Dan Henry Pletta died on August 26, 1996 in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was born December 31, 1903 in South Bend, Ind. to the late John and Anna Pletta, and was preceded in death by his wife, Alice May Pletta.
Dan Pletta was head of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI&SU) for 22 years and taught there from 1932 to 1972. As department head, he guided the development of that department until it emerged as a leader in related graduate study and research. He was one of the original five University Distinguished Professors appointed in 1970 and he was in Emeritus status at his death. He earned B.S. (1927) and C. E. (1938) degrees from Illinois, and M. S. (1931) from Wisconsin, and took additional graduate study at Columbia (1945-46).
Besides teaching, his experience included design and construction in civil engineering, consulting as a stress analyst, and World War II service as an Ordnance Officer and as an instructor at the U. S. Military Academy. Awards include an Engineering News Record Citation for Service to the construction industry, Engineer-of-the-Year Award of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers, and the Alumni Honor Award for Distinguished Service from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.
He served on the National Boards of Direction of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE); as President of their Virginia affiliates; and on many committees of these and other engineering societies. In 1976 he was chairman of the ASCE Committee on Professional Conduct charged with enforcing its Code of Ethics. He was Chairman of the Professional Engineers in Education Practice Division and a Vice President of NSPE in 1977-78. He was Chairman (1982-85) of the NSPE Public Advisory Review Board which serves as the Society's Ombudsman for its members, but only if disputed issues involved health and safety.
He was the author of numerous technical articles, an engineering handbook chapter and two texts on engineering mechanics, as well as papers on professionalism and ethics. His latest book, THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION: ITS HERITAGE AND ITS EMERGING PUBLIC PURPOSE, was published in March 1984.
In 1979, he was elected to Honorary Membership in the ASCE and so became one of the 306 engineers so honored up to that time since 1852. In 1987 he received the Distinguished Service Award of the NSPE and became one of its distinguished members. In 1988 VPI&SU awarded him its Ruffner Medal for notable and distinguished service to the University, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Mechanics Division conferred its distinguished educator award on him. In 1991, The Virginia Engineering Awards Committee, which represents the five major Virginia Societies, established the Pletta Medal to be given annually to Virginia's Engineering Educator-of-the-Year. In 1992 the S.E. Section of the American Society for Engineering Education selected him as one of five outstanding engineering educators of the 20th Century. A named professorship was also established in 1992 for him at VPI&SU.