Volker Weiss

Obituary of Volker Weiss

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Volker Weiss — accomplished materials-science scholar; pioneering university administrator; lover of sports, recreation, and music; and entertaining raconteur — died on Tuesday, November 7, following a two-year battle with cancer.  He was 93.


Volker was born on September 2, 1930, in Rottenmann, Austria; grew up and completed secondary school in that nation.  During World War II, he and his family fled their hometown of Graz and hid from the Nazis for two years in the Austrian Alps, until being discovered by Allied soldiers near the war’s end.  Volker went on to complete his undergraduate degree in engineering physics at Technical University in Vienna. He then moved to Syracuse, where he earned both a master’s and doctorate at Syracuse University (the latter in 1959). By that time, he had joined the faculty of SU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy (now Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering); he eventually achieved the rank of full professor (1986). He served for a time as chair of his department, and, in 1972-76, as associate dean of the engineering college. Thereafter, he become director of SU’s Institute of Energy Research. The pinnacle of his administrative career was his term as vice president for research and graduate affairs (1978-86), during which he developed many research-funding initiatives and methods; external funding for SU researchers nearly doubled, while Volker reorganized the SU graduate school and established the journal Syracuse Scholar, among other accomplishments.


By the time he had retired from teaching in 1996, Weiss had more than 70 publications to his name on topics within the study of metallurgy, materials evaluation and fatigue, and related fields. While emeritus, he continued to perform research for various clients — among them, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Maryland, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Carrier Corporation, and the Ford Motor Company. He was a fellow of the American Society of Metals; and co-holder of a U.S. patent related to self-monitoring metals, alloys, and materials.


By the end of his career, he had been recognized by institutions such as the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Fulbright Program.


Early in his long career at Syracuse University, Volker met the former Peg Hake, a graduate student in art history who eventually became a world-renowned expert on the Russian artist Kandinsky. They were eventually married and had two children, Erick and Christopher; in 1963, they built a home on Syracuse’s Scotholm Terrace where Volker lived the rest of his life. Volker and Peg pursued intertwined scholarly careers that often drew them to far-flung destinations; a 1974 trip to Russia, where Volker was an invited guest of the USSR’s Academy of Sciences and Peg pursued further research Kandinsky, was a highlight. Similarly, the entire family had spent much of 1967-68 in Germany, where Volker pursued Fulbright-funded research at the University of Munich. Sadly, Peg Weiss died in 1996 of cancer.


Volker was accomplished in downhill skiing, sailing, tennis, golf, and hiking, among other sports. As a skier, he won a letter in 1957 as a member of the Syracuse University team, and then served for many years as a Ski Patrol member, much of that service provided at Toggenburg Mountain in Fabius, N.Y.; he led the Patrol there in 1971-72, and earned official appointment to the National Ski Patrol in 1978. On the water, a highlight was his participation in the 2005 Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race, aboard the 34-foot C&C sloop Indigo, captained by family friend Huw Thomas.


He was a talented musician, skilled on the guitar, accordion, and recorder, and as a singer. He sang in local choirs, while his interest in classical music led to a term as a board member of Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music. 


An avid Rotarian, he served multiple terms as President of the Rotary Club of Syracuse.


Volker’s interest in water sports was pursued primarily at the Weiss family’s seasonal home on Round Island, in the Thousand Islands region near Clayton, N.Y. For more than 45 years, the river house was Volker’s refuge and a center of family life for him, Peg, and their children’s families.


Volker Weiss is survived by two sons, Erick, of Los Angeles, and Christopher (Susan), of Syracuse; and four grandchildren, Margaret, Alice, Matthew, and Coburn. 


A memorial service is planned for Friday, April 5, 2024 at 4PM at Drumlins.


In lieu of flowers or gifts please make a donation in Volker’s name to any of the following:


            Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music https://www.syrfcm.org


            Symphoria https://experiencesymphoria.org


            The Antique Boat Museum https://www.abm.org


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Memorial Service

4:00 pm
Friday, April 5, 2024
800 Nottingham Rd
Syracuse, New York, United States
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Volker Weiss

In Loving Memory

Volker Weiss

1930 - 2023

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