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Professor caps off career with prestigious award

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A professor received the International Education Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers last month. The award was in honor of a 38-year career dedicated to the development and growth of innovative engineering curriculum at the university.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers presented Dr. Robert Habingreither with the award at its annual gala in Chicago.

The organization, made up of industry and academic leaders within the manufacturing engineering field, gives out this award each year in order to recognize those who have made significant contributions to the field.

Habingreither’s outstanding work as an educator for 38 years in developing manufacturing-related curriculum and engineering as a field of study at Texas State earned him this year’s top honor.

“When you feel like the people that do what you do for work respect your work it feels good,” Habingreither said. “This is a nice capstone to my career.”

Originally from New Jersey, Habingreither looked up to his father, who worked as a machinist and often brought him to the power plant where he worked. These trips to his father’s workplace laid the foundation for Habingreither’s passion, which he took to college.

After earning his doctorate from West Virginia University, Habingreither started looking for teaching jobs across the country and had offers from several universities. Texas State attracted him the most because the institution emphasized good teaching.

“I’m a teacher,” Habingreither said. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching technical skills, and the challenge to create industrial opportunities at the university attracted me.”

When Habingreither arrived at Texas State in 1978 he was an assistant professor in the technology department, which was more geared toward teacher preparation at the time.

During those early years, Habingreither focused on moving up the ranks in his department, eventually becoming the department chair in 1984. There he made it his mission to create those industrial opportunities for his students.

“All I wanted to do was teach, but I realized how much more good I could do to help people than being just in the classroom,” Habingreither said. “So I started to make changes to the curriculum that were geared more toward technical skills.”

The shift in the curriculum Dr. Habingreither presented to his department signaled the transition into the future growth of the manufacturing industry in the state.

“To the students of that era, of whom I was one, it was manifestly obvious that Dr. Habingreither’s introduction of new, more technical content represented the wave of the future for our discipline,” Dr. Andy Batey, department chair of engineering technology, said.

The most notable of Habingreither’s accomplishments after arriving at the university is the creation and approval of the manufacturing engineering program at Texas State in 1999. He also helped found the first student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers at Texas State in 1984.

“It makes me feel like I made some sort of significant contribution,” Habingreither said. “Not just to the university, but to the students by giving them an economic future.”

In his later years at the university, Habingreither found himself trying his hand at politics, serving a term as the mayor of San Marcos from 2002-2004 while still working as the department chair for the technology department.

“I found myself in a place where I decided that the only way to change things was from within. … and we did change things, I believe,” Habingreither said. “It was a tough job where you have to choose what’s best for the people, but I learned a lot from those experiences. I think my background helped my understanding of the job.”

One of the biggest projects Habingreither helped work on during his time in office was the overpass on Wonder World Drive, which he said he thinks about every time he drives over it.

After losing his bid for re-election, Habingreither found himself presented with another opportunity to create change within the university as he transitioned from department chair to the associate dean of the college in 2006, his current position.

“It is indisputable that the energy and devotion that Bob brought to Texas State over the last four decades created a climate that brought engineering education to the university and nurtured its rapid growth,” Stephen Seidman, former dean of the college of science and engineering, said.

His efforts to help the department grow culminated in the moving of the Department of Technology into the College of Science, which changed its name to the College of Science and Engineering in 2011.

Aside from administrative accomplishments, Habingreither has authored multiple publications, grant and curriculum proposals, obtained a patent for a ceramic coating for the barrel of machine guns to prevent overheating and did design work for the $42 million Roy F. Mitte Complex, which houses the Ingram School of Engineering.

Habingreither’s work has brought him many awards and recognitions throughout his time, including the Teaching Award of Honor from the Alumni Association of Texas State in 2008 and the National Outstanding Professor in Cast Metal Engineering from Casting Industries in 2000.

Habingreither looks forward to retirement, believing he did meaningful work with his life that impacted not only students but the university as a whole.