Treager, Irwin E.

Irwin E. Treager, Sergeant, USAF
October 16, 1928 – January 13, 2015

Professor Emeritus Irwin E. Treager died on Tuesday January 13, 2015. He enjoyed a full life. Born in October 1928 and raised in the Bronx, he began his affinity for aviation at The School of Aviation Trades in New York City, but left at seventeen to join the Army-Air Corps. He was stationed at Fort Richardson in Alaska as a helicopter specialist with the 10th Rescue Squadron. All the pilots had confidence in his work because he volunteered to fly with them after any maintenance he had performed. During his three-year enlistment, his skills were rewarded with a rapid rise to the rank of sergeant.

Even with the promise of increased rank, he left the military to finish high school and then pursue a university education. Using the GI Bill, he enrolled at the University of Illinois where he met the love of his life, Iris Katz. They got married while they were both in school and remained happily married for 62 years. After graduating with a B.S. in Industrial Education, he took a job at Lane Technical High School in Chicago where he taught courses in auto shop. In 1956, he was recruited to be part of the new Aviation Technology Department at Purdue University.

Throughout his tenure at Purdue, he built or acquired many of the teaching examples as well as the required test stands that were used as instructional materials for his classes. Acquired from many sources and mostly from spare parts, he built the first of several jet engines that were used in the department’s engine test cells. The only cost incurred for the first working jet engine was about $90—the cost of a fuel flow meter. While assembling the engine, he placed probes in critical areas so students could monitor key functions in a working engine.

Professor Treager participated in many collaborative efforts in the Aviation Technology Department, one of which was the restoration of a Ryan PT-22. Faculty and students worked side-by-side to rebuild this training aircraft back to its original condition. After completion, many who worked on the aircraft enjoyed flying it until the plane was donated to the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

A self-described “tough but fair teacher,” seeing his students succeed was his greatest reward. Over the course of a semester, he had small groups of students give presentations at his home on various topics related to gas turbine engines because he felt that being able to present information to peers and supervisors in a clear and cogent manner would prove important to their future success. However, these presentations were not all business—they enjoyed coffee and cake afterwards.

In 1970, Professor Treager wrote Aircraft Gas Turbine Technology with subsequent editions in 1979 and 1995. Considered the definitive source for understanding how a gas turbine engine operates, his book is widely used in commercial and military markets.

Professor Treager spent a sabbatical year at San Jose State University and was a highly respected clinician giving lectures and seminars in South Africa, Portugal, England, and for Williams International. Interestingly, the lectures at Williams International that were originally designed for administrators attracted many in the engineering staff. Because the engineers specialized in specific components of the engine, few had complete understanding of the whole engine. Professor Treager had several passions outside of academics. He was an avid handball player. He played clarinet in the Lafayette Citizens Band, as did his children; Mark (clarinet), Steve (trumpet), and Lisa (oboe). He also dabbled in making cheese and wine as well as woodworking, but he excelled at composing stained glass creations. Anyone who visited him has seen his stained glass, and many people were given a lesson or two in the techniques involved in this craft.

Professor Treager held his Airframe and Powerplant licenses, Ground Instructor rating, and Private Pilot license. In 1961, he completed a Master’s of Science degree in Education at Purdue. He was preceded in death by his sisters Ethel and Rene, his eldest son Mark and his son-in-law Marc Segal. He is survived by his wife Iris, children Steve and Lisa, daughters-in-law Maggi and Chris, sister Marcia, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held on January 14, 2015, burial took place in the Sons of Abraham Cemetery. You may sign the guest book and leave memories at

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