by Chris Palmer
Photo by Mitch Lea
Nancy Squires, senior instructor of mechanical engineering, died June 19, leaving an incredible legacy in the lives and careers of the hundreds of engineering students she influenced.
During her 15 years at Oregon State University, Squires was a devoted instructor, advisor, and mentor. She spearheaded the formation of the aerospace engineering program and was involved in a variety of student clubs, including OSU’s branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
“Nancy broke the mold in terms of what she gave her students, what she was willing to give of herself,” said Bryony DuPont, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “That, to me, is her legacy.”
Squires’ teaching was renowned. When she applied for a faculty position, she came with a reference declaring her “God’s gift to teaching,” recalled Belinda Batten, executive associate dean of the College of Engineering. “Everyone here can affirm that statement,” Batten said.
DuPont, who co-taught courses with Squires, said Squires was easily the best teacher she has ever known. “Being in front of her classroom, and making sure the students knew they could learn challenging material, that was her life’s work,” she said.
Revered as an advisor and mentor, Squires made a tremendous impact on her students. Many credit her as an inspiration, for everything from choosing to come to Oregon State to completing their degree. Justin Rowe (’15 B.S., Mechanical Engineering) recalls telling Squires he would have to withdraw from the college following a family emergency in spring of 2013.
“She sat me down and closed the door on the half-dozen people waiting in the hall, and for half an hour pored over plans to balance everything, continue classes, and get me into a summer internship, which I surprisingly landed, at NASA,” said Rowe, now a concept designer at the space agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “That led to a second internship and, after graduation, my dream job. She literally changed the trajectory of my life, as well as those of many, many others.”
Not only did Squires do whatever she could to help her students achieve their goals, she also helped them expand their definition of what they thought was possible.
“Dr. Squires had a dream and a vision for every student that was bigger than they themselves could ever imagine, and she had plans for how to get them there as well,” said Michael VanderPutten (’15 B.S., Mechanical Engineering), a composites manufacturing engineer with SpaceX, who remembers the passion Squires brought to the AIAA student rocket club. “Even now, as I work at a company that makes deliveries to space a regular occurrence, the brightest moment of my engineering career will always be watching our first Level III rocket scream into the sky, and my cool and collected technical advisor shouting and dancing around the desert in sheer joy.”
Squires spent so much timing helping her students that the line outside her door in Rogers Hall during her office hours was a thing of legend. Students would often find themselves willing to wait in line for an hour to ask for help on homework, get help building their resume, or seek career advice.
“Dr. Squires helped all of us to realize not only the joy in vector calculus in the pursuit of rotational inertia, but the wonders that exist outside of work and the time we should take to appreciate them,” VanderPutten said.
Above all, Squires inspired her students to become better people, said mechanical engineering student Adam Ragle, former president of OSU AIAA.
“As we have ventured, or will venture, into the world, we know that we are better engineers and, more importantly, better individuals because of her,” he said.