Frank M. Van Sickle, Dr., Class of 1941

Posted Jun 07, 2019

Frank M. Van Sickle ’41 died on Oct. 6, 2018. He was born Jan. 20, 1920, to the late Frank O. Van Sickle (1906) and Elsie Smith Van Sickle (1903). Frank graduated from Otterbein in 1941 and as a student was involved in basketball, band, choir, track and field, “O” Club, and was a member of the Pi Kappa Phi (Country Club) fraternity.

Following his graduation as a science major from Otterbein University and trained in meteorology at Boeing School of Aeronautics, he worked in the aerospace field. Starting as a civil airlines meteorologist in WWII based at National Airport in Washington D.C. and ending as a chief engineer in the Space Program in New Orleans LA, having recruited, organized, and managed large groups of specialists in technical writing, illustrating, publishing, laboratory and space photography, scientific computer programming, engineering data processing, and logistical engineering for Chrysler Corporation Missile and Space Divisions in support of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and NASA.

He was member of the Chrysler ground support teams that worked on the booster for the first US Satellite in 1958, lifted astronaut Alan Shepard into America’s first space flight in a MERCURY capsule in 1961, built a series of SATURN boosters as predecessors to the landing of astronauts on the moon, that launched the SKYLAB on its space related experimental missions, and in 1975 boosted the US APOLLO spacecraft to join its Russian counter-part in the APOLLO–SOYUZ vehicle test project. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Otterbein University in 1967, and named Distinguished Alumnus in 1981.

Preceding him in death were his sister Gertrude “Trudy” Clapper ’35, his brother Robert Van Sickle ’35, and his wife Mary Jane Van Sickle ’42. Survivors include his two daughters, Gretchen (Michael) Cochran ’67 and Heidi (Bob) Buhl. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Amy Cochran ’93, Laura Cavanaugh, Robin Knezevich, and Scott Buhl; three great grandchildren, Michael, Katie, and Ryan Cavanaugh; sister-in-law, Mary Faye Van Sickle; and three generations of nephews, nieces, and extended family members in the Ohio area.