A "Gifted" Professor

Gifted teacher. Inspired researcher. Knowledgeable adviser. Personal friend. These are a few of the ways in which professor emeritus Frank Marble's former students describe him.

Not too surprisingly, these sentiments also capture some of the many reasons why 20 of Marble's former PhD and graduate student advisees have joined together to honor and thank their mentor by creating an endowed professorship in his and his wife's names. They have also seeded the initial funds for a graduate fellowship in the Marbles' honor.

The Frank and Ora Lee Marble Endowed Professorship will benefit a faculty member in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. The $3 million professorship was made possible with a lead gift from alumnus Laurence B. Zung (MS '63, PhD '67) and his wife, Coralie, as well as accompanying gifts from other Marble advisees, and a $1 million match from the Gordon and Betty Moore Matching Program. Another $177,000 has also been collectively pledged to begin the establishment of what will be the Frank and Ora Lee Marble Graduate Fellowship.

"I wanted to do something so that the Marbles could both witness our appreciation and participate in it," says Zung. "The things I learned from him have benefited me throughout my life and my career. He trained me to learn how to learn and to learn how to think."

Marble, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Professor of Jet Propulsion, Emeritus, advised more than three dozen PhD students during his tenure of more than 40 years at Caltech (from 1948 to 1989), all the while making major fundamental, theoretical, and experimental contributions to the fields of internal aerodynamics, combustion, and propulsion—especially with respect to gas turbines and rockets. Marble is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Science, and a recipient of the Daniel Guggenheim Medal.

"It was a privilege to learn from Dr. Marble," says Ann Karagozian (MS '79, PhD '82), who helped initiate the campaign for a graduate fellowship in Marble's honor. "He always gave me excellent advice, whether it was on research or career choices or embarking in new directions."

With his wife, Ora Lee, Marble also helped create a "home away from home" for many of his students. The couple regularly invited Caltech students into their house for dinners and special gatherings at which they could mingle with one another as well as with professors.

"By their example, the Marbles gave us a lasting lesson on how to live a fulfilling life," says Gerald "Jerry" Marxman (PhD '62). "I hope this gift will serve as a permanent symbol of the Marbles' wonderful impact on so many others' lives, and as a reminder of the gratitude felt by all those graduate students who have benefited so much from knowing them."

Marble initially came to Caltech as a student himself—earning an engineer's degree in 1947 and a PhD in 1948 under the advisement of Theodore von Kármán. He credits much of his teaching and mentoring style—in which he encouraged students to pursue their passions, wherever they led them—to the lessons he learned from his own mentor.

"I will never forget what my students and friends have done," says Marble, who considers all his doctoral students to be his "academic children." "This is about as impressive an act as I can think of. It allows the administration a significant hand in choosing faculty members who represent new fields of research and new fields of teaching."

Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) at Caltech says, “Inspirational teachers and researchers like Frank Marble and his adviser Theodore von Kármán create new schools of thought which nurture generation after generation of academics.  It is this long term commitment to education and research that helps the Engineering and Applied Science Division and Caltech maintain their number one position in the recently announced world university rankings."

Several of Marble's former colleagues, students, and their families gathered at Caltech in September to celebrate the Marbles' enduring contributions and the establishment of the professorial chair. Both the chair and the eventual fellowship will be awarded to individuals with interests in aerospace and mechanical engineering, the fields in which Marble made his greatest scientific and engineering contributions.

"For the family, this is a humbling experience, without a doubt,” says Marble's son, Steve Marble. "It's a very sweet validation of what my father spent so much of his life doing. The idea that his former colleagues and friends would do something of this sort to honor him, especially in his lifetime, is profoundly meaningful for him . . . and it underscores the importance of a teacher who gets such pleasure from stirring the passions of his students."

Written by Shayna Chabner McKinney