In Memoriam: Luther Gore

Those who visit or frequent the mechanical and aerospace engineering building in the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have the opportunity to view one of Luther Gore’s influences on Grounds: his aviation paintings and the work of other artists in the same vein, some of which are signed.

Gore, engineering professor emeritus, will no longer be capturing the silver birds in flight. He died May 25 in Charlottesville. He was 81.

He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from U.Va. and joined the faculty, first in the College of Arts & Sciences English department and then the Engineering School’s Humanities Division, now called the Department of Engineering and Society, in 1961. He retired in 1993.

In the Engineering School’s humanities courses, he helped to pioneer the study of technology and culture and their interrelationship. He taught a variety of courses, including U.Va.’s first photography class and, with colleague George Matthews, the first course in aviation history and the impact of aviation on American culture.

Gore researched and published in the fields he taught, most especially in military and aviation history and culture. He chaired the Humanities Division during his career and was awarded the Mac Wade Award for outstanding service to the Engineering School.

He wrote a senior thesis manual that continues to be used and adapted as technology changes, said Bernie Carlson, who now chairs the Department of Engineering and Society.

Under the editorship of Bryan Pfaffenberger, the thesis handbook continues to guide not only undergraduate engineering students, but also their faculty advisers, Pfaffenberger said. Gore wrote the manual to describe for the students the process of conceiving, planning and executing a successful engineering thesis, consisting of a technical report and a longer paper examining the ethical and cultural impact of the project.

Faculty who are involved must understand the process, too. In addition to advisers, faculty members in the engineering and society department teach two courses to fourth-year students about technology and society in the fall semester, and then engineering and ethics in the spring, which helps students consider the interplay between research and broader issues, he said.

The manual “is an outstanding contribution to undergraduate engineering education. It’s absolutely indispensible,” said Pfaffenberger, who added that Gore tutored him personally in the thesis process. “Alumni stress all the time that it’s what sets U.Va. apart.”

He knows of only one other engineering school that requires such a thesis with the trans-disciplinary focus.

Gore’s interest in aviation led him to organize, in 1983, the first meeting of America’s leading aviation artists, an event which led the group to form the American Society of Aviation Artists, an organization for which Gore served as executive secretary until recent years. He organized national meetings in conjunction with many U.S. aviation history museums, and planned a joint meeting in London with the British Guild of Aviation Artists. A couple of his paintings also grace the walls of the U.Va. Medical Center.

Gore is survived by his wife, Joan Gore, an adjunct faculty member in U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and development director at the Foundation for International Education, a study-abroad program based in London. 

A memorial service will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the University Baptist Church, 1223 West Main Street in Charlottesville. A reception will immediately follow at U.Va.’s Colonnade Club.

Charlottesville Daily Progress obituary

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Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications