In Memoriam: Dr. James C. Moller (1960-2023)
Learn about Dr. Moller's legacy and read reflections from his family, former students, and colleagues.
In Memoriam: Dr. James C. Moller (1960-2023)
Dr. James C. Moller, a distinguished retired Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering faculty member, has left an enduring legacy through his contributions to research and teaching, and his unwavering commitment to student development. Dr. Moller joined Miami University in 1995 and retired in 2023 as an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computing. He received a B.S. from Case Western Reserve University, an M.S. from M.I.T., and a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1982, 1984, and 1989, respectively, all in mechanical engineering. Before entering academia, Dr. Moller had acquired industry experience as a project engineer in aeronautical engineering, specializing in designing and constructing large-scale test facilities.
Dr. Moller was a distinguished educator who exhibited exceptional teaching excellence throughout his career. Superbly creative and innovative, he earned the Miami University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013.
"Jim leaves a lasting legacy in the department as a teacher, scholar, and colleague," said Jeong-Hoi Koo, professor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. "Quiet yet charismatic, he consistently radiated warmth through fleeting smiles. As a dedicated teacher, he earned well-deserved respect from his students."
"I cannot put a value on the profound effect that he had on every aspect of my college career nor on my future career but one thing is certain," said a former student of Dr. Moller. "I would not have the principles nor the skills I currently have without him."
"Dr. Moller taught our MME 411 Machine and Tool Design class for decades, which was often acknowledged as one of the most academically rigorous and challenging classes in our department," said Jinjuan She, assistant professor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. "As I reflect upon an exemplary role model in education, Dr. Moller invariably takes center stage."
Dr. Moller's research dealt with the simulation of stochastic, thermal, and mechanical phenomena in various processes. He collaborated with the Air Force Research Lab in subatomic bases for the passivation of liquid metal nanoparticles and modeling fracture nucleation in thermoset resins. His work demonstrated the connection among polymer molecular behavior and accepted yield theories in continuum mechanics. "Jim was a valued member of the Air Force’s research community, made significant contributions on multiple projects, and authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed technical publications," said Larry Butkus, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.
Dr. Moller's robust connections in the industry were exemplified through his close relationship with Schneider Electric, where he guided senior design teams, enriching their understanding and contributing value to Schneider's manufacturing capabilities. Numerous students who participated in these teams later pursued careers with Schneider Electric. Additionally, Dr. Moller collaborated with Bullen Ultrasonics on research related to cavitation in enclosed spaces. He advised numerous undergraduate and graduate students in their research as a thesis supervisor, while also advising on honors projects, independent research, industry projects, and senior design projects.
“I remember reaching out to him as a new faculty member when I started teaching the MME 412 Advanced Mechanics of Materials course, which he used to teach," recalled Kumar Singh, now chair and professor in the department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. "He sat down in my lectures and guided me on how to bring more clarity to design projects and introduce my scholarships to students. As a junior faculty, I was fortunate to have such a mentor, and many of us in the department benefitted from his mentorship in teaching and service."
As the Miami University representative on the Executive Committee of the Ohio Space Grant Consortium, Dr. Moller actively contributed to advancing the engineering profession and the university's interests. He served on the university's High Performance Computing Advisory Committee and the Evaluation of Administrators Committee for CEC. He was a founding chair and member of the MME Graduate Committee and chaired the MME Faculty Search committee in 2018. Additionally, he chaired the MME Petition Committee and led an ad-hoc committee responsible for revising and updating the MME Governance Document. Dr. Moller's leadership was instrumental in successfully achieving accreditation for department programs through his guidance of the ABET assessment process.
Dr. James Moller's legacy goes beyond his research and teaching. He was a dedicated mentor to students as well as young faculty, a patient listener, and an advocate for his students. "Jim was devoted to student success," said Tim Cameron, associate dean and professor at CEC. "He was instrumental at increasing scholarships from the Ohio Space Grant Consortium for student research. And Jim was incredibly collegial in supporting the department. He would take on difficult, often thankless tasks and handle them cheerfully and thoroughly."
Of course, Dr. Moller is remembered most by his family, including his wife Aki and his son Jon. “There are so many good memories with him, besides his hard work at home and his job. The most prominent memories were our trips to many places. Since Miami had J term in January, it was a good opportunity to travel to Florida for many years,” said Aki. “One of his favorite visits was boating past alligators at Myakka River State Park.” Aki added that trips to the Grand Canyon, as well as to both Barcelona and Granada in Spain, including a tour of the Alhambra, were fascinating to her husband. “In our long life together, he really enjoyed our trips,” said Aki. “We also grew a vegetable garden and raised ducks together.”
Dr. Moller’s son, Jon, shared memories from a life of learning from his remarkable father. "Throughout my life, my dad taught me how to create new things and solve problems, whether in the home, working on the car, doing math, or learning new scientific concepts," said Jon. "He taught me the patience and skill required to create something out of nothing. When I fixed instruments at work and talked about my dad's work and skills, my colleagues told me I got my mechanical intuition from him. He also always quoted the UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He would remind me not to compare myself with others and never to mistake activity for achievement, as John Wooden would say."
For more remembrances and information on services, please read Dr. Moller's obituary in the Star-Tribune.