Remembering Bill Grogan

William R. Grogan ’46, a longtime member of WPI’s electrical engineering faculty, the Institute’s first dean of undergraduate studies and one of the founders of the WPI Plan, passed away on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. WPI President Laurie Leshin recalled Dean Emeritus Grogan as “the individual most responsible for [the Plan’s] implementation and its vibrant success over the course of the last 45 years. Bill helped transform the Institute into a paragon of innovation and a model for successful change in higher education. It is largely due to his visionary leadership, his passion for excellence, and his amazing ability to inspire greatness in others that the Plan not only survived against tall odds, but thrived and evolved into one of the most successful examples of project-based education in the nation. The WPI community owes Bill a tremendous debt of gratitude and our eternal admiration. He will be missed greatly by his legion of friends and colleagues around the world.”

“There is no doubt that Bill Grogan stands tall as a giant in the legendary history of WPI. Some claim his vision and leadership saved WPI. He clearly redefined how scientists and engineers should be educated to meet the global challenges and favorably impact the lives of people around the globe. More than that, to me and to so many others, Bill genuinely cared about others as individuals. Bill was a friend, a mentor and advisor who always took a personal interest in you, your talents, your shortcomings and your aspirations. He knew when you needed a pat on the back or a boot somewhat lower and was capable of both. Bill significantly influenced the trajectory of my life both personally and professionally and I will forever be indebted to Bill. He was my dear friend. I will miss him but I will never forget him.”

–Philip B. Ryan ’65, chairman, WPI Board of Trustees

“William R. Grogan ’46 was the most influential person ever associated with WPI. He was a teacher, advisor, mentor, and educational visionary. He was the academic leader of WPI during one of the most significant periods in its history. His death signifies the passing of an era that has influenced not only individuals who have had a personal association with his life, but also future generations of students who benefit from the educational vision of this remarkable man.”

–Robert Fitzgerald ’53, Professor Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering

“Bill’s influence on the WPI experience has impacted multiple generations of my family, being the third generation and also the third Charles Gammal to attend WPI.”

–Charles Gammal ’08

We invite members of the WPI community to share their memories and thoughts about Bill Grogan below.

Comments (67)

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  1. During my freshman year at WPI, the brothers at Theta Kappa Phi felt I needed to get my college behavior under control. As chapter advisor, Bill was assigned to be my mentor. This became one of the most important and influential relationships in my life. Over the years, Bill was not only a mentor but a dear friend and family member. During our many years as friends I had the privilege of knowing his mother, sister and brother. He was my best man at my wedding and at that wonderful event, met my wife’s cousin, Mae. Bills marriage to Mae was truly beautiful. Over the years I had the opportunity to travel with Bill and Mae as well as attend many social events with them.
    Bill was a scholar, dear friend, a man of his convictions, and someone who had the foresight to direct WPI in a direction that now makes the college one of the best in the country. Having known Bill as a fun loving and brilliant man, it was difficult to visit with him near the end of his life.
    As I think about Bill and the fun times we had, there isn’t one event that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. In summary, Bill is a blessing.

    Pete Ottowitz ’58

  2. Robert Wolff BSEE '58 says:

    Professor Grogan (as I knew him),

    Bill was a monumental part of my life. In 1955 I was enjoying sophomore year far too much when he pulled me aside just in time to prevent what was called a “term failure”. A Term Failure would have resulted in an extra year for which I had insufficient funds.

    His teaching ability and ability to motivate people made things much easier for his students. Bill was always able to see the BIG PICTURE and place it into perspective for all with whom he came in contact.

    He felt strongly that I should join the Navy via the Newport OCS program. In retrospect I think he thought the maturing experience would be good for me. His advice resulted in a gigantic step change in my life. My commission in the navy resulted in a cascading series of very positive events. These events had a major impact on many future events in my life. In addition to my civilian retirement pay, I have enjoyed the retired pay of a Navy LCDR, again directly attributable to Professor Grogan.

    With the exception of my parents, Bill was unquestionably the largest single influence in my life.

    I had the opportunity to briefly express these feelings to him back in the 80’s. It is with great sorrow that I did not communicate these feelings to him more recently.

    Rest In Peace Bill, you will be missed.

    Robert Wolff BSEE ’58

  3. Jim Daily,BSEE' 63 says:

    I started my freshman year declaring to myself I wanted to be a research engineer until I took Prof.Grogan’s Engineering Economics class. After that experience I selected all my electives along the business parts of Engineering and went on to get my Masters in Indusrial Engineering.He incented me to a rewarding career ,working all over the globe and to this day am thankful.RIP

  4. Les Hart says:

    Bill Grogan treated me as my father away from home. Upon graduation,I was introduced to his brother Ed by Bill and thereafter for 2 years lived with him in their ancestral home in Lee, MA. Ed became a dear friend thanks to Bill. I was part of many Grogan family picnics which included sister Betty and family. Bill was so good to me in a very personal way. I once struck up a conversation with a man fishing at a lake in Lee. I asked him if he knew Bill Grogan and he responded,” I went to school with him since first grade. Yes, I knew The Professor.”

  5. Steve Weininger says:

    I am one of the very few faculty members involved in the creation of the Plan who, to use one of Bill’s favorite expressions, “is still [barely] on active duty.” (One of the many holdovers from Bill’s Naval service was his fondness for Navy expressions.) When the President’s Planning Group got the faculty to approve the Plan (by one vote) we were pretty overjoyed but under no illusion that implementing it would be a snap. But even in our more sober moments I don’t think we anticipated how difficult it would be – logistically, financially, politically.

    Bill would have been the last person to claim all the credit for its implementation. Romeo Moruzzi, who was elected to the Planning Committee with Bill, was one example of a stalwart in that effort. But if the phrase “the right place at the right time” has any meaning it surely applied to Bill’s having become a member of the Planning Committee. He played a major role in shaping the WPI that we know while retaining the respect and affection of the great majority of those who knew him

  6. Chris Jeznach PKT '10 says:

    I will never forget Bill’s passion. He was genuinely passionate about everything he touched. Every Sunday he would attend chapter meeting and his passion in the fraternity lit up like a campfire on a summer night. Bill could easily use that passion to smoothly articulate complicated ideas. He has taught me what it means to be passionate and to hold on true to your values.

  7. Wally Towner FIJI '83 says:

    Bill was enormously supportive of WPI Greek life.

    His legacy is evident throughout our entire Greek community.

  8. Rico Argentati BSME 1970 says:

    Thanks Bill, my friend, advisor and inspiration while I was a student and after. An extremely insightful and clear thinker whether it be a technical problem or life challenge.

  9. Bruce Skarin '02 says:

    I am forever in debt to Bill Grogan for his kindness, generosity, and guidance. After returning to WPI from an extended internship, Bill opened his home to me, where I stayed for a year, sharing many a meal and great conversations. He was a man that truly lived up to every ideal and value worth having.

    His legacy cannot be overstated, as WPI would not be the place it is today without him. May we all hold his memory in the light forevermore.

    -Bruce Skarin ’02

  10. Josiah "Josh" Reed '84 says:

    Dean Grogan was my IQP advisor in DC, a mentor and a friend. I have caught up with him at each of our class reunions except for the one last spring. I had hoped to see him this past weekend at my daughter, Kirsten’s, graduation: it was not to be. I was saddened to hear of his passing; yet his legacy lives in all he had touched and in the futures of all who will attend WPI for generations to come.

  11. Joe Carter BSEE '71 says:

    My memories of Dean Grogan are some of the most deeply etched and enduring of my time at WPI.
    A true humanist combining his awesome intellectual prowess with a sincere interest in people.
    He has truly been a role model in my career – one of those who, when times get tough, I ask – what would Bill Grogan expect/do?
    He a also gave me my IHEE nickname – I still have the signed card!

  12. Dick Barlow class of '57, PKT says:

    Bill was as strong, stable and deeply rooted as an oak, and at the same time a powerful agent of change in the institutions and individual lives he touched. He inspired us to envision higher goals and helped us see paths to reach them. He was creative imaginative and tireless in overcoming obstacles in his path, and inspired us to do the same in our lives. It’s wonderful that so many of us can say “I knew Bill, and I liked him, and he liked me, and I’ll never forget him.”

  13. Frank Cohee '59 TKP says:

    that is such a wonderful summary comment, Dick

  14. Jim Alfieri "59" says:

    Dean Bill represents everything that WPI stands for…Tremendous vision and foresight in forging the WPI. Plan…Have to say that Bill’s biggest challenge may have been getting us CE’s to absorbs the basics of EE in taking the obligatory EE851 Course our Junior Year .Again he succeeded…Thanks Bill..Loved the always twinkle in your eyes…A great role model….

  15. Robert A Kennedy III says:

    Robert A. Kennedy III EE ’67

    I had Professor Grogan for an EE course that meet on Saturday mornings @ 8:00 am Spring my Sophomore year (1965). I’d have a headache and Professor Grogan red eyes, but it was always a good and complete lecture. I only went to class to see if he’d be there and to learn from him. He always was and gave an excellent lecture.
    Fellow IHEE Member and he laughed easily.

  16. Jim Demetry '58 ATO says:

    Bill recruited me back to WPI to join the EE faculty in 1971. We’d kept in touch over the years, so I had a good idea of the mischief he and the planning committee were up to. The invitation was an offer i could not refuse. I’d known Bill since E-13, where, along with all the good EE stuff, I learned that Bill was an extraordinary teacher and a friendly, approachable person.. I learned, too, that he was remarkably gifted as a leader, The Plan implementaion process had its share of choppy waters – Bill kept things on an even keel with the strength of deep conviction, openness and respect for all points of view. He earned the trust, respect, and loyalty of all who participated in the academic midwifing of the Plan’s delivery..

    For his friendship, mentoring skills, leadership, and contributions to WPI and to the many hundreds of its students and faculty whose lives he touched, Bill has a secure place in their memories.

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