We love Dr. Stanisic as much as he loved us
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 17, 2023
Last Tuesday, the sudden, unexpected death of Professor Michael Stanisic left the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME) department reeling. In ongoing conversations among the AME department this week, Dr. Stanisic is warmly remembered and deeply missed, particularly among senior undergraduate students.
Holding our class to a high standard, Dr. Stanisic shaped us into attentive, analytical engineers, beginning with our sophomore year’s “Dynamics” class.
Exacting during the lecture, he emphasized the importance of proper notation and units (God forbid that we mix up pound-mass and pound-force) and required us to use straight edges to draw readable figures and free-body diagrams. His problem sets caused numerous late nights and tearful calls home but also dramatically increased the skill and camaraderie of our class.
I don’t think I appreciated Dr. Stanisic until the fall of 2021 when he taught “Differential Equations” and “Mechanisms and Machines” to our close-knit class of 15 students in Rome. That fall, I saw a man deeply enamored with the physical world, dedicated to figuring out how it works. He walked slowly around Rome, studying umbrella pines and starling murmurations, marveling at the history of the city and the fact that the Apostles once walked the same streets. Upon learning something new, he would laugh and shake his head in wonder.
We all experienced his kindness, too.
He delighted in sharing meals or going on outings with his undergraduates. He bought us good pizza and told us, in helpfully forceful terms, which pizza places to avoid.
It was not possible to stop briefly by his office hours: He would belabor a point, rephrasing it in different ways, working through examples, until we understood it thoroughly.
He was an avid emailer. Through email, he showed his concern for us and imparted wisdom on all sorts of topics — academic and otherwise. Brief, enthusiastic messages — clarifying questions or detailing various points from lectures — steadily filled our inboxes. He learned the Italian word for umbrella (ombrello) so that he could warn us, via email, to carry an ombrello should we choose to go outside at dusk, as the starlings swarmed. (This warning stemmed from his own unfortunate experience of walking beneath defecating birds.) Each time we stopped by during office hours, we found him in the midst of dashing off another email, sending quick notes or YouTube videos to his daughters or colleagues or other students.
Dr. Stanisic took his students’ voices seriously and cared about helping us succeed.
Towards the end of the semester in Rome, I received an email in which he wrote: “Molly, I have not taken in Rome like I suspect you have … If you were to recommend 2 things that I MUST see/do, what would they be?”
Later on, we talked about what he had seen. And lately, after mentioning in passing that my “Senior Design” group was machining a steel bracket for our project, he sent me about half a dozen emails containing information on commercial brackets and tools for manufacturing, helping ensure that our group would remain on track.
A classmate shared a story that illustrates Dr. Stanisic’s care and attention to detail: One day, Dr. Stanisic arrived on campus with a limp. He revealed that he had encountered a rubber duck while biking to work, and extended his journey to put the duck in the library’s reflecting pool. Though he injured himself in doing so, he made sure that the duck got a good home in the pool.
Dr. Stanisic paid attention. Dr. Stanisic cared for the world around him. He loved engineering, loved his students and loved his daughters.
May God rest the soul of this good man, gone too soon.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.