Pei Chi Chou, 89; Drexel engineering professor

Pei Chi Chou
Pei Chi Chou
Posted: February 27, 2014

Pei Chi Chou, 89, a nationally known engineering professor and a leader in the local Chinese American community, died of heart failure Thursday, Feb. 13, at Shannondell at Valley Forge in Audubon, Montgomery County, where he had resided for the last few years.

Born in China's Hubei province in 1924, Mr. Chou came to the United States for graduate study in 1947, earning advanced degrees at Harvard and New York Universities, and soon decided to forge a career here.

He joined Drexel University as an assistant professor of engineering in 1953. He played a key role in Drexel's efforts to establish an engineering doctoral degree program, directing the university's first Ph.D. student in the 1960s.

Mr. Chou's textbook - Elasticity: Tensor, Dyadic, and Engineering Approaches, written in 1967 and republished in 1992 - is considered required reading for many beginning mechanical engineering students today.

In 1956, he married Rosalind Chen, and together they raised four sons in Wynnewood.

"He was very much a black-and-white engineer, always the educator," said son Arthur.

Outside the engineering community, Mr. Chou was known for his activism. Part of a wave of immigrants who tried to preserve Chinese customs and tradition, Mr. Chou cofounded the Chinese School of Greater Philadelphia in 1961.

The school, still in operation on the Main Line, taught the Chinese language and culture to children. He also founded the Association of Chinese Schools, responsible for establishing national accreditation standards for Chinese language instruction in schools, in 1972.

"It was a way for my father, and for my parents' generation, to remind us of our heritage," Arthur Chou said.

Mr. Chou, whose bilingual jokes and riddles were always a hit at the dinner table, was also a skier and tennis player.

In 1995, Drexel endowed a professorship in Mr. Chou's name. Constantine Papadakis, Drexel's president at the time, praised Mr. Chou's work to put the university's engineering programs on the map. "Professor Chou redefined the change in character of Drexel's College of Engineering as it emerged from a regional undergraduate institution to an international force in engineering education," he said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Chou is survived by sons James, George, and William; nine grandchildren; and a sister.

A funeral was held Friday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Wayne. Burial was at Valley Forge Memorial Gardens.

Donations may be made to Pei Chi Chou Endowed Professorship in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, Drexel University College of Engineering, 3141 Chestnut St., CAT Suite 170, Philadelphia 19104.

215-854-2619 @szweifler


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