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FAU Ocean Engineering Pioneer, Raymond McAllister Dies at 89

Raymond F. McAllister, Ph.D. a professor emeritus of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University, and a founding member of the university’s ocean engineering department, died at his home in Lighthouse Point, Florida on Monday, September 17 from natural causes. He was 89.

“Dr. McAllister was a much loved colleague in the department of ocean and mechanical engineering,” said Mohammad Ilyas, Ph.D., interim dean of FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “He gladly gave of his time and energy to help students who benefited greatly from his wealth of knowledge.”

McAllister was a pioneer of education in ocean engineering. He was a professional lecturer, a producer of science television programs, a member of committees that dealt with artificial reefs, ocean waterway regulations, research and conservation, marine history and archeology and a consultant and advisor for projects in California, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Florida.

McAllister was born on June 26, 1923 in Ithaca, New York. During World War II, he served in the United States Army, Infantry, 45th Division, from 1943 until 1945 as a private platoon medic. After the war he received his B.S. in Agriculture from Cornell University in 1950 before completing an M.S. in Geology at the University of Illinois in 1951. He earned a Ph.D. at Texas A&M in 1958, but had already begun teaching at California Western University, in 1952, and Texas A&M in 1955.

In 1958, McAllister began his career at Columbia University’s Geophysical Field Station in Bermuda, primarily working in the field of acoustic studies and marine bottom surveying. He left in 1963 to work on a low frequency active sonar system that could detect submarines at long range for the Navy, named Project ARTEMIS. In 1964 he joined the faculty at FAU as a visiting professor and co-founded the university’s ocean engineering department with Captain Charles R. Stephan, director of Undersea Warfare, Research and Development in the Chief of Naval Operations Office. He officially joined FAU as an ocean engineering professor in 1965 when the first undergraduate ocean engineering program was created through a grant from the Link Foundation.

McAllister received the FAU Distinguished Teacher of the Year award in 1993, FAU’s highest teaching honor, awarded on the basis of scholarship, research and publications, classroom teaching, academic counseling, and University and community service. He continued to serve the campus as a professor emeritus after his retirement in 1993. In recognition of his long service and dedication, the ocean engineering department in 2004 started the Raymond McAllister ocean engineering freshman scholarship for incoming freshmen with the highest GPA and SAT scores of the incoming class.

In 2004 the Broward County Florida Board of County Commissioners and the Historical Commission named McAllister a Modern Pioneer, whose efforts as a good and productive citizen contributed to the growth and development of Broward County, Florida.

McAllister co-edited the “Handbook of Ocean and Underwater Engineering” (1969), the first book on the subject of ocean engineering. He also wrote many scientific research papers and a children’s book, “Sea Stories from a Diving Dinosaur”. His book “Diving Locations, Boynton Inlet to Dania Pier” (1994), is a popular book among local divers.

McAllister started scuba diving in 1951, and is believed to have taught the first non-military diver’s course in the United States in 1952. He obtained the elite professional status of Platinum Pro 5000 Diver after logging over 5000 dives in 1997. Only the most prominent divers in the world are able to obtain this title. He was also one of the first people to wear a wetsuit, the EDCO serial #57, developed by Dr. Hugh Bradner in 1952.

“Ray was a stalwart supporter of the ocean engineering department and a strong promoter of FAU’s human-powered submarine team. He leaves behind a rich legacy in the form of a thriving ocean engineering program that marks its 47th anniversary this year. We will miss him dearly,” said Manhar Dhanak, Ph.D., professor and former chair of the ocean engineering department.

He is survived by his three children: son Keith McAllister; daughter Karen Day; and son Kevin McAllister; seven grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

The family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Catholic Charities USA through their website at www.catholiccharitiesusa.org or the Catholic Relief Services through their website at www.crs.org.

September 20, 2012

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