Fluid Power Journal

Breaking News: Fluid Power Giant Tom Wanke Dies

By Michael Degan, Editor, Fluid Power Journal.

Tom Wanke, director of the Fluid Power Industrial Consortium at Milwaukee School of Engineering and a well-known industry innovator, passed away Tuesday.

Wanke worked more than four decades in fluid power, devoting his career to leading and teaching students studying fluid power technology at MSOE and elsewhere.

“Tom was a respected leader in the fluid power industry,” Sheku Kamara, MSOE dean of applied research, said in an MSOE press release. “His dedication to MSOE and the industry was unparalleled. Tom was committed to not only helping industry partners but also educating future generations of fluid power professionals through continuing education classes and the NFPA Fluid Power Action Challenge.”

“Tom’s impact on the fluid power industry will be felt for generations,” Eric Lanke, president and CEO of the National Fluid Power Association, said in the press release. “He has been an instrumental partner in our growth and vitality, and we join the countless number friends, former students, and colleagues that are mourning his passing.”

“Tom was an integral part of the development and redesign of the hydraulic specialist certification,” Donna Pollander, executive director of the International Fluid Power Society, told Fluid Power Journal. “Tom was a force; an absolute fluid power enthusiast! His contributions to IFPS and the fluid power industry will be sorely missed.”

According to the press release, Wanke began his career at MSOE in 1974 as a technician in the university’s Fluid Power Institute while pursuing an education in fluid power engineering technology. As a student at MSOE, he received an associate’s degree in fluid power engineering technology in 1975 and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering technology in 1978. He earned a master’s in engineering with a fluid power specialty in 1989.

In 1978, Wanke became a project engineer in the Fluid Power Institute and its director in 1980. He built strong relationships between MSOE and its fluid power industry partners. Wanke was an expert in hydraulic component and system design reviews, development, and evaluation; field troubleshooting and failure analysis; and fluids, filtration and contamination control in hydraulic systems.

Wanke was instrumental in establishing the Fluid Power Industrial Consortium in 2016, and in 2017 he was named director of FPIC and industrial relations. In addition, he served MSOE as an adjunct associate professor in the mechanical engineering department.

Wanke was the first recipient of MSOE’s Karl O. Werwath Engineering Research Award in 1989. He also was part of the inaugural class of inductees to the International Fluid Power Society Hall of Fame in 2019. He received the Fluid Power Champions Award in 2015 and the Outstanding Service Award in 2014 from the National Fluid Power Association. He was awarded the Service Award from the International Fluid Power Association in 2011.

Wanke was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and the International Fluid Power Society. He was an IFPS-certified fluid power engineer. Wanke was a member of the International Standards Organization committee TC131 for fluid power standards and chairman of the NFPA technical board. He was chairman of the Technical Conference at both the 2011 and 2014 International Fluid Power Expositions and a member of the IFPE management committee.

Wanke was instrumental in securing the $5 million Endowment for Fluid Power Education at MSOE from the estate of Otto J. Maha. In 2007, at the 45th anniversary celebration of the Fluid Power Institute, he received one of the first Otto J. Maha Pioneers in Fluid Power awards. In 2012, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Fluid Power Institute, he received the first-ever MSOE Fluid Power Achievement Award for his tireless efforts and steadfast insistence for excellence that has led to the outstanding reputation of the MSOE Fluid Power Institute.

The Fluid Power Institute is a leader in motion control and fluid power education, research and evaluation. It is one of the nation’s foremost academic fluid power research laboratories.


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