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Edgar Kovner, Retired Pioneering Engineering Technology Prof, Dies

Edgar KovnerEdgar Kovner

Edgar A. Kovner, a pioneering engineering technology professor at Old Dominion University for many years, whose endowed scholarship has aided hundreds of students, died June 11, 2013, in Tamarac, Fla. He was 94.

Kovner, a dean of the school's old Technical Institute and later a professor of mechanical engineering technology in the College of Engineering and Technology, taught 43 years at ODU, starting part time in 1943. He retired with the title of professor emeritus.

He was born in New York City in 1919. After earning a bachelor's degree from City University of New York in 1939 and a master's from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940, both in chemical engineering, Kovner moved to Norfolk in 1941 to become a marine engineer for the U.S. Navy.

He joined the faculty of the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary (the forerunner of ODU) full time in 1946. He taught engineering technology concepts at the Technical Institute, a professional technology school that grew out of the war-training programs offered on campus during World War II.

The Technical Institute offered associate degrees in fields such as radio (later television) repair, heating and air conditioning and automotive technology. Kovner was director of the institute from 1959 to 1964, the time at which negotiations began to merge the professional school with ODU's School of Engineering, itself founded in 1963.

As dean of Old Dominion's Division of Technology from 1964 to 1970, Kovner helped facilitate the merger, declining the opportunity to become the first department chair of engineering technology at the university. He felt that colleague Bill Stanley, an electrical engineering professor, would be better positioned to manage the difficult merger process.

"He took the job, not knowing what he was getting into, and he has proven to be a gem," Kovner told James Sweeney, now an associate professor emeritus of history, in 1974. ODU was the first school in the state, and one of the first in the country, to offer a four-year degree in engineering technology, thanks to groundwork laid by the Technical Institute.

In 1964, Kovner earned a bachelor's degree in history from Old Dominion.

In 1978, Kovner founded the Edgar and Kathleen Kovner Endowed Scholarship Fund, donating $75,000 to aid as many as 20 students per year in every department of the School of Engineering. At the time of the donation, Kovner told The Virginian-Pilot the scholarship was "established with the help of many hard-working people, and will give some of our students the hand they need."

In a letter of gratitude to Kovner, then-ODU President Alfred Rollins Jr., wrote: "What you have done is a very, very rare thing. The University can have real pride and hope for the future when its own faculty members are willing to invest their hard earned resources in its mission and in its students.''

Kovner, who even coached the ODU lacrosse team for three years during his tenure, remained intensely proud of his more than four decades at the university until the end, keeping up with ODU's football program and even watching the "Breakfast with Bobby" show with football coach Bobby Wilder, along with ODU sporting events, on his computer at home in Florida.

Kovner's interaction with the Norfolk community extended beyond ODU, as he was the principal flutist in the Norfolk Symphony for nearly 30 years.

Kathleen Kovner died in 1992, and Kovner later married his current wife, Mildred Kovner, who survives him. He is also survived by six children from his two marriages, as well as 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Oktay Baysal, dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, said Kovner left an indelible impact on he university. "Ed Kovner's legacy lives here not only due to his long and significant service in the formation of this college, but also through his endowed scholarship," Baysal said.