Robert Bruce Thompson (1941 - 2011)

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Robert Bruce Thompson


Robert Bruce Thompson died peacefully at Israel Family Hospice House March 7, 2011. A gathering of friends will be Thursday March 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Garden Room at Reiman Gardens. Memorial services will be 11 a.m. March 11, at Collegiate Presbyterian Church, Ames.

Robert Bruce Thompson was born to John George Hatch and Marion Kyle Thompson on July 18, 1941 in College Station, Texas. Bruce grew up in College Station and graduated from A&M Consolidated High School, where he played basketball, tennis, and ran track. He then attended Rice University where he graduated summa cum laude in Physics and ran the 880 on the track team. Bruce then completed his M.S. in Physics and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Physics at Stanford University, where he met his wife, Ann. Following his Stanford graduation, Bruce worked for the Rockwell International Science Center in Thousand Oaks, California, as a member of the technical staff and Group Leader of Ultrasonic Applications. In 1980, Bruce joined the faculty at Iowa State University. During his years at Iowa State, Bruce was honored with the title Distinguished Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He was an international leader in the research and development of new ultrasonic technologies for the non-destructive evaluation (NDE) engineering discipline. His specific research interests included the development of new methods (transducers) for the generation of ultrasonic waves in solid materials, new theories and practices using ultrasonic waves for the detection of "fatal" flaws in materials - flaws that would lead to catastrophic structural failure if undetected , and the measurement of various material properties using ultrasonic methods. He was also a leader in the development of new concepts and theories that provided the statistical probabilities that "fatal" flaws could be detected reliably with a given inspection method, an extremely important capability. At Iowa State, Bruce served as the Director of the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation and Director of the Ames Laboratory Applied NDE Program, He has been awarded 24 U.S. patents and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Nondestructive Evaluation.

In addition to his professional activity, Bruce also enjoyed coaching soccer and basketball and was active in conservation organizations. He was a member of Collegiate Presbyterian Church.

Bruce led a life characterized by commitment and passion. Whether working on a research paper or skiing down a slope, he approached life with tremendous vigor, endurance and enthusiasm. He loved his family, his work, nature, outdoor activity and new experiences. His deep commitment to science was a significant part of his life as was the relationship with his colleagues and the over 30 students for whom he served as major professor. Bruce was never happier than when working through a detailed technical problem that ignited the imagination of others as well as his own creativity.

His five grandsons will miss skiing, hiking and playing with Bruce, but they will cherish wonderful memories of time with "Papa Bruce".

Bruce is survived by his wife Ann; daughter Amy Standridge and her husband Randy of San Antonio, Texas and son Robert Kirk Thompson and his wife Leigh of Midland Michigan and his five grandsons: Robert Kyle, Kolben Hatch and Alexander Kerr Thompson and Erik Mathew and Andrew James Standridge. He is also survived by his sister Nancy Bliss and her husband John of Los Alamos, New Mexico and his brother-in-law Bill Dunkle and his wife Carol of Alamo, California. Nieces and nephews Stephen (Erin) Dunkle, Peter Dunkle, Robert Bliss, Katie (Hayden) Belobrajdic, Megan (Grant) Fox and Sarah Bliss and two great-nephews also survive. He is also survived by cherished friends and colleagues. Bruce was preceded in death by his parents George and Marion Thompson and parents-in-law, Bill and Virginia Dunkle.

Bruce's family is deeply grateful for the incredible care and caring provided by Drs. Otteman and Carlyle, nurses and staff on the Fifth Floor Oncology Unit at Mary Greeley Hospital and the Israel Hospice House during his battle with cancer.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorials may be donated to the R. Bruce Thompson Memorial Scholarship Fund, Iowa State University Foundation, 2505 University Boulevard, Ames, Iowa, USA 50010.

Online condolences may be left at Adams Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Published in Des Moines Register on Mar. 9, 2011
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