Thomas Norman Whitaker entered into eternal rest on Friday, December 6, 2013, with his wife, Velma Galny Whitaker, by his side.
He was just shy of 93. He spent many happy, productive years as professor of electrical engineering at the University of Houston, retiring in 1985 as Professor Emeritus. He was a registered professional engineer, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and held memberships in several prestigious professional and academic fraternities. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Dr. Whitaker was born in Grapeland, Texas, on March 10, 1921, to Thomas Isaac Whitaker and Ella Wyche Whitaker. The family moved to Houston when he was a baby and he spent most of his life there. In 1943, he married his longtime girlfriend and, following World War II, they had four baby boomer children.
He attained a Bachelor of Science Degree at Rice Institute in 1942. He went into the U.S. Navy, took radio and radar courses at Harvard and M.I.T., and taught them in the Pacific fleet. Upon returning to civilian life, he achieved a Master of Science Degree at Rice and a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Texas. He developed and taught courses in electrical engineering at the University of Houston. In the years following the war, the engineering department grew in size and eminence, and Dr. Whitaker was instrumental in its administration and development into the world class institution it is today. He served for years as the Chairman of Electrical Engineering, but took the most pleasure in teaching and in the success of his students.
He worked often in the field, doing engineering or lecturing at Houston Lighting and Power, Texas Instruments, Houston Engineering Research, Shell Development, Southwest Industrial Electronics, Lockwood, Andrews, and Newnam, Zapata Offshore, the University of Costa Rica, the Technical Institute of East Pakistan, the Algerian National Technical Institute, and more. He served the legal profession by testifying as an expert witness in cases regarding wiring and electricity. He was active in the U.S. Naval Reserve, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. During his lifetime, he was a member of Central Methodist Church, Riverside United Methodist Church, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, all in Houston.
Dr. Whitaker cared for his parents and played an active role in the lives of his children, nieces, nephews, and, eventually, grandchildren. He enjoyed photography, electric trains, canning fruit, and UH Cougar football. He reveled in travel and took his family on epic road trips and international vacations, and has now departed on the ultimate adventure, where he is reunited with his parents, his sister Edwina “Nena” Miller and her husband, N. Edd Miller, his daughter Ranada Balius, his daughter-in-law, Patricia Bartlett Whitaker, his grandson Kevin Whitaker, nephew Roy Galny, and many cousins. He is survived by his wife, Velma Galny Whitaker, brother-in-law Gerhard H. Galny and wife Nellie McManus Galny, sons N. Kent Whitaker and wife Tanya Youngling Whitaker, Keith C. Whitaker and wife Stephanie Lyerly Whitaker, Don T. Whitaker and wife Jean Miracle Whitaker, former son-in-law Alan Balius and wife Barbara Morgan Balius, and their daughter Katie. He is also survived by grandchildren Bart Whitaker, Victoria Whitaker, Heath Whitaker, and Stephen Whitaker, and by his nieces and nephews, their spouses, and their children and grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the General Scholarship Fund of the University of Houston or Rice University, or to St. Paul’s UMC or First UMC Pearland. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.claytonfuneralhomes.com.