Norman G. Wennagel was a professor of engineering, an expert on naval architecture and taught complicated topics -- thermo-fluid sciences, thermal analysis of power plants, marine engineering -- but his advice to students was simple.
"Focus on learning, rather than grades," Wennagel told generations of students, according to colleagues at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx.
Wennagel, a longtime professor at the college, died Aug. 19 at age 91 of causes related to his age, said his niece, Lynn Barsigian, of upstate Vestal.
"He was very analytical, very mathematically capable," said another niece, Barb Decker, of Adrian, Mich.
Fluent in French, he often spent his summers in Paris, and when back home in the United States he read French newspapers, his nieces recalled.
"Professor Wennagel frequently recommend that students read the works of Sadi Carnot in the original French," according to a news release from the Maritime College. Carnot, an 19th century French marine engineer, is regarded as the "father of thermodynamics" for his books on heat engines.
In 2002, Wennagel was inducted into the Engineering Hall of Fame at the college, having retired from teaching in the 1980s, Decker said.
He learned to fly small planes in his 50s and took to the skies whenever he had the opportunity, his nieces said. Wennagel also enjoyed the arts -- often visiting museums and attending opera and Broadway performances.
"He was an awesome conversationalist," Barsigian said. "He knew how to tell a story to keep you captivated. . . . He was very unpretentious."
At the time of his death, Wennagel was living in Greenport. His ashes will be kept at The Walk In Love for Jesus Church in North Bellmore, where he often spent time volunteering at the church's bookstore, Barsigian said.
Wennagel, who never married or had children, is survived by his two nieces and their five children.