Remembering Richard J. Fruehan

Kaitlyn Landram

Jul 19, 2022

Richard J. Fruehan

Richard J. Fruehan, emeritus professor of materials science and engineering passed away on July 3, 2022, leaving a profound legacy at Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Fruehan was an influential teacher and mentor as his passion for metallurgy was reflected in both his research in the Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research (CISR)—which he founded—and his classroom.

Despite extensive contributions to the steel industry including hundreds of published papers, numerous books, patents and awards, executive leadership in industry societies, Fruehan stated upon his retirement from CMU in 2017, “Without a doubt, when I look back at my career…my greatest accomplishments are the students that I have worked with.”

Fruehan earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in metallurgical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After working as a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial College London, he began a 12-year career with the United States Steel Corporation where he would develop a probe for oxygen in steel and be presented the Industrial Research 100 Award for one of the best inventions of the year.

He was an inspiration and a ‘steady hand’ for the department as it evolved from its metallurgical traditions into a modern MSE department.

Anthony Rollett, Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

In 1980, Fruehan joined the faculty at CMU and for 36 years shared his vast knowledge with hundreds of students. Shortly after joining, Fruehan saw an opportunity to expand academic research for the steel industry through a center where major steel companies would provide financial backing and CMU would conduct long-term research for their benefit. Thus in 1985 the Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research was founded—one of the largest research centers in the United States dedicated to the iron and steelmaking industry.

Throughout his career, Fruehan was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and recognized as an honorary member of the metallurgical societies of the United States, France, China, and Japan. Fruehan’s contributions to Carnegie Mellon were recognized by the University when he received the title of University Professor, the highest designation a faculty member can receive.

Students, staff, faculty, and friends Remember Richard J. Fruehan 

“Personally, some of my fondest memories are of Richard Fruehan’s interactions with graduate students: helpful, concentrating on the scientific fundamentals, and giving clear guidance. I frequently invoke some of his approaches, such as the thesis document needing to be a “logical, not necessarily chronological” record of the ideas and results in the project, and the necessity to do a “paper experiment” (these days, a computer simulation) before running a laboratory experiment. 

Dick was a very competitive tennis player, and an enthusiastic follower of international tennis matches. Many meetings of the CISR were bookended by tennis matches with CISR member company representatives who were also strong tennis players. For several years, he spent time at the research laboratories of BHP in Newcastle, Australia, and even fit in the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne during the same round-the-world trip.”  Professor P. Chris Pistorius, CMU MSE

“He was an inspiration to me as a fresh faculty member and department head in 1995.  He was also a “steady hand” for the department on many occasions as it evolved from its metallurgical traditions into a modern MSE department.” Professor Anthony Rollett, CMU MSE

“I would always cherish interacting with him during all PhD presentations. His ability to connect complicated research problems to fundamentals always amazed me. I also remember his compliments to some of my own research work which made me feel proud.” Deepoo Kumar, Assistant Professor, IIT Bombay

“I spent many cherished years teaching the Thermodynamics of Materials with Dick at CMU. I learned from him both technically and in life lessons. He was a valued colleague and friend.” Professor Michael McHenry, CMU MSE 

“I have missed hearing Richard’s booming voice in the halls of MSE which was the signal that he would soon be popping into my office for a visit and a chat to catch-up. Richard was truly one of a kind and MSE is saddened by his loss.” Suzy Smith, Director of Operations, CMU MSE 

“Prof. Fruehan did a great contribution to the steel industry, ladle furnace metallurgy, inclusion analysis, ironmaking process and green steels. I was blessed to have the opportunity to study at CISR of Carnegie Mellon University, which played a key role in my career. Professor Fruehan was humble and easy going, even though he was a world-famous professor in metallurgy. What a great person Professor Fruehan was!” Guangguang Yu, (MSE M.S. 2006)