Steven Joseph D’Urso,1952 – 2018: In Memoriam
Aerospace systems engineering lecturer and program coordinator Steven J. D’Urso passed away on Friday, Feb.16 at home. He was 64.
D’Urso was born in Urbana on July 28, 1952. He attended the University of Illinois, earning a B.S in mechanical engineering in 1978 and an M.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1989.
After graduating in ’78, D’Urso accepted a position with Boeing Seattle as a design engineer specializing in structural and mechanical design. During his three years in Seattle he contributed to the design of the Boeing 767 aircraft. In 1980, he decided to return to the Midwest to join the McDonnell Aircraft Company as a technical specialist for configuration design.
As he gained experience and his skills in configuration design improved, he was promoted twice, first to senior principal engineer, then to senior systems manager. It was during this time period that he made significant contributions to the Joint Strike Fighter competition. In particular, he produced a fuselage re-design of the X-32 that eliminated the “ugly moniker” associated with that aircraft.
During his years at McDonnell Aircraft, D’Urso demonstrated his natural teaching abilities by developing and teaching three aircraft design-related courses that were taught as part of the McDonnell Voluntary Improvement Program: Aircraft Configuration Design, Unigraphics I and II 3-D Design, and Design for Manufacturability. He was active as an instructor for these classes until his retirement from McDonnell-Douglas, now Boeing, ending his career in industry with the same company where he started.
While at McDonnell Douglas Steve made bi-weekly visits on his own time to the Urbana-Champaign campus to assist Professor Ken Sivier with teaching aerospace engineering senior design courses. He also served on the Department of Aerospace Engineering Academic Advisory Board from 1991 to 2011 and was its vice president from 1995 to 1996 and president from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he served on the U of I College of Engineering Advisory Board from 1997-2000.
After his retirement in 2011 as senior systems engineer/manager at The Boeing Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, he returned to the U of I as a lecturer and program coordinator.
Steve was a valued colleague, friend, teacher, researcher, and engineer par excellence who will be sorely missed by his family, friends, colleagues and students. Because Steve had limited financial resources as an undergraduate, he took numerous semesters off while working full time at odd jobs to earn sufficient tuition and living expenses for the following semester. Among these positions was one where he worked for his uncle repairing shoes.
Later, D’Urso obtained his master’s degree through a special off-campus graduate program that the U of I Department of Aerospace Engineering delivered to McDonnell-Douglas in the 1980s“He was famous for his copious, neat and detailed lecture notes, and for his incisive questions to the professors.
In August 2011, D’Urso joined the department to coordinate the Aerospace Systems Engineering program.
Philippe Geubelle, head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering says, in the systems program, “Steve built on the great experience he had accumulated over his 30-year career in industry. His dedication to our department and our students, particularly through his long illness, was truly exemplary, and his passion for aerospace engineering contagious.”
In addition to the course in systems engineering, D’Urso taught the two-semester senior aeronautical design capstone courses. His courses were extremely well organized, and he delivered the lectures with a convincing mixture of theory and rich contributions based on his many years of industrial experiences. He also advised undergraduates and graduates in special research courses and supervised graduate thesis students.
Each day he faithfully followed his motto to,”Deliver the greatest possible educational value to my students,” which he proudly inscribed on his office blackboard on his first day at U of I and where it remains to celebrate his memory.
D’Urso was an active member of the International Committee on System Engineering. As an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics associate fellow, he was actively engaged in research and a frequent paper contributor at AIAA conferences. He co-authored a book chapter and a number of significant research papers, but also found time from his heavy teaching schedule to be an active member on and contributor to the AIAA System Engineering Technical Committee. Among his research sponsors were the Department of Defense, NASA and Rolls-Royce.
His professional achievement awards include: Teammate of Distinction 1991 and Leadership Award 1992 from McDonnell-Douglas;Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award in 1994 and Distinguished Alumnus Award in1998 from the U of I Department of Aerospace Engineering; and Performance Awards in 2000 and 2003 and a Leadership Award in 2007 from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela; their two daughters, Megan (Brian) Steinlage, and Kimberly (Jeremiah) Block; his brother, James (Beverly) D’Urso; and his mother, Bette D’Urso.