Benjamin S. Blanchard Jr., former assistant dean of the College of Engineering and professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech, died on July 11, 2019. He was 89.

“Ben was a wonderful colleague in the department and a legend in the systems engineering community,” said Eileen Van Aken, department head for the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “He made so many significant contributions to the advancement of systems engineering practice around the world and to systems engineering graduate education at Virginia Tech. He always had a kind word and a smile for everyone. He will surely be missed.”

Born in New York City on July 20, 1929, Blanchard became a renowned international expert in systems and logistics engineering and a dedicated member of the Virginia Tech community. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 from the University of Maine and a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Rochester in 1969.  

Three days after graduating from the University of Maine, Blanchard was drafted into the United States Air Force to serve in the Korean War. After his honorable discharge as a first lieutenant and electronics maintenance officer, Blanchard accepted a position for Boeing in Seattle, Washington, as a design engineer. There, he worked on radar systems and landing maintenance for B-52s before moving on to work as an engineer for Sanders Associates, Bendix Corporation, and General Dynamics. 

Following his 16 years of industry experience, Blanchard started his academic career in 1970 at Virginia Tech. During his 26-year tenure, he became a full professor, helped establish the Virginia Cooperative Graduate Engineering Program, chaired the systems engineering graduate program, and was appointed assistant dean for the College of Engineering. Blanchard was named professor emeritus by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in 1997. 

Before and after retirement, Blanchard traveled around the world to 52 countries to share his knowledge by leading continuing education workshops, providing keynote addresses at conferences, and presenting seminars.  

"Ben led a busy and active life of achievement, and he was a true pioneer in the field of systems engineering,” said G. Don Taylor, the Charles O. Gordon Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and interim vice president for research and innovation. “Mostly, however, he was just my friend. His occasional visits to my office at Virginia Tech were both joyful and treasured. He will be missed."

Throughout his career, Blanchard authored and co-authored nine textbooks in the field of systems and logistics engineering and published more than 250 technical papers. Blanchard has been president of the International Society of Logistics, where he initiated international chapters in England, Italy, Japan, Norway, and Sweden. 

In 2000, he was awarded the International Council on Systems Engineering Pioneer Award for his contributions as "practitioner, teacher, and advocate of systems engineering. His service, as a team member with Dr. Wolt Fabrycky, allowed them to articulate the principles and objectives of systems engineering in a manner that conveys the tremendous potential and value added by this discipline,” according to the agency’s website.

Ben Blanchard with family
From left, Ben Blachard, Carrie Taylor, and Simone Acha at a recent Virginia Tech football game.

“His book was one of the few we used even after we graduated, giving system engineers the tools needed to be successful in their careers,” said Carrie Rustad Taylor and Simone Acha, both Class of 1989 industrial engineering and operations research, remembering Blanchard’s contributions as an author and educator. “He taught you how to think a problem through. Many of us still refer to his book today and it has made us well rounded engineering managers.” 

“I remember using his cost estimation tools to help develop an important IT project cost estimate at my first job out of college —  it brought me a lot of professional accolades and put me on an accelerated promotion path,” said Acha, now owner of Simone Acha Consulting, who provides IT consulting and advisory services to senior executives in the federal government and private industry.

Ben Blanchard in Singapore
Ben Blanchard in Singapore in July 1996

Blanchard is survived by his wife, Dorothy H. (Dot) Blanchard; three children and their spouses, Becky and Merritt Beaver, Ben and Patti Blanchard, and Lisa and Dan McCade; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, July 20  at The Colonnades, on what would have been Blanchard’s 90th birthday.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be sent to:

UVA Cancer Center
(Memo: Dr. Dreicer’s research)
PO Box 800773
Charlottesville, VA  22908-0773