Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)
Wanke Tom

Fluid Power Industry Mourns Passing of Tom Wanke

June 22, 2022
Wanke's years of expertise and dedication to the fluid power industry will be missed.

It is with great sadness to report fluid power industry veteran Tom Wanke, CFPE, of Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) passed away on June 21, 2022. Wanke was director of the Fluid Power Industrial Consortium (FPIC) and Industry Relations, with a nearly 50-year career at MSOE.

Wanke was also a member of Power & Motion’s Editorial Advisory Board through which he provided his insights and expertise on topics of coverage that would best benefit professionals working in fluid power and motion control.

On a more personal note, I have known Tom for most of my B2B editorial career covering the fluid power industry. And during that time I have always been happy to get the chance to speak with him—whether it be catching up on life or what’s happening in the industry.

When I last saw Tom in person at an industry event, which was the first in a long time after many months of no in-person events, it was as if a day hadn’t passed at all. We spent almost an hour talking about how lives and careers were going, as well as what’s been happening in the fluid power industry in recent years and some of the editorial initiatives we wanted to possibly undertake with Power & Motion.

During the FPIC quarterly events he helped coordinate, Tom was always ready with a question or two. You could tell learning was important to him because even after his years of experience in the industry he still wanted to know more about how things work, and pass that knowledge on to others. This could be seen through his long career at MSOE working with students as well as the formation of FPIC in partnership with the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) which serves to provide industry professionals with further education on topics and trends impacting the markets they serve.

And that’s how I will always remember Tom—no matter the subject, he was prepared to learn and discuss and provide insight or education where he could.

His advocacy for the fluid power industry will also never be forgotten. You could tell he was passionate about the subject and wanted to share that with others as well to help further advance the industry.

“Tom’s impact on the fluid power industry will be felt for generations,” said Eric Lanke, president and CEO of the National Fluid Power Association, in the MSOE press release announcing Tom’s passing. “He has been an instrumental partner in our growth and vitality, and we join the countless number friends, former students, and colleagues that are mourning his passing.”

“Tom was a respected leader in the fluid power industry. His dedication to MSOE and the industry was unparalleled,” said Sheku Kamara, MSOE dean of applied research, in MSOE’s press release. “Tom was committed to not only helping industry partners but also educating future generations of fluid power professionals through continuing education classes and the NFPA Fluid Power Action Challenge.”

A Distinguished Career in Fluid Power

Wanke started working at MSOE in 1974 as a technician at the school’s Fluid Power Institute (FPI), considered one of the foremost academic fluid power research laboratories in the U.S., while a student there in fluid power engineering technology. From MSOE he received an associate degree in fluid power engineering technology and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology, and later an M.S. in Engineering Management with a fluid power specialty.

Shortly after becoming a project engineer at FPI in 1978, Wanke was named its director in 1980. While there he helped strengthen relationships between MSOE and members of the fluid power industry. He brought many skills and expertise to the position including:

  • hydraulic component and system design reviews, development, and evaluation;
  • field troubleshooting and failure analysis; and
  • fluids, filtration and contamination control in hydraulic systems.

After helping establish FPIC in 2016, he was named its director and also served as an adjunct associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Over his career Wanke received several accolades for his accomplishments within the fluid power industry. He was the first recipient of MSOE’s Karl O. Werwath Engineering Research Award and was part of the inaugural class of professionals inducted into the International Fluid Power Society Hall of Fame in 2019. Additional awards include:

  • NFPA Fluid Power Champions Award in 2015
  • NFPA Outstanding Service Award in 2014
  • Service Award from the International Fluid Power Association in 2011.

As part of his industry involvement, Wanke was a member of several organizations—Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE); International Fluid Power Society (IFPS) and an IFPS certified fluid power engineer; International Standards Organization Committee TC131 for Fluid Power Standards; chairman of the NFPA Technical Board. He also served as chairman of the Technical Conference at both the 2011 and 2014 International Fluid Power Expositions (IFPE) and a member of the IFPE Management Committee.

Per MSOE’s press release, Wanke was instrumental in securing the $5 million Endowment for Fluid Power Education at MSOE from the Estate of Otto J. Maha. In 2007, he was honored with one of the first Otto J. Maha Pioneers in Fluid Power Awards during the 45th anniversary celebration of the FPI. And 5 years later at the institute’s 50th anniversary celebration Wanke received the first-ever MSOE Fluid Power Achievement Award for its efforts to make the FPI a reputable institution.  

The Power & Motion staff sends its sincerest sympathies to Tom’s family and loved ones at this time as well as those who knew him personally and professionally.  

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Technical Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is technical editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

Facebook: @PowerMotionTech

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