Kenneth (Larry) DeVries, the legendary University of Utah mechanical engineering Emeritus Distinguished Professor who was an award-winning and invaluable faculty member for more than 55 years, was awarded one of the American Society for Engineering Education’s highest honors, the Lifetime Achievement Award. DeVries was honored during the ASEE’s Annual Conference & Exposition June 19 at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida.

The award is given to only one educator nationwide each year “for sustained contributions to education in the fields of engineering and/or engineering technology. The contributions may be in teaching education, research, administration, educational programs, professional service or any combination thereof.”

DeVries, who retired from the University of Utah earlier last year, has led a remarkable engineering education career that underscores his dedication and leadership. He earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1959 and a doctorate in physics and mechanical engineering in 1962, both from the University of Utah. He joined the mechanical engineering faculty at the U that same year. Since then, he has served in several different positions including assistant professor, distinguished professor, president of the academic senate, as well as senior associate and acting dean of the college before retiring.

He’s also received countless awards. More than a dozen times, students voted him the department’s outstanding teacher. He received the University of Utah Presidential Teaching Award, Associated Students of the University of Utah Professor of the Year Award, the Utah Engineering Educator Award and the University of Utah Distinguished Teacher Award. In 2003, he received the Calvin S. and Jeneal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching, which is the university’s highest award for teaching excellence. He also was honored with the Ralph Coates Roe Award from the American Society for Engineering Education and the Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology.

“Professor DeVries has been a model engineering faculty member and a wonderful representative to the public of engineering in general,” wrote College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown in a nominating letter for the award. “His accomplishments in teaching, mentoring of students and faculty, research and scholarship, academic leadership, and professional service are remarkable.”

During his tenure, DeVries inspired thousands of students and advised more than a hundred graduate students, all while pioneering research in materials and adhesives that led to 375 peer-reviewed publications.

Gretchen W. McClain, a former student of his who became chief director of the International Space Station for NASA, wrote that it was DeVries who motivated her to become a successful student at the University of Utah in mechanical engineering.

“He showed me what engineering could do, how the skills I needed to learn could help solve very complex and important problems,” she wrote in a nominating letter for the award. “Through his teaching, Dr. DeVries made mechanical engineering real and relevant to us.”

Earlier this year, the College of Engineering dedicated the new Kay and Larry DeVries Strength of Materials Laboratory in Room #1186 of the Merrill Engineering Building where testing can be done on the strength of certain materials. In it, mechanical tests are done for tension, buckling, twisting and more, all in an effort to characterize the strength of materials.