Michael “Mike” William Hyer, the N. Waldo Harrison Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics and affiliate professor of the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, both at Virginia Tech, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, Feb. 15. He was 74.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and esteemed colleague,” said G. Don Taylor, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “Mike was eternally dedicated to his students and well-respected in the field of composite materials. He will truly be missed.”
Hyer was a world-renowned scholar, teacher, and researcher in the area of the mechanics of composite materials and structures and solid mechanics. Hyer earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Upon completion of his master’s, Hyer went to work for Boeing on the Super Sonic Transport division.
The Wellsville, New York native later obtained his Ph.D from the University of Michigan where he met and married the love of his life, Pat. Shortly after, Hyer began his first faculty appointment Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
After joining the Virginia Tech community in 1978, Hyer taught a wide range of courses from freshman to advanced graduate level. Hyer cherished relationships he built with his students. As a result, the College of Engineering cited Hyer often for his excellent teaching evaluations and received the Frank A. Maher Award for Excellence in Education.
Upon his retirement from Virginia Tech and 32 years of service, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors conferred upon him the title of “N. Waldo Harrison Professor Emeritus.”
Hyer’s research excellence was recognized by the American Society for Composites’ Best Paper Award and Outstanding Research Award, the American Society for Testing Materials’ Award of Appreciation and Virginia Tech’s Alumni Award for Research Excellence.
He wrote more than 300 publications, including journal papers, conference proceedings, and government and university reports and gave 100 presentations in Asia, Europe, North America, and the former Soviet Union. From 1988 through 1996, he directed the NASA-Virginia Tech Composites Program, which conducted research totaling $4.2 million.
Hyer was named a Fellow of the American Society for Composites, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, and the American Academy of Mechanics.
He was former president of the American Society for Composites, vice president of Region 3 (the Americas) of the International Committee on Composite Materials, past editor for the Society of Engineering Science, and a member of the Society of Engineering Science board of directors.
Hyer’s passion extended beyond academia — to high-performance cars, jazz music, and adventure. He owned a 1963 Cobra and ordered a Tesla 3 on the day it was made available to the market. In retirement, Hyer developed an interest in jazz, attended concerts, and devoted time to the Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech. With his wife Pat, they traveled the world, seeking out new adventures.
A celebration of Hyer’s life will take place at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg, Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m.