OSAMA ETTOUNEY, OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR AND NOVELIST,
DIES AT 68
Osama Ettouney, Miami University professor emeritus in the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department, College of Engineering at Miami University, passed away after a sudden, courageous encounter with cancer in the early morning hours of December 1st.
Born in Cairo in 1951 to a bilingual household, he gained his BS at Cairo Institute of Technology. After teaching and research appointments in the United States while he earned his MS at MIT and Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, he came to Miami. Ettouney taught from 1986 until his retirement in 2014. Students and alumni nominated him on numerous occasions as the “Outstanding Professor” and “Effective Educator,” winning the latter award for 2008-2009. He was the administration choice for first recipient of the E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award in 1995 while still an Associate Professor. As a former student wrote: he brought a “steadfast presence of leadership, tranquility, and warmth to Miami’s College of Engineering and Computing….[‘Doc E.’] was a mentor, educator, friend, advisor (life, career and academic), confidant and cheerleader.”
Ettouney earned an international reputation for his approach to engineering education, combining what he described in papers and presentations as “creativity and learning.” Believing that engineers should think beyond their own disciplines and be able to write, he also spoke on ways to encourage these skills and this interdisciplinary attitude. He served on Miami university-wide curriculum committees (including STEM and Global initiatives) and was an early supporter of the Howe Writing Center and a member of the Friends of the Library. He enjoyed innovative technological advances, such as virtual manufacturing and electronic student portfolios, adding these tools to his teaching techniques.
In addition to his teaching, Ettouney chaired his department from 1995-2010. This entailed everyday details of scheduling, evaluation, assessment, and harmony among his faculty members. His calm, effective management, meant that he was also appointed to many university-wide administrative committees and ad hoc groups on leadership, departmental and program reviews (including MUDEC, Miami’s Luxembourg campus), searches for provost, institute and council directors, and the subject he understood from personal experience, diversity. Companies in the Tri-State area looked to him for designs and patent development. In the course of his career a wide range of companies took him on as a consultant: Ford, Parker Hannifin, Wayne Industries, Square-D, All-Points Inc., and for his ergonomic ideas, Fixture Furniture in Kansas City.
Only on his retirement in 2014 could he turn full time to his own writing, and ideas for books that he had been saving for years. It also enabled him to live in Oxford but to winter in Cairo and Alexandria. Beginning with his scarcely masked memorable characters in Portraits from Cairo of the 1970s (2012) and the edition of his beloved companion, Thomas T. Peyton’s short memories and poems, he then completed the nineteenth-century history of the development of Egypt’s railroad system, a subject he had long been researching (2014). He then turned to fiction and his first mystery novel based on the unanswered questions surrounding the burning of Cairo’s Opera House. Through the investigations of his main characters, in The Curse of Aida (2016) he offered a convincing explanation for this tragedy. Current events in his country determined his next project, Creative Chaos (2018), a fictionalized explanatory novel about the “Arab Spring” and how events played out in Egypt. He took the title from a phrase used by participants at the time. He used his memories of his year at MIT in the 1970s as the basis for his academic mystery, From Cairo to Cambridge with Love (forthcoming in 2020).
All of his writings are remarkable for the way in which he so easily conveyed his voice. His writing reads as if he were there just telling a longer story that imaginatively blended events and people from his life with his clearly constructed recollections of place and time. Known to his friends, colleagues and students for his gift for sharing stories: when someone dropped by his office to chat or just for a quick grab of some M&Ms from the bowl on his desk; asked for his advice and encouragement over brunch in a local restaurant, on a trip to Brookville Lake, or the Lodge at Hueston Woods. All graced by his companionship and understanding whether in Oxford, or in Egypt, knew that he gave generously in his relationships, a truly ethical, confident, and still gentle man. With his passing, there is loss, but also the image of his wonderful smile and the words of his mantra: “Have fun and learn something new.”
Ettouney is survived by his brother Sayed’s family, including his niece and nephew, Reem and Kareem Ettouney; another elder brother, Mohammed and his family; and Hisham, youngest by one year.
A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, December 14th at the Miami University Sesquicentennial Chapel (corner of Spring and Maple Streets, 551 Spring St.).
Donations in his memory may be given to the Thomas T. Peyton Educational Foundation at Miami University http://givetomiamioh.org/peyton-scholarship or to Hospice of Cincinnati https://hospiceofcincinnati.org/donate/