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Jerry Fine Climbs New Heights in Classroom and Life
April 29, 2016
Scaling New Heights: Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering professors Jerry Fine (right) and Lee Waite successfully climbed the 19,300-foot tall Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, in 1997 after a five-day journey.
After climbing Tanzania’s 19,300-foot tall Mount Kilimanjaro, helping found a medical clinic in Ghana, and conducting weekly Bible study sessions to Spanish-speaking state prison inmates, you would think the concept of fatigue would be a natural experience for Jerry Fine.
However, it’s the concept of metal fatigue analysis that the mechanical engineering professor has passed along to students, along with important lessons in computational mechanics and finite elements, during a rewarding 30-year career on campus that will end in late May with his retirement.
Few of his students—past and present—have known the breadth of educational, cultural, and life experiences that Fine has brought to the classroom.
A childhood following his father, a State Department agricultural advisor, throughout Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Ecuador, and Iraq brought a fascination with languages and culture. Jerry can speak Spanish fluently and dabbles in Portuguese and Chinese.
Fine was a patrol pilot in the U.S. Navy for three years before being lured into the classroom to teach mechanical engineering courses at the Naval Academy. He enjoyed taking flights in a small plane he once owned with Rose-Hulman professor Wayne Sanders, and encouraged mechanical engineering colleague Lee Waite to get a pilot’s license.
In fact, Waite has matched Fine step for step—literally—for many personal achievements, including attaining the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro after a five-day climb in 1997. The dynamic duo also scaled Mexico’s volcanic mountain Iztaccihuatl (North America’s seventh highest peak at 17,100 feet) in 1995, travelled throughout the world, and co-wrote an applied biofluid mechanics textbook.
All of this happened after Fine turned 50 years old.
“We’re best friends who always has each other’s back,” says Fine. “I was fortunate to find someone (Waite) who is ready to do anything. If I said, ‘let’s do this,’ no matter how wild and crazy, I’m sure he would be ready to do it, and vice versa.”
Veteran Educator: Jerry Fine will retire later this spring after completing his 30th year teaching in the Rose-Hulman Department of Mechanical Engineering. He has also taught courses in mathematics, computer science, physics, and biomedical engineering.
That’s what happened when Waite heard about former graduate school classmate Komli-Kofi (George) Atsina’s mission to start a medical clinic in a remote Ghana village. Fine joined Waite in providing monthly support for Atsina’s medical school education expenses and, eventually, the construction of the facility, which now helps more than 7,000 patients annually in the southeastern region of the impoverished African nation.
“We did a little bit to help others who need it more than us,” Fine says.
Those humanitarian efforts also have extended to starting a House of Hope drug rehabilitation center in Indiana and Mexico, and conducting weekly Bible study sessions, in Spanish, for the past 19 years to inmates at the Indiana correctional facility in Putnamville, Indiana.
“Jerry is extremely humble and has a solid basic value foundation to help others,” admits Waite.
For his part, Fine says, “I don’t want to give anything but my very best.”
That’s why he has taught courses outside his department in mathematics, computer science, physics, and biomedical engineering, along with classes in the institute’s former integrated curriculum program. He also developed a new course to teach modern technology in metal fatigue analysis.
“Like climbing a mountain, teaching is a never-ending pursuit to reach a goal. There’s a feeling of satisfaction. It leaves you tired, but exhilarated at the completion of the journey,” Fine says. “It’s time to let some younger educators take the path to making their own discoveries. We’re fortunate to have some talented educators to take it from here.”