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Laxer, Mech Leaving Legacies Across Campus

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
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Cary Laxer (left) and Andy Mech are retiring at the end of the fall academic quarter after a combined 66 years of service to the institute and its students as valued educators and mentors.

Cary Laxer and Andy Mech didn’t intend to leave an indelible imprint on Rose-Hulman and its alumni, but that’s what they’ve done through a combined 66 years of teaching, mentorship and friendship to others.

Both are retiring from full-time faculty roles at the end of the fall academic quarter.

Laxer helped pave the way for enormous change within computer science education – on campus and across the country. Under his leadership as department chair from 2002 to 2015, the area grew in student enrollment and faculty stature, moved into renovated office space within Moench Hall and added an emphasis in software engineering, along with a major in international computer science.

To enhance students’ global awareness, Laxer has taught a Computing in a Global Society course for 15 years in which students complete a collaborative project with peers at an international university. He took his final student group to Sweden’s Uppsala University this fall to exchange project ideas. Each trip also features activities to help students experience the country’s culture and lifestyles.

“Students need to have an understanding and appreciation for other cultures in order to work more effectively with others,” he says.

Laxer’s own international teaching journeys have taken him to institutions in Germany, Turkey, and Japan, and he has been a member of the institute’s Faculty Without Borders group. He has served as an ABET computer science program evaluator and computer science education consultant.

Meanwhile, Mech has also expanded students’ global horizons while teaching valuable lessons in renewable energy, utility power generation and turbomachinery. He spent this fall helping a student plan ways to bring water resources to an international orphanage, and was a leading force in developing a course that has student teams creating appropriate technologies for people living in developing Third World countries.

“Students need to think on a global scale,” the mechanical engineering professor says. “Engineers have an opportunity to leave a legacy. They can provide water and energy resources to remote villages. They are wasting their abilities if they’re not improving people’s lives.”

Mech’s own Rose-Hulman legacy was cemented when he altered and added a second verse to the institute’s alma mater, originally written by his father, Raymond Mech. The new “Rose-Hulman, Our Alma Mater,” introduced in 1998, replaced the original alma mater, “Sons of Rose,” which had become outdated.

“The song is meaningful to me. I get a tear every year I hear it at Commencement or Homecoming,” Mech says. “I believed this place was special enough that it needed a special alma mater.”

Both longtime educators have been recognized as Honor Alumni by the Rose-Hulman Alumni Association. Laxer received the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1986. Mech’s awards have included an award presented at the American Society of Engineering Education centennial celebration, and the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers.