Robert Hess – obituary May 2017


Professor Emeritus, Robert L. Hess, PhD of Ann Arbor died peacefully on May 19, 2017. His wife, Gretchen Ream Hess, proceeded him in death on November 1, 2006. Dr. Hess is survived by his three daughters, Mary Ann (Tim) Whitmer, Linda Claire Groshans and Kathryn Sue (Chris) Barnes. His six grandchildren are Amy (Drew) Wiesner, Michael Groshans, Kristina and Charles Whitmer, Blake and Kevin Barnes, as well as his great grandson, EJ Wiesner.

Dr. Hess was born in New Jersey on September 29,1924 and moved to the family homestead in Berrien County Michigan in 1930. There he attended a rural, 2 room school for his first 8 grades and graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1942.

Dr. Hess enlisted in the U.S. Navy’s V-12 officer training program. Assigned to the University of Michigan, he received two B.S.E. degrees in 1945 and was assigned to the Midshipman program at Columbia University. He was commissioned as Ensign in October 1945 and married his fiance, Gretchen Ream, in Bethlehem Church, Ann Arbor in December 1945. He served on a heavy cruiser at sea and later as division officer on a pair of light escort carriers. Upon release from active World War II service he returned to Ann Arbor, the home of his wife where, in 1958 he was appointed to a full professorship.

Dr. Hess’ academic and service accomplishments were outstanding. The respect that he gained from his peers is only reflective of the credit he had given to them during his devoted service. He held many academic honors and served the nation as a consultant to the World Health Organization, to the Army Science Board and served as the personal representative to the Chief of U.S. Army Intelligence where he led teams of scientists though field reviews of Army’s Combat Surveillance capabilities both in Europe and in Korea. In addition he was selected to be a member of President Nixon’s first National Highway Safety Advisory Committee. He served with distinction at the University of Michigan where he is honored by a bronze bust in the lobby of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Institute, of which he was the founding director in 1965. In the Pentagon, corporate offices, the classrooms and laboratory he represented the best to his students, peers, academic associates and to his country. The Department of the Army awarded him the Outstanding Civilian Service award and medal.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Saline on July 22, 2017 at 10:30 AM.

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