To: The Rensselaer Community
From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics
Professor of Engineering Sciences
Date: April 4, 2013
Re: The Passing of Carl Westerdahl

It is with sadness that I write to inform you of the passing on April 3 of Carl Westerdahl, former Dean of Students, Director of Alumni and Community Relations, and a long-time loyal and enthusiastic supporter of Rensselaer.

Carl at the Rensselaer celebration of Fenway Park's 100th Anniversary, April 28, 2012.
Mr. Westerdahl was raised in Gettysburg, Pa., where he developed his lifelong interest in American history. After earning his bachelor's degree in history at Wagner College, he devoted 34 years of his career to higher education administration. At Washington College in Chestertown, Md., he served as Associate Director of Admissions and Dean of Students, 1960-69. He then joined Rensselaer, and over the next two decades served as Dean of Students, Director of Alumni and Community Relations, and Director of Constituent Programs.

As Dean of Students, Mr. Westerdahl initiated programs for growing numbers of women, minority, and international students. During his tenure as Director of Alumni and Community Relations, he helped build an outstanding board of trustees for the Rensselaer Alumni Association, invigorated the alumni awards program, and worked closely with alumni who designed, built, and supported the construction of the Heffner Alumni House.

Upon retirement from Rensselaer in 1993, Mr. Westerdahl established his consulting firm, Unconventional Wisdom, in which he specialized in research, writing, and presentation of institutional histories.

His relationship with Rensselaer, however, did not end with retirement. His love of the Institute and its history led to the preservation of that history in many forms. He was co-author of the history book Rensselaer: Where Imagination Achieves the Impossible, and he was active in the creation of the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame, serving as consultant and researcher for many years.

In 1993, he provided funding to establish the Pillars of Rensselaer Award to honor long-term staff members who show professionalism and caring, and who serve as outstanding representatives of Rensselaer. He and his wife, Susan S. Clarke, continued to support the Pillars Award and other Institute causes as members of the Patroons of Rensselaer.

Mr. Westerdahl was an active consultant and volunteer for the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown and for the Friends of Olana in Hudson, N.Y., and served on the boards of numerous community organizations.

In 1999 the Rensselaer Alumni Association awarded Mr. Westerdahl the Albert Fox Demers Medal "for his loyalty, for his commitment, and for his teaching us lessons of our past." In October 2012, the RAA issued a Resolution of Recognition, citing his "exceptional service, philanthropic example, sound leadership, steadfast devotion, and above all, his continuing inspiration to the Rensselaer Alumni Association and to the Institute."

Carl Westerdahl will be greatly missed by generations of students, staff, alumnae, and alumni. Our thoughts and prayers are with Susan and the family in this time of mourning.

Visiting hours will take place on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 4-7 p.m. at Flynn and Dagnoli-Montana Funeral Home, 521 West Main Street, North Adams, MA. A memorial service followed by a reception will be held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church,
906 Main Street (Route 2), Williamstown, MA.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Williamstown Historical Museum, 1095 Main Street, Williamstown, MA 01267.

"The Many Hats of Carl Westerdahl" from the Institute Archives Blog "RPI History Revealed"

"RPI Officials Remember Carl Westerdahl" from the Troy Record, April 6, 2013