Wallace “Wally” Diboll, a professor of mechanical engineering & materials science in the engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis for 37 years, died May 7, 2021, of congestive heart failure in St. Louis. He was 97.
Diboll was on the faculty at Washington University from 1954 until his retirement in 1991. He received the distinguished faculty award in 1982 and developed an extensive consulting practice throughout his teaching career.
Kenneth Jerina, senior professor of mechanical engineering & materials science and a colleague of Diboll’s when Jerina was early in his career, said both the school and its students benefited from Diboll’s passion for teaching, his contributions to the academic program, his positive attitude and thoughtful insight.
“Wally was a friend and colleague,” Jerina said. “Most of all he was a dedicated, creative and motivating teacher. When I was teaching a mechanical engineering course on mechanisms, he suggested we take the class on a field trip to the National Museum of Transportation to study practical examples of textbook theory. The students loved the opportunity to get out of the classroom and to interact with Wally in an informal setting. He enjoyed teaching first-year student courses in measurements and senior courses in mechanical design. His extensive consulting experience brought real-world practicality into the classroom. We will dearly miss Wally's smile and gentle nature.”
A native of New Orleans, Diboll earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tulane University in 1944, after which he served in the U.S. Navy until 1946. During his military service, Diboll sailed on a Landing Ship Medium built for the invasion of Japan. During one of his assignments, Diboll helped to get medical units on Okinawa to take to Japan to care for US prisoners of war. He earned a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute In 1951.
Diboll is survived by his wife Mary (Bailey) Diboll, of St. Louis; sons Neil (Maureen Durning) of Cambria, Wisconsin, and Doug, of San Francisco; daughter Beth (Joe) Castronovo of Garden City, New York; and grandchildren Kate, Alex and Charlotte Castronovo.
A memorial service in celebration of Wally's life will take place at a future date. Contributions in his name may be made to the Mound Ridge Retreat Center, 31 Agape Lane, Cook Station, MO 65449.