California Institute of Technology professor emeritus, Wilfred D. Iwan, passed away quietly on the evening of October 29, 2020 at Huntington Memorial Hospital. Dr. Iwan had surgery in July to remove cancer from his scalp and suffered several strokes afterwards. Dr. Iwan is survived by a wife, Joan, and three sons, William, Robert, and Stephen, seven grandkids, and five great grandkids.
Born on May 21, 1935, Bill (as he liked to be called) was born at St. Luke's Hospital in Altadena. His parents were Wilfred A. Iwan and Dorothy Iwan. He had a younger sister, Caryl Jean Iwan. At an early age he accepted Christ into his life when the family started attending Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. While in school, Bill excelled in nearly all subjects, but his favorite subjects were math and choir. He graduated from John Muir High School in 1953 and went directly to Caltech. At Caltech, he earned a bachelors of science (BS) in 1957 in engineering, a masters of science (MS) in 1959 in applied mechanics, and three PhD's in 1961 in applied mechanics, electrical engineering, and physics. He did his dissertation work under Prof. Donald Hudson.
In 1957, he met his future wife, Alta Joan Gish, while working at Forest Home Christian Conference Center in the San Bernardino Mountains. The two fell in love and married on September 13, 1957 at Lake Avenue Congregational Church. After he completed his PhD dissertations, Bill taught as an associate professor at Caltech. In 1961, he and his wife and young son, William moved to the newly opened United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs where he taught engineering. By the time he left the service he had been trained as a flight pilot and had attained the rank of captain.
In 1964, Bill returned to Caltech as an associate professor, and settled with his growing family in Sierra Madre, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1970, he become a full tenured professor at Caltech and focused his research on seismic structural engineering. He taught at Caltech for nearly 40 years. In 1982 he was appointed by then-Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the State Seismic Safety Commission which recommends seismic standards and guidelines for earthquake safety in California. He was re-appointed to the commission by Governor George Deukmejian and again by Governor Pete Wilson, during which time he became the chairman of the commission. Bill was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bill was a member of Lake Ave. Congregational Church in Pasadena for nearly 60 years. During that time, he taught the Mariners Adult Sunday School, was church chairman twice, served on the pastoral search committee three times, and volunteered as an usher during Sunday services.
Dr. Iwan retired from teaching in 2003 and continued as a professor emeritus at Caltech. In 2005, he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma on the scalp. He successfully fought and overcame the cancer and continued on for 15 additional years. Although not an alumnus of UCLA, he was a huge fan of Bruin basketball and football. He will be greatly missed.
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