In Memoriam: Frank Cozzarelli

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published July 5, 2018

Frank Cozzarelli, a longtime faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, died January 25, 2018, in his Buffalo home. He was 84.

Cozzarelli joined UB in 1962. He served as director of graduate studies in the department in the 1970s and as acting chair in 1975-76. He was named Professor of the Year in 1965-66 by the UB honor society Tau Kappa Chi, now Tau Beta Pi.

Photo of Frank Cozzarelli

Frank Cozzarelli, Emeritus professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

His research interests included viscoelasticity, a property of polymers like the ones in Silly Putty and memory foam mattresses. He also studied inelastic wave propagation and damping with shape memory materials.

Although Cozzarelli retired in 1996, his presence is still felt here at UB. Some of his former students and colleagues shared their remembrances of him.

“During summers, he would often have me visit him at home to discuss our work and my thesis,” said Edward Graesser, a mechanical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, who earned a PhD under Cozzarelli in 1990. “As a result of working many hours together, I got to know him and his family and we kept in touch. We held a common interest in engineering mechanics. As a professor and researcher, he expressed complex problems elegantly and in ways that were understandable.”

“But in addition to our research,” Graesser added, “Frank took the time and interest to show me his various projects in woodworking, and restoration of fine antiques, in particular clocks, music boxes and pianos. He could figure out the intricate details of the mechanics and functioning of complex things and turn something that was old and in poor or broken condition and make it new and beautiful again.”

He continued, “In both academic and individual projects, he would explore how the original work was done and then he endeavored to precisely explain and account for it in his developments and work. He was interesting, kind, and he had a great sense of humor. He was a first rate professor, but in addition to that, he was a person you liked to be with.”

“Frank was a reliable and devoted colleague. He taught some of our most demanding courses and his teaching was consistently well received by our students,” said Roger Mayne, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

He added, “His personality was based on an interesting mixture of "Jersey attitude" and the "sixties counter-culture". Frank was always mellow and determined at the same time. Frank and I also shared the pleasure of having Italian academic connections and we both spent sabbaticals at Italian universities. He helped with advice and suggestions as my family and I prepared for our first trip back in the seventies. I enjoyed many conversations with him in the years to follow about our Italian experiences. Frank was a great colleague and I have missed him.”

“I collaborated with Frank on several research projects and was greatly impressed by his insight and wisdom. He was unquestionably the foremost authority in his research areas. We first met in 1962, and from then on, our families have been close, and our children grew up together. He was my closest friend in Buffalo for over half a century and I am privileged to have known him,” said T.T. Soong, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

“I took his graduate level analytical dynamics class. On the first day, he drew a spinning top. Every lecture he did tied back to a portion of solving that problem. He was one of the best teachers I ever had,” said John Crassidis, Samuel P. Capen Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Center for Multisource Information Fusion.

“I also took his analytical dynamics class. I recall that he was good teacher, a nice person and very easy to approach with questions. I really enjoyed taking that class, which is a reflection of how well he taught and presented the material,” said Ralph Rietz, a senior project engineer at Moog.

“Frank's contribution to our department, UB and the world of science will always be cherished by his students, colleagues and others in the scientific community. His smile and collegiality will be missed,” said Deborah Chung, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Cozzarelli was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Engineering Science Society, American Academy of Mechanics, Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi. He earned a PhD in applied mechanics from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, now part of New York University, in 1964.

He is survived by six children, Delia, Catherine, Isabelle, Julia, Claire and John; a brother, Angelo; and eight grandchildren.