Poetry Chair Founder Henry Bourne Dies

Henry C. Bourne Jr., who was hired by Tech President Joseph Pettit to recruit top-notch faculty in the 1980s and later led the Institute for more than a year after the president’s death, died March 25. He lived in Winston-Salem, N.C., and was 88 years old.

Dr. Bourne came to Tech in 1981 to serve as vice president of Academic Affairs. He was recruited by Pettit from the National Science Foundation, where as deputy assistant director of engineering and applied science he “had helped pioneer programs in microelectronics that brought the government, universities and industry together as partners,” according to the Georgia Tech history book Images & Memories.

During his time at Tech, Dr. Bourne interviewed countless prospective professors and was involved in the Centennial Campaign, touring the country with Bobby Dodd on the Alumni Club circuit to raise money and support for the campaign.

When Pettit died of cancer in 1986, Dr. Bourne was appointed acting president, a position he held for 13 months. He returned to his post as vice president of Academic Affairs after John P. Crecine was appointed president. About a year later, Dr. Bourne returned to teaching. He taught electrical engineering at Tech for four years.

An avid reader and book lover, Dr. Bourne thought it was important that students of technical fields also nurture their artistic sides through the humanities. He and his wife, named honorary alumni in 1987, established the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne Jr. chair in poetry at Georgia Tech.

“I, along with lots of other people, want Georgia Tech to be very strong in liberal arts because it is an important component of the education of science and engineering and management majors. I [endowed the chair] to help strengthen creative writing and poetry at Tech,” he said at the first Bourne Poetry Reading in 2002.

Henry Clark Bourne Jr. was born in Tarboro, N.C., and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from MIT. His studies there were interrupted by service in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1943 to ’46.

Following graduation, he served on the MIT faculty until joining the University of California, Berkeley, at which he was a professor of electrical engineering from 1954 to 1963. He then went to Rice University, where he was a professor for 16 years and chair of the electrical engineering department for 11 of those years, before leaving for the NSF in Washington, D.C. It was there that he met Pettit, who served on the National Science Board.

In a 2001 interview with the Living History program, Dr. Bourne said, “I tell people, I’ve been to all those different universities, but number one in my heart is Georgia Tech. It just sort of got to me.

“I think if I had to describe the strength of Georgia Tech, I would say that in addition to the very, very bright students and the very, very competent faculty, it’s that alumni body out there, the most dedicated, loyal bunch of people that you’d ever want to meet. You can’t help but [let] that kind of thing rub off on you, and then you get emotionally involved.”

Survivors include sons Henry Clark Bourne III, MS Mgt 90, and Thomas Franklin Bourne, ABiol 86, MS ABiol 89, PhD ABiol 93.

Memorials may be made to the Georgia Tech Foundation for the Henry and Margaret Bourne Scholarship Fund.

2 Responses to Poetry Chair Founder Henry Bourne Dies

  1. David S. Bartran, Ph.D. says:

    A remarkable fellow, an inspiration to all dedicated to learning, and the beauty of the written and spoken word

    Thanks Henry.

  2. Robert Zwingman says:

    Henry was a southern gentleman of ecxeptional integrity and guidance. We wish his wife and family the best.

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