In Memory: Robert N. “Bob” Lehrer, ISyE Chair, 1966 to 1978

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Robert N. “Bob” Lehrer, the second of only six men thus far to chair Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), passed away on Monday, January 25, 2010. He was 88.

 Originally from Sandusky, Ohio, Bob Lehrer started his engineering education at the University of Cincinnati. Like so many engineering professors of the time, Lehrer joined the military during World War II and was stationed at Purdue University in 1943 as part of the Navy’s V-12 College Training Program. After the war, Lehrer returned to Purdue, where he completed his graduate degrees and went on to teach at Purdue and Oregon State University, before joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 1950. Frank F. “Colonel” Groseclose, Industrial Engineering (IE) School chair from 1946 to 1966, hired Lehrer, who became one of fifteen faculty in the school at that time. Groseclose soon put Lehrer in charge of the graduate program; however, the Ph.D. program was slow in starting, and in 1957, Lehrer left for Northwestern University to establish a doctoral program in Industrial Engineering. Four years later, Lehrer moved his family to Mexico for one year at the request of the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As his year began to wind down, Groseclose asked Lehrer to return to the School as associate director. The Ph.D. program was now up and running. Lehrer returned to Atlanta in 1963, and Groseclose handed him the reins in 1966. He served as Chair until 1978.

During his tenure as chair of the School, Lehrer is credited with modernizing the Industrial Engineering program and with adding the word “Systems” to the School’s name, reflecting in full the School’s philosophy. In an article in the Fall 2005 issue of Engineering Enterprise; however, Lehrer stated that he believed his number one legacy was the strength of the faculty he hired. Some of his hires still involved with the School include Austin Esogbue; R. Gary Parker, associate chair for Graduate Studies; and Leon McGinnis, Eugene C. Gwaltney Chair in Manufacturing Systems.

According to McGinnis, Lehrer was “one of the first IE department heads to embrace the quantitative side of IE, by hiring some really good young OR [operational research] people like Mike Shetty, John Jarvis [School chair from 1989 to 2001], and Mo Bazaara. But he also understood the need for balance in developing a faculty with strong representation from the engineering side of IE, like Jim Apple and John White, and the human side of IE, like Alan Porter and Terry Connolly. Bob left an indelible mark, not just on us, but on Georgia Tech and on the profession.”

 About Lehrer’s hires, R. Gary Parker, states that “these were people who brought to ISyE a perspective that facilitated our upward movement among the ranks of more serious
IE/OR academic programs.”

 Lehrer was a member of: Phi Delta Theta, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Alpha Pi Mu. He was the author of five books translated into seven languages and was editor-in chief of the Journal of Industrial Engineering. Among his awards and honors, Lehrer was the recipient of the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award, IE's highest award as well as being the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University (1964). He was named Outstanding Industrial Engineer in 1997.

 Lehrer is survived by Pat, his wife of 64 years; daughter and son-in-law, Joan and Hunter Hess; his brother, Dr. Richard Lehrer of Florida; his sister-in-law, Janice Lehrer of Hilton Head, S.C.; and fifteen nieces and nephews. A private family service was held on Friday, January 29, 2010, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Memorials in his memory may be sent to The Residence and Endowment Fund, Canterbury Court, 3750 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA. 30319.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Edie Cohen
  • Created: 02/03/2010
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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