Donor spotlight: Robert T. Balmer, family, friends, students and colleagues

Thank you to Robert T. Balmer, professor emeritus, mechanical engineering, and his family, friends, students and colleagues who together established the Dr. Robert T. Balmer Mechanical Engineering Scholarship for students enrolled in a program leading to a degree in mechanical engineering.

Balmer –a lover of culture, technology, history and philosophy– received the College of Engineering & Applied Science Outstanding Instructor Award three times— 1971, 1972 and 1988.

He joined the college in 1969, after a year as a NATO visiting professor at the University of Naples in Italy. At UWM, he established himself as an immensely popular instructor.

With a small grant from UWM he had made period-correct costumes; he then gave lectures dressed as historical figures famous for their contributions to astronomy, mathematics and engineering, including Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Daniel Bernoulli and Lord Kelvin. 

Over the years he co-taught courses on culture and technology in UWM’s departments of Philosophy and History, and he participated in the UWM Mortar Board Last Lecture Series providing insight into various socially taboo technologies.

After 30 years of service to UWM, Balmer accepted a position at Union College, in Schenectady NY, as dean of engineering and computer science. He returned to UWM after his retirement and has taught mechanical engineering courses since 2005.

Industrial experience, research

Balmer is the author of more than 100 articles on a variety of engineering topics, has published three engineering textbooks, and holds a US patent on a chemical-to-mechanical energy converter. He holds four academic degrees: a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, an MSE in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, a BSE mathematics and a BSE in mechanical engineering.

Outside of academia, he has worked for the Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory’s Nuclear Reactors Division, helping to develop the replacement nuclear core for the USS Enterprise, and the DuPont de Nemours, Inc.

Now at UWM, he is currently carrying out both theoretical and experimental research in a nonequilibrium thermodynamic phenomenon called “viscoelectric effect” that results from electrostatic generation in moving dielectric fluids.

If you would like to contribute to the Dr. Robert T. Balmer Mechanical Engineering Scholarship fund, please contact Jean Opitz, development director for the College of Engineering & Applied Science, at, or click here.