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Former engineering dean Edmund Cranch dies at 91

Edmund Cranch

Edmund Titus Cranch ’45, Ph.D. ’51, who served as dean of the College of Engineering 1972-78, died Feb. 4 at age 91 in Florida.

Cranch joined the Cornell engineering faculty in 1951 as an assistant professor of mechanics and served two terms as chair of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. He was named associate dean of graduate study and research in 1967. In 1970, he was one of the first faculty members elected to serve on the university’s board of trustees, and in 1972 he was named dean of the College of Engineering.

He left Cornell to become the 12th president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute from 1978 to 1985. In 1985, Cranch was elected national president of the American Society for Engineering Education, which honored him with an ASEE fellowship in 1993.

At Cornell, Cranch worked with alumnus Lester B. Knight ’29 to construct a specially outfitted laboratory. Today the Knight Laboratory houses the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility. He also served Cornell as chair of the Advisory Committee on Financial Planning and the Committee on Special Educational Projects.

Cranch earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1945. After graduating from Cornell, he was commissioned an ensign and served as an engineering officer. He earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering through the U.S. Navy’s wartime V-12 officer training program. Cranch then worked briefly for Bell Labs as an electromechanical design and development staff member before enrolling as a graduate student at Cornell. His Ph.D. was in mechanics, mathematics and applied physics. He was a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a member of Tau Beta Pi honorary engineering fraternity, president of the Cornell chapter of Sigma Xi and a member of the Society of Experimental Stress Analysis.

After stepping down as WPI president, Cranch became president of the Wang Institute of Graduate Studies in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. Created by An Wang, founder of Wang Laboratories, the institute was established to meet a growing demand for industrial software developers. It was closed in 1988.

Cranch, a passionate ice hockey fan and player, was the oldest living alumnus of the Cornell University hockey program, according to his widow, Virginia Cranch. He continued to enjoy pickup games with his two sons until fairly recently. 

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Joe Schwartz