Richard Mortimer, Drexel researcher

Richard "Dick" Mortimer
Richard "Dick" Mortimer
Posted: July 07, 2013

Richard "Dick" Mortimer, 77, a Drexel University researcher, educator, and administrator, died Tuesday, July 2, of cardiac arrest at Paoli Memorial Hospital.

In 1967, Dr. Mortimer became the first student to earn a Ph.D. at Drexel after completing his dissertation: "Axisymmetric motions of nearly flat shells of revolution."

"That moment was merely the midpoint of Dr. Mortimer's long and distinguished association with Drexel," said a January 2012 newsletter in the school's online archives.

After studying mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, he returned to earn his master's degree, then continued to "blaze the trail of doctoral study," the newsletter said.

He taught in the Department of Mechanical Engineering for more than 20 years until he became associate vice president of academic affairs. He retired in 1993.

In a photo dated 1978, Dr. Mortimer was shown holding a lightweight graphite epoxy spring developed by students in his laboratory.

According to a February 1978 Drexel Digest article, the spring was developed for use in automobiles in order to decrease the weight of cars "in anticipation of the rigid mileage standards coming in the years ahead."

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Dr. Mortimer graduated from Central High School for Boys in 1957. He pursued mechanical engineering at Pennsylvania State University from 1954 to 1956 before pausing his studies to marry the former Doris Ridler in 1957.

He served in the Army from 1958 to 1960. Afterward, he enrolled in Drexel University and earned a bachelor of science and a master's degree in mechanical engineering.

Dr. Mortimer's career at Drexel stretched from 1967 to 1993. As a researcher, he focused on the response of structures to impact loads and the stress waves that were generated. His findings were applied to problems in the aerospace and defense industries.

His research was funded by NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. It was featured in more than 50 publications and numerous presentations, and Dr. Mortimer received several honors for his work.

As an elected vice chair, he played a major role in the body that accredits all collegiate engineering programs in the United States.

In his leisure time, Dr. Mortimer coached Little League baseball and soccer, was an assistant scoutmaster and Cub Scout master, and served eight years on the elected Haverford Township school board.

"When I graduated from high school, my father handed me my diploma because he was president of the school board," said his son Daniel Scott. "If I played baseball or soccer, he was the coach."

Dr. Mortimer lived in Drexel Hill and Ardmore before retiring to Chester County a decade ago.

Surviving in addition to his wife and son are sons Patrick Lee, David Walter, and James Matthew; 12 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a sister.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 6, at St. Peter's Church in the Great Valley, 2475 St. Peters Rd., Malvern, Pa. 19355. Interment will be in the adjoining churchyard.

Donations may be sent to St. Peter's Church in the Great Valley, or Community Volunteers in Medicine via C.V.I.M @

Condolences to the family may be offered via

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or

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