It is an excellent opportunity for emphasizing those things that are felt to be important to the faculty member. There are always ways to contribute creatively to the university by targeting those areas that need extra monetary assistance. I felt that I owed a great deal to the College of Engineering because of the inspiration I received from Olaf A. Hougen. He was a great teacher, humanitarian, researcher and book author. He was the chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering when I came to UW as a graduate student, and I had the great fortune to take his course in thermodynamics.
Then in 1953 he sent me a telegram inviting me to come back to Madison on the faculty. Since the telegram was dated April 1, I assumed that someone was playing a joke on me (as had happened on April 1 the year before), so I ignored the telegram. A week or so later, I had a phone call from my former major professor in the chemistry department, asking why I had not replied to Olaf’s telegram. Then I knew that the offer from Olaf was ‘for real.’
Together with other members of my family, I established the Byron Bird Award in memory of my father (BSCEE ’15) who had guided and counseled me in my formative years. He was strict with me, and he set a good example by his behavior and dedication to his work.
I established the Bird-Stewart-Lightfoot graduate fellowship award to commemorate the many wonderful years I have enjoyed in interacting with Professors Warren Stewart and Ed Lightfoot while writing the textbook Transport Phenomena (first edition 1960, second edition 2002, revised second edition 2007). From this cooperative effort, I learned much, and the Department of Chemical Engineering was very supportive as we worked on this writing project. Incidentally, Olaf Hougen gave us much encouragement.
The Netherlandic Studies Fund was established by me in recognition of my commitment to the teaching of Dutch on the Madison campus. Along with four Dutch students, we started the Dutch Club of Madison in 1953. I have maintained contact with those teaching Dutch in the German department. Together with Professor W.Z. Shetter, now professor emeritus at Indiana University, I contributed to two Dutch readers: Een Goed Begin (1963), and Reading Dutch (1985). In these efforts, I had the full support of the chairman of the chemical engineering department to ‘indulge’ in this kind of extracurricular effort.
In addition, I set up the Japanese studies fund to provide extra help for the Japanese language programs in the College of Letters and Science, and the Technical Japanese Program in the College of Engineering. The latter program was, I think, the first such program in the U.S., and the book that we compiled, Basic Technical Japanese (by Daub, Bird and Inoue), is still the only introductory book on that subject. Professor Daub and I had the full support of the then-dean of engineering, W. Robert Marshall, to work on this project.
R. Byron Bird, professor emeritus
Chemical and biological engineering, UW-Madison
Why I Give
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