven continents.

Rosenberg and his wife currently reside in San Diego, CA. They have three daughters and four grandchildren.

—C O N T A C T :Kathy Williams (865-974-8615,