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Professor Ron Gilgenbach installed as Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll Department Chair of NERS

The endowed chair brings Knoll’s legacy full circle.

By Kim Roth

The late Professor Emeritus Glenn F. Knoll and his wife Gladys (BSN ’78, MS ’80) have given nearly 60 years of generous service and leadership to the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS), playing an important role in its top ranking and international pre-eminence. The Knolls further reinforced the department’s success by creating a new endowment in 2017, the Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences.

In January, Professor Ron Gilgenbach was installed as the department’s first named chair. Some 75 faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends attended a celebration in honor of the endowment and Gilgenbach’s installation, led by Alec D. Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor both of aerospace engineering and of applied physics.

The endowment is a “milestone gift” for the department, said Gallimore, and Glenn Knoll was “a legend in the NERS department.”

Professor Knoll created the field of nuclear measurements, and his research has led to unimagined advancements in many areas, including medical diagnostics, homeland security and even oil exploration.

Knoll also led the department as chair for 11 years, and he served as dean of the College of Engineering for 18 months. The endowed chair brings his legacy full circle. During his time as Department chair, he hired Gilgenbach as a faculty member; Gilgenbach credits Knoll with shaping his approach to leadership.

As Gilgenbach said during the installation event, “The question I hear Glenn asking, the question that guided his chairmanship and, as a result, my own is this: ‘How will this affect our students?’”

The endowment provides Gilgenbach and future department chairs additional resources to increase opportunities that support student success, such as funding for travel to professional conferences, for international internships and for other unexpected expenses faced by those in need.

Professor Knoll also was passionate about supporting junior faculty. The endowment will help purchase specialized equipment for early-career faculty to use in their teaching and research and support travel to visit potential research sponsors. Funds also will create new staff development opportunities.

Gladys Knoll worked closely with Gilgenbach, who will step down as chair at the end of the 2017 – 2018 academic year, during the planning and construction of the new Nuclear Engineering Laboratory (NEL) building. The NEL houses the Glenn F. Knoll Nuclear Measurements Laboratory, and the planning experience inspired Gladys, once again, to do something that would have lasting impact on the department.

“The Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll endowed department chair will no-doubt be an invaluable incentive in recruiting the most outstanding candidate to NERS and will help us continue our top ranking and tradition of excellence,” Gilgenbach said.

The Knolls have been an integral part of that tradition. “The department and faculty were Glenn’s life and family since we came to Ann Arbor in 1958,” said Mrs. Knoll in her comments during the installation celebration. “Believe me when I tell you they have been mine as well.”

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