‘An Intellectual in the Best Sense’

Russell Y.T. Chou specialized in ceramics materials and processing

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Russell Y.T. Chou, 95, passed away peacefully July 16, 2019, with his daughter Vivian by his side at Longhorn Village, Austin, Texas. 

Chou, who was the New Century Fund Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, retired in 1995 after 27 years at Lehigh. He specialized in ceramics materials and processing including crystal growth, superconductivity and superlasticity. He received the Joseph and Eleanor Libsch Research Award in 1974.  A fellow of the American Society of Metals, he authored or coauthored more than 140 technical papers.

“Russell was a wonderful colleague, incredibly sharp, and always willing to turn his attention to new areas of study such as laser irradiation of ceramics, or ceramic superconductors,” said Helen Chan, the New Jersey Zinc Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh. He also had an engaging sense of humor, she said.

Born in Zhenjiang, his father, Chou Chih Hung, was a renowned metallurgist in China. Chou continued that interest with a B.S. in metallurgy (1945) from National Chung King University and then left China for Pittsburgh to further his studies.

Working as a researcher at the university laboratory and as a laborer at the open-hearth furnaces of U.S. Steel, he earned his M.S. in metallurgy (1954) and Ph.D. in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. He then joined U.S. Steel as a scientist at the Edgar C. Bain Laboratory in Monroeville, Pa.

In 1958, he married his perfect match, Hedy SH Chou, who managed the family to allow the then associate professor (1968) at Lehigh, to explore new worlds, both physical and scientific, not only at Lehigh but through appointments as visiting consultant or professor in Cambridge, UK, and Taiwan; MIT, Stanford and Brown; and others too numerous to mention.

With that openness and dedication, authoring/coauthoring around 100 research papers, came recognition from U.S. Steel (Fellow), American Society of Metals (Fellow), Advanced Materials Science and Engineering (Blackall Award), National Science Council (Professorship, Taiwan) and the Mineral, Metals amd Material Society (Fellow) as well as a U.S. Patent.  In 1995, Lehigh appointed him the New Century Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor Emeritus.  

“Despite his accomplishments, Russell was always modest and unassuming,” said Helen Chan. “He shied away from the limelight. He was an intellectual in the truest and best sense.”

A lifelong academic, at the age of 74, he became an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine, which left little time for his enthusiasm for sports and music.  What was always present was his humor, knowledge and love for his family.

He is predeceased by his wife, Hedy, who died in 2013. He is survived by his sister Yi Jig, daughter Vivian (Eric) Wilson ’80, son Ken (Jing) ’85, grandsons Brian and Kevin and granddaughters Kelly, Kaitlen and Khloe.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu