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Charles A. Wert 1919 - 2003


Posted By: Connie Swearingen (email)
Date: 11/30/2013 at 21:48:00

Sioux City Journal
9 November 2003

Charles A. Wert, 83, of Champaign, Ill., former Sioux City resident, died Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003, at a hospital in Urbana, Ill.

Services will be 1 p.m. Wednesday at Nelson-Berger Funeral Home Morningside Chapel, with Lynnette Plambeck, chaplain at Morningside College, officiating. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation will be one-half hour prior to the services Wednesday at the funeral home.

Charles A. Wert was born in Battle Creek, Iowa, on Dec. 31, 1919, to John Henry and Margret Anne (Spotts) Wert. He was the oldest of seven children. He attended public schools in Battle Creek, graduating from high school in 1937.

He married Lucille Vivian Mathena, a fellow college student, in 1942 in Sioux City. She died in 1995.

Mr. Wert obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Morningside College in 1941, and a master of science degree in 1943 from the University of Iowa. During World War II, he was engaged in radar development for antiaircraft and coast artillery gun direction at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Following receipt of a Ph.D. in physics in 1948 from the University of Iowa, he had a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Chicago from 1948 to 1950 and joined the faculty of the Metallurgy Department at the University of Illinois in 1950. He was head of that department from 1967 to 1987 and retired as Prof. Emeritus in 1990.

Wert's research initially was concerned with the properties of alloys for high temperature service. When the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois was established in the early 1960s, he directed the installation of an electron microscope laboratory, which became one of the premier facilities of its type in the nation. His own work in the laboratory was initially on metallic alloys, but in the 1970s he carried on extensive study of sulfur compounds in coal, especially of high-sulfur Illinois coal. Upon retirement, he continued work on related high-carbon materials, especially on amber and jet, long used for jewelry and ornaments. At age 76, he began study of some of the metallurgical properties of meteorites and glassy compounds from space. He made his last research presentation on this subject at a conference in Buenos Aires in 1999.

During his career, he directed the theses of more than 30 Ph.D. students and published more than 200 papers, including major articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica and in the Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. But he maintained a strong interest in teaching, authored two books in that field and was, for more than 20 years, a co-editor of the "Journal of Materials Education." His teaching won for him the award of Distinguished Alumnus of Morningside College and the Stanley Pierce and the William Everitt awards from the Engineering College of the University of Illinois. He was awarded the Albert White award for excellence in teaching from ASM International and, in 1993, the Zener Medal (in Rome) for his studies of the acoustical properties of solids.

Wert was a fellow of the American Physical Society, ASM International, The Metallurgical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science and Society for Engineering Education. In 1980 he was named a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Society of Bonn, Germany, for study at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart and at the Technical University of Munich. Association with those laboratories continued throughout his life.

Mr. Wert and his wife, Lucille, met as students at Morningside College in Sioux City in 1938. They were grateful for the financial help they received during their student days and in thanks, they jointly established a number of student and faculty awards, including awards in the Library, in the School of Music and in Engineering at the University of Illinois, in Information Science at Simmons College in Boston, at Morningside College, at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and at the Carle Foundation. They also supported the American Negro College Fund and the American Indian College Fund.

Mr. Wert was an active member of the McKinley Foundation Presbyterian Church in Champaign. He served on the governing board of the church at various times and had many friends among the congregation. Mr. Wert's hobbies included woodworking, gardening, cooking and traveling, all of which he especially enjoyed in the years following retirement from the university.

Memorials are acceptable to Morningside College, the McKinley Foundation Presbyterian Church, or the family's choice.


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