By Michael G Seele
Faculty, students and alumni gathered in the Engineering Product Innovation Center on Oct. 23 to dedicate a portion of the facility to one of the College’s longest-serving and most influential faculty members.
The Merrill Ebner Automated Design and Manufacturing Facility was named in honor of Ebner, who served on the faculty from 1964 until 2006 and is widely crediting with pioneering the field of manufacturing engineering.
“Merrill Ebner was a historic figure in the history of the College of Engineering,” said
Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen at the event, which culminated with the unveiling a bronze plaque featuring Ebner’s likeness. “He was here when the College was just starting. He had a vision that engineers needed to understand how to connect design to manufacturing and improve people’s quality of life.”
“He spent 40-plus years enhancing the experience of our students and mentoring generations of faculty,” Lutchen added. “We recognized the need to honor Merrill’s legacy by naming this facility.”
EPIC Director Gerry Fine added, “It’s an honor to have Merrill’s plaque in here and show generations of students who he was and what he did for the College of Engineering.”
Ebner was among a small group of faculty recruited in the early 1960s who played a transformational role in the College’s development. He served as the first chair of the Manufacturing Engineering Department, and for 40 years every undergraduate who passed through that program took at least one of his courses. In the early 1970s, as dean ad interim, his skill and engaging personality helped reverse declining enrollment at the College. Later in his career, he reinvigorated the Distance Learning Program and remained a presence at the College after his retirement, until his death in 2008.
Roger Dorf (’70), a former student of Ebner’s, said, “He was a friend and a mentor, and for me what was most important was his leadership in manufacturing that endured during his entire time at Boston University, and what he did for Boston University and for manufacturing in the United States.”
Assoc. Prof. Theo deWinter (ME), the longest-serving member of the ENG faculty and a colleague of Ebner’s from the College’s early days, noted that Ebner’s contributions continue to ripple through the College today. “His courses in manufacturing engineering gave rise to the College’s machine shop,” deWinter said, “And this Automated Design and Manufacturing Facility we are naming for him today is something he brought here.
Several members of the Ebner family were also on hand for the event. His son, Merrill, said, “He loved his professional family of colleagues and students, and this today show it is reciprocated. My father didn’t see his work here as just a job. He saw this as his community. That is the feeling that defined his legacy and I thank all of you for that. He didn’t only give a lot to you; he took a lot, too. And most of that was in joy.”