Dale Niesz, a native son of Ohio and a ceramic engineer to the core, died Feb. 25, 2022. Born in Canton, Ohio, in 1939, he earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. ceramic engineering degrees from The Ohio State University. Besides pursuing a rigorous academic discipline, Niesz played offensive end on the OSU football team 1957–1960 under coach Woody Hayes. He was a devoted Buckeye fan his entire life.
On graduation, Niesz joined the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, as a research engineer and eventually became manager of materials engineering. In 1987, he joined the faculty at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he stayed until he retired in 2004. One of his early important achievements was experimentally demonstrating the Weibull specimen size effect on the measured strength of ceramics.
“Dale was a kind, gentle person who was a great mentor. He led by inspiration and his ability to understand anyone’s personal and professional strengths and encourage them to pursue their life goals by exploiting those strengths. As a teacher, he was able to quickly answer a student’s question accurately in simple terms, as well as explain any scientific concept that even your grandmother could relate to,” says Rutgers colleague Richard Riman, Distinguished Professor at Rutgers.
While at Rutgers, he served as director of the Center for Ceramic Research, and in 1994 he became chair of the Department of Ceramic and Materials Engineering.
“As Center director, he promoted collaboration by being able to translate one faculty member’s work into a collaborative opportunity for another faculty member. One high-impact project turned a ceramic company’s chemical waste problem into source of revenue and saved the company from closing its doors. That was over 20 years ago, and the company is still in production,” recalls Riman.
Former ACerS president, Jim McCauley, recalls the impact Niesz had on launching collaborations that reached far beyond Rutgers.
“Dale was the point person in brokering a relationship with Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins in the ARL Materials Center of Excellence, which lasted until he retired. During this time, we established the Armor Ceramics working group in the Rutgers-NSF Ceramic, Composite and Optical Materials Center,” says McCauley.
Niesz took the long view when developing collaborations and built programs that lasted long beyond his active career.
“Dale played a major role preparing the Rutgers proposal for partnership in the eventual awarding of the Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments (MEDE) program managed at Johns Hopkins, which will end on April 30  after ten years,” says McCauley.
He was a strong leader in the ceramic engineering community, serving as ACerS president 1987–88, and he was a charter member and president of the International Ceramic Federation. His many accolades include ACerS Distinguished Life Member, ACerS Fellow, OSU College of Engineering Distinguished Life Member, and elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics. He also was awarded a special Army Medallion for critical service to the U.S. Army, an honor that McCauley had the privilege of presenting.
After retirement, he returned to central Ohio, where staff enjoyed his occasional drop-in visits at Society headquarters in Westerville, Ohio. Niesz is survived by his wife, Janice, two daughters and their families.
“As a friend, I could always rely on him for advice with a heavy dose of common sense. Dale had many many friends in the world-wide ceramics community. He will be missed by us all,” says Riman.
“He was my friend and a great guy. I will miss him,” says McCauley.