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Amanda Oren

WOOLRICH, WILLIS RAYMOND (1889–1977). Willis Raymond Woolrich, engineer, was born in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, on March 1, 1889, the son of George and Hannah Martha (Suthers) Woolrich. He was raised on his father's small dairy farm. At sixteen he was assistant operating engineer of the Mineral Point Electrical Plant, and just one year later he was running a power plant for a metal-mining enterprise. In 1907 he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, from which he received his bachelor of science in 1911 and an advanced degree in 1923. On August 29, 1914, he married Neena Myhre. They had six children. After graduating, he taught at DePaul University in Chicago for a year and then became assistant methods engineer for Western Electric there. From 1913 to 1916 he worked as assistant methods engineer and director of the education department of the Deering Division for the International Harvester Company. Woolrich joined the University of Tennessee staff in 1916 and developed new methods of cold storage and refrigeration that could be used by food industries. After he left the University of Tennessee in 1933, Woolrich went to work for the newly established Tennessee Valley Authority; he was the director of the Agriculture Industry Division. He developed a quick freezing method for storage of foods long before the idea was marketed. In 1936 Woolrich became the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas in Austin. While there he obtained accreditation for five departments of the college, including the department of engineering. Woolrich oversaw the acquisition of the Balcones Research Center (now the J. J. Pickle Research Campus) and was director of the Bureau of Engineering Research at the university for twenty-two years. In 1955 he established the Engineering Foundation, and in May 1973 he established the Neena Myhre Woolrich Foundation for Women Engineers. He published 125 books and papers, including Processing of Cottonseed (1935), The Handbook of Refrigeration (1948), and The Men Who Created Cold (1967). After his retirement from his deanship on September 1, 1958, he wrote a history of the College of Engineering, Men of Ingenuity: From Beneath the Orange Tower (1964) and continued on the faculty as a professor of mechanical engineering until retiring in 1966. Woolrich had many accomplishments outside of the University of Texas. From 1948 to 1949 he served as the chief scientific officer and attaché to the American embassy in London. He was a consultant for the United States Patents Board in 1950, and the Department of the Interior sought his knowledge on the conversion of salt water to fresh by freezing. He was the manager and vice president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and president of the Texas Academy of Science, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Engineering College Research Council. He also served as technical advisor and recruited American teachers for Chululalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. After his retirement, he served as the first interim president of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, from 1958 to 1960. He and his wife were active in the Methodist Church. He died in a Houston hospital on February 22, 1977.


Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Amanda Oren, "WOOLRICH, WILLIS RAYMOND," accessed July 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwo42.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 10, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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