'He was the hardest working guy I’ve ever known': Engineering professor B. Stuart Trembly remembered for passion and dedication to teaching

Trembly died after suffering a stroke at the age of 67.

by Emily Lu | 7/30/21 5:15am

stuart-trembly-courtesy

Trembly taught at the Thayer School of Engineering for nearly 40 years. 

Source: Courtesy of Mark Trembly

Engineering professor B. Stuart Trembly Th’83 was known for his exceptional drive. A devoted researcher and teacher who frequented Hanover running trails, Trembly’s commitment and care extended to all aspects of his life. 

“He was the hardest working guy I’ve ever known,” his brother Mark Trembly said. “He had that reputation as being really tough, but he also would do anything for his students.”

Trembly died at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18 after a stroke following an unrelated procedure at the age of 67. He is survived by his mother Grevilda Trembly and brother Mark Trembly, as well as Mark’s wife Susan Trembly and their four children Scott, Thomas, Caroline and John. 

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Trembly was the oldest of three and always looked out for his younger brothers. His strong work ethic was apparent even at an early age. 

“I remember going to his high school award ceremony,” Mark Trembly said. “I think he won every single academic award that he was eligible to win — my mother was almost embarrassed.”

Trembly graduated from Yale University in 1975 before receiving his PhD in engineering sciences from the Thayer School of Engineering in 1983 and joining its faculty as an assistant professor. Trembly taught a number of undergraduate classes at the College, including ENGS 22, “Systems” and ENGS 23, “Distributed Systems and Fields.”

Edmund Aduse Poku ’22, a previous student in Trembly’s ENGS 22 class, said Trembly had a particularly unique and engaging teaching style. He said he enjoyed Trembly’s classes so much that after taking ENGS 22 in the winter of 2020, he not only enrolled in ENGS 23 the following term, but also audited ENGS 22 again the following year.

“Most engineering classes are sort of mechanistic … but when Trembly [came] to class, he tried to weave [concepts] together in a sense that you almost feel like you’re sitting in a literature class,” Aduse Poku said. “It’s like he was telling a story.”

He added that Trembly was particularly adept at helping students tease out their own ideas to understand concepts. 

“His dedication to his work, his commitment to students — it was just impressive,” Aduse Poku said. 

Mark Trembly added that while Trembly had a reputation for being a rigorous professor, he deeply valued teaching and prioritized his students — even continuing class amid personal mishaps. Trembly was in the middle of class one day approximately 15 years ago when he was informed his house had caught on fire. 

“Someone knocked on the door and said ‘Professor Trembly, your house is on fire,’ and he calmly said, ‘Thank you. I will go home when I'm done teaching,’” Mark Trembly said. “I would have hauled out of there.”

In addition to his passion for teaching, Trembly had a prolific research career. He produced 11 patents and founded four biomedical engineering start-ups. Trembly was elected as a Senior Member into the National Academy of Inventors in 2020. 

Trembly engaged regularly with undergraduate students for his research. Charlie Reeder ’22, who started working in Trembly’s lab in the spring, said Trembly was enthused by curiosity and always available to think through research ideas, no matter how big or small. 

“He made the creative process of research so, so exhilarating,” Reeder said. “I think he really valued any conversation that worked towards gaining an understanding of a complex concept. If there was any element of curiosity that I had about any subject, he was always really excited to have a conversation about that and to dig in.”

Trembly’s research, which focused on the therapeutic heating of tissue to treat diseases such as cancer, had the ultimate goal of helping people, engineering professor and associate dean of undergraduate education at Thayer Douglas Van Citters ’99 Th’99’03’06 said. His work often led to collaborations with the Geisel School of Medicine and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

His colleagues admired his diligence in the lab. Obstetrics and gynecology emeritus professor Paul Manganiello, who worked with Trembly to apply microwave technology to treat fallopian tube damage, said Trembly was the one pushing the program forward. 

“If it wasn’t for him, my career would have been less productive,” Manganiello said. 

Natalie Burkhard ’12 Th’12 wrote in an emailed statement that Trembly, for whom she worked as a teaching assistant and research assistant for two years after taking ENGS 22, was “a hardass with a soft heart” and praised “his support, his dedication to teaching, and his zeal for sharing his knowledge.”

“He invested in me when, as a young woman with a strong imposter syndrome and average grades, I wasn’t sure anyone else would,” Burkhard wrote. “Stu taught me the fundamentals of good research and gave me the confidence to continue in engineering when I was trying to find my place at Dartmouth.”

Longtime collaborator P. Jack Hoopes, an adjunct professor of engineering and Geisel professor of surgery and radio oncology, said one of his favorite projects with Trembly involved developing new treatments for brain cancer through radiation implants. The technology was used in a clinical trial at Dartmouth, which Hoopes said would not have been possible without Trembly’s expertise and dedication. 

“I keep thinking about all of his calculations and the antennas and things that he generated,” Hoopes said. “It really set standards for that type of treatment, so many papers were published and many patients were treated.”

Outside of the lab and classroom, Trembly was an avid athlete. He walked on to the heavyweight rowing team while at Yale and later enjoyed skiing, sailing and training for marathons. His signature look while running in Hanover included a headlamp and stopwatch strung around his neck — always keeping time “because he loved data,” Van Citters said.

Van Citters also recalled a formative conversation with Trembly when Van Citters was still a prospective student visiting Dartmouth. The two bonded over rowing, and Van Citters said the interaction was ultimately the reason he came to the College.

“I'll never forget this conversation — he explained to me how you could be an engineer and something else at Dartmouth, that it wasn’t a one-track pathway for him,” Van Citters said. “Before I even enrolled at Dartmouth, he changed the way I thought about engineering and athletics and how they can work together.”

Mike Barton Th’04, one of Trembly’s graduate students from 2002 to 2004, said he learned the value of work-life balance from Trembly. Trembly supported Barton through an additional term of research so that Barton could train with his nationally-competitive cycling team. 

“He was one of those rare advisors who appreciated work-life balance,” Barton said. “He was intense at work, and he was an intense athlete.”

Trembly also had a dry and witty sense of humor that would often peek through, Barton added. 

“This side grin would come up and that was a tell that he was being funny,” Barton said. 

During summer and winter breaks, Trembly spent time with his family in South Carolina. Mark Trembly recalled his brother’s generosity during one of these visits.

Trembly was always supportive of his niece and nephews, and when his nephew’s study abroad wound up being twice as expensive as the family originally assumed, Trembly quietly lent a hand.

“A week later I got a letter from him in the mail and there was a check for half of his study abroad fee, which he didn't need to do,” Mark Trembly said. “It just showed that he cared about academics and wanted to help in a way that he could.”

His deep dedication to those around him was a common thread in Trembly’s life. 

“We’re going to miss his passion and his intelligent and dedicated manner as a Dartmouth professor, and for how much he cared about the engineering school and cared about the students,” Hoopes said.

A celebration of Trembly’s life will be held in Hanover in early September. 

Student counseling services are available by calling the College’s Health Services at (603) 646-9442 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at (603) 646-9440 outside of regular business hours. Additional resources include the Student Wellness Center and the Undergraduate Deans Office. Faculty and staff can contact the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program at (844)-216-8308. 

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