Former MAE Head passes away

Former Department Head of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State University and aerospace engineering titan Dr. Fred DeJarnette passed away early last week on May 2 at the age of 88. 

Dr. Dejarnette grew up in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. A love for music led him to the position of Drum Major in his High School Marching Band, and to start a jazz band with his brother, Tom. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech, and while earning his Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech, he received the Sporn Award for his excellence in teaching and eventually served as Chairman of the Aerospace Department.

Dr. DeJarnette joined the MAE faculty on July 1, 1970, and served as Department Head from 1994 to 2000 after serving one year as interim Department Head. Dr. DeJarnette worked at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia and was a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics (where he was awarded the Thermophysics Award in 1995) and a member of Society Automotive Engineering. His career is marked by his significant technical contributions to the fields of computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer, which spurred his development of concepts and methods that still used today throughout the aerospace engineering industry.

Through his experimental and theoretical research, Dr. DeJarnette made important contributions to the design of the Columbia space shuttle and contributed to projects that were instrumental in the design of hypersonic planes able to travel from the East Coast of the United States to Tokyo in four hours. As director of Mars Mission Research Center at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University, he guided research funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The research pioneered by Dr. DeJarnette and other brilliant engineers and the research center has greatly contributed to mankind’s efforts to reach Mars.

At NC State, Dr. DeJarnette developed new courses and supervised graduate research, assisting many former students in rising to high-level positions in the government and in the engineering industry. To honor his outstanding accomplishments and contributions to science, engineering and education, Dr. DeJarnette was awarded the 1990 Oliver Max Gardner Award, an award given by the UNC System Board of Governors to the UNC System faculty member who has made “the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race” in one scholastic year. It is the highest faculty honor awarded by the UNC System Board of Governors. 

After 42 years at NC State University, Dr. DeJarnette retired in 2012. Following his retirement, he and his wife Nadene traveled all over the world to Tokyo, Egypt and all over Europe. During his travels, Dr. DeJarnette’s love for teaching led him to teach two semesters at the University of Porto in Portugal. 

He was preceded in death by his devoted wife of 69 years Nadene, and his brother Tom. He is survived by his two daughters: Denise and her husband Doug, and Lisa DeJarnette and her husband Albert; his grandchildren: Lara and Ryan Beckwith; and his two great-grandchildren: Madison and Noah Beckwith.

In his wake, Dr. DeJarnette leaves a legacy of excellence not only in the field of aerospace engineering, but also in the lives of his students and the culture of innovation and brilliance at MAE and NC State University.