Logo: University of Southern California

A Life of Great Dedication

Prof. Emeritus Gerald Nadler, in memoriam
by: James E. Moore
August 12, 2014 —


 Gerald Nadler

Gerald (Gerry) Nadler, 90, a USC Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Systems Engineering, passed away at home on the morning of July 28, 2014 and was interred near Agoura Hills, California following services attended by his family, friends and many of his USC colleagues. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is survived by his wife of 67 years, Elaine, his brother Melvin, and his three children, Burton Nadler (Barbara Sard), Janice (Stuart) Cutler and Robert (Deborah) Nadler, as well as by eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.

Gerald Nadler was one of a small number of early promoters of the field of industrial and systems engineering (ISE), receiving in 1949 from Purdue University one of two experimental Ph.D. degrees in the field. His work and that of his fellow doctoral candidates partially laid the groundwork for the creation of Purdue’s highly rated School of Industrial Engineering. There were no professional journals in the field at the time of his graduation. The American Institute of Industrial Engineers (now IIE) was founded in 1948, with the Journal of Industrial Engineering launching in 1949. Nadler was immediately active in institute affairs, serving as president of the St. Louis chapter in 1952. He served the institute in many roles over the next half century, and was elected president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers in 1989.

Nadler’s research thrusts included biomechanical investigations of human motion, developing quantitative tools for improving work measurement, and formulations of approaches used by leading creators, planners and designers of systems and solutions. He made important contributions in all three areas, but made key contributions in multidisciplinary system planning and design methodologies. His work established him as a worldwide leader in industrial and systems engineering, and his achievements as a pioneering scholar and educator earned him election to the National Academy of Engineering and selection as a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Engineering Education, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and several others.

Prolific as a scholar and prescient in his interdisciplinary approach, Nadler authored more than 225 published articles and 15 books. He delivered more than 900 invited presentations around the world. By examining the processes used by successful managers and designers, he identified the concept of breakthrough thinking as a way to design, develop and improve systems and organizations. One of his books, "Breakthrough Thinking: Why We Must Change the Way we Solve Problems, and the Seven Principles to Achieve This," has been translated into 10 languages.

Nadler held five visiting professorships, four of them abroad, and he served on the faculties of Washington University in St. Louis and University of Wisconsin before joining USC. A mainstay in the ascent of USC Viterbi's Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, which he chaired from 1983 to 1993, he was instrumental in its reinvigoration, laying the foundation for the department’s current stature as one of the nation’s leading academic units in the discipline. He also directed USC’s Center on the Management of Engineering, Research, and Innovation in Technology.

Nadler earned USC’s Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition and Faculty Lifetime Achievement Awards, Purdue University’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, and the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award, the institute’s highest distinction.

Gerald Nadler exercised a lasting and wonderful influence on the intellectual life of the Epstein ISE Department’s faculty and students, on the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, on the University of Southern California, and on the field as a whole. Few scholars can claim a contribution of such importance, sweep and scope. He remained a steadfast contributor to the academic mission of the Epstein ISE department until the moment of his death. He continued to publish and consult, was present in his USC office multiple days each week, participated in faculty meetings and routinely delivered guest lectures in his colleagues’ classes.

"Gerry was a giant in his field and a key proponent of the Epstein Department, which he helped strengthen through his visionary leadership," said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. "He was also a tireless advocate of the Viterbi School which he served with great dedication until his final days. He will be missed greatly."

Julie Higle, chair of Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering added, “Gerry Nadler was an inspiration for the faculty, students and staff of the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering from the day he walked in the door until the day of his departure. He was deeply committed to instruction and understanding, scheduling and delivering well-received lectures for the department even during the last year of his life. He will be missed by all of us in the field, but most of all by his colleagues.”

Donations can be made in Gerald Nadler's honor to the USC Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering. Send a check made out to USC (note in the memo section it is for ISE-Gerry Nadler) to Georgia Lum, c/o USC Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, 3715 McClintock Avenue, GER 240A, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0193.