1942 - 2020
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Rolf Hugo Eppinger passed away at his home in Silver Spring on August 14, 2020. He was born May 3, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of Margaret & Hugo Eppinger. Rolf received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering Sciences from Wayne State University and had a distinguished 34-year career with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, retiring in 2006. Over the course of his career he published more than 120 technical papers dealing with automotive safety and is the holder of two U.S. patents.  Rolf enjoyed sailboat racing and created many fond memories at the West River Sailing Club in Galesville, MD. He was also an accomplished watercolorist, pen and ink artist, woodworker, boat builder and general handyman. Survived by Karen, his wife of 50 years. A loving father to Justin and Dwight (Kelly) Eppinger and grandfather to Alice and Hugo. He imparted his wisdom and can-do attitude to each and every one of us over the years. Teaching us everything from calculus to how to make the fastest pinewood derby car and making sure we didn't give up until we had exhausted all possibilities. No service is scheduled, memorial contributions may be made in Rolf's name to Lewy Body Dementia Association at

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Published in The Washington Post on Aug. 23, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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7 entries
September 8, 2020
Rolf was a tremendously gifted man whose contributions to the science of automotive safety and injury prevention saved hundreds of thousands of lives. A deep thinker, dedicated public servant and internationally recognized expert, Rolf was always a "go to guy" when you really wanted to understand the complexities of an issue, get an informed opinion or just to discuss possible ways to solve a problem - knowing that Rolf would then put his focus on finding a way to do so. His contributions to society are immeasurable. My condolences to the family for the loss of such a beloved father, husband, grandfather and great teacher for us all.
Ricardo Martinez
September 7, 2020
I know Rolf from my WSU, Detroit college days in the early/mid 1960's . He was a Student Teacher when we first met. He was indeed an intelligent young man. Rolf gave me a job tip the year I graduated that lead to a 33 year career at Burroughs/Unisys Corporations. My condolences to his wife and family.
Ron Shell
August 29, 2020
I worked for and with Rolf for more than two decades at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition to his remarkable intellect and creativity, and his many signal accomplishments and contributions to reduction of automotive crash injuries, Rolf was an extraordinary person to work for- supportive of individual initiatives and uncritically receptive to consideration of new concepts and ideas.

Rolf's legacy will be felt for a great many years to come, in the form of countless lives saved and injuries avoided. May he rest in peace.
Mark Haffner
August 26, 2020
I witnessed the work that Rolf and his team did from 1978 - 2006 that has left a legacy to humanity that will continue to save lives worldwide long into the future. See
Louis V. Lombardo
August 25, 2020
It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with Rolf for 15 years at NHTSA. He led the biomechanics research team that produced the basis so many life saving safety features on autos. He was largely responsible for developing the pass-fail criteria for the federal safety standard that has substantially reduced casualties from side crashes. During his tenure at NHTSA every new or revised safety standard that included a test to measure human injury benefited from his expertise.
His competence and dedication will be sorely missed.
Kennerly digges
August 24, 2020
Rolf was a dedicated and extraordinarily good, committed, and productive partner for us at CDC. I always looked to him for what the science said and where we needed to go. I am sad to hear of his passing but I am so grateful for all he did and gave us. He was a role model for us all.
Mark L. Rosenberg
August 24, 2020
I worked with Rolf during most of his tenure at NHTSA...not directly, but a colleague down the hall. In addition to doing really important work on crash worthiness, including the development of the famous crash dummies used in NHTSA research...he was a truly decent man, loved and appreciated by all of his co-workers. I was also impressed with his decision in retirement to do volunteer work as a building engineer at a local hospital. No one, other than his supervisors, knew his background, and that's the way he wanted it. He did that work until he was no longer able due to his progressive illness. He will remain in our minds and hearts.
JIm Frank
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