Dr. Chor Weng Tan passed away at 85 on October 1, 2021, in La Jolla, California.
Dr. Tan was born in China to Tan Ee Hock and Khor Tang Hong on April 20, 1936. He was raised and attended primary and high school in Malaysia. After one year of college in Singapore, he continued his education in the United States, receiving his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Evansville in 1959 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from University of Illinois in 1963. He married Yulin Liu on June 8, 1963.
From 1963 to 1989, Dr. Tan was associated with The Cooper Union in New York City, first as Assistant Professor and, for his final 12 years at the institution, Dean of the School of Engineering. During his tenure he shifted the focus of engineering education away from conceptual learning and towards practical application, with research and project development at its core. He expanded curriculum to include computer, energy, environmental, and biomedical engineering. He initiated the practice-oriented Master of Engineering program and founded the Cooper Union Research Foundation, by which students worked on and received funding for research-oriented projects for private industry. He also engaged in research on electro gas dynamics and magneto hydrodynamics at the Grumman Aerospace Corporation.
In 1989 Dr. Tan accepted an assignment as Program Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), where he selected recipients of the Presidential Young Investigators Awards, allowing some of the nation’s best young scientists and engineers to pursue research and development in their chosen fields.
Between 1991 and 2004, Dr. Tan served as Managing Director for Education at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He solicited numerous research and study projects from the NSF, the United Engineering Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and ASME Research Foundation. He launched ASME Volunteer Orientation and Leadership Training Academy. He convened the first national meeting of ME Department Heads, known as ASME Engineering Education Leadership Summit. In the mid-1990s, he directed the technological Transfer Projects with the Russian Academy of Sciences, which brought together American and Russian scientists and engineers to exchange R&D information on nuclear power plants and environmental remediation. In the 2000s, he initiated an engineering management program that convened groups of engineering managers from industry and academia, leading to the establishment of Engineering Management Certification International program.
In 2005, as a consultant to ASME, Dr. Tan played an important role in taking the ASME Engineering Education Leadership Summit to China, leading to the signing of an official Agreement of Cooperation between ASME and the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society. In addition to his activities in higher education, he served on several New York City Commissions and Investment Board Director of Korea Equity Fund and Japan Smaller Capital Fund.
After retiring at the end 0f 2005, Dr. Tan redirected his attention to charity. He initiated a project in Yunnan, China to provide scholarships to ethnic minority female students enabling them to continue their high school and college education.
Dr. Tan is survived by his wife, Yulin, and two sons, Stephen and Reynold.