When he came to Cornell in 1966, Owen took over a young department, which became a separate materials science and engineering department only the previous year. Within a year there were approximately 40 students doing graduate materials study at Cornell. Through his leadership, Professor Owen established materials science and engineering at Cornell as one of the few leading departments of its kind, composed of a distinguished group of materials specialists and strong academic programs. He developed excellent and synergistic collaborations with groups doing physics, chemistry, and mechanics, thereby creating a highly interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating environment. Through his leadership of the department at Cornell, Walter contributed greatly to the development of materials science as a systematized science and academic discipline. Owing to his contributions then and subsequently, materials science has flourished, increasing in sophistication and contributing to many important scientific and engineering advances. It was a privilege and an honor to be his colleague and friend for over 40 years.”
Owen’s memberships, honors, and awards included the following: member of the National Academy of Engineering, fellow of the American Society for Metals, Harold Moore Lecturer of the Metals Society, member of the New York Academy of Sciences, trustee of the American Society of Metals, and member of the National Materials Advisory Board.
In preparing this tribute to Walter Owen, I received much help from many colleagues, including Samuel Allen of MIT, Gregory Olson of Northwestern University, Derek Hull of the University of Liverpool, Mica Grujicic of Clemson University, and Frederick Schoen of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.