Helmut Thielsch, the founder of Thielsch Engineering, was born in Berlin, Germany in 1922. Shortly before the start of World War II, at the age of 16, he came to the United States and was sent by his family to live with relatives in east Texas. There, he quickly learned English in order to complete his high school education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Auburn University and went on to attend Lehigh University from 1947 to 1949, where he completed all the required courses for a Master’s of Engineering degree but, due to financial circumstances, he had to leave in 1949 without obtaining his Master’s degree.
Thielsch developed his career working for Allis Chalmers Manufacturing; Black, Sivalls and Bryson; Lukens Steel Corporation; and the Welding Research Council. Before founding Thielsch Engineering, he was the Vice-President of Research Development and Engineering at Grinnell Manufacturing and ITT Grinnell Corporation, where he had been employed from 1954 to 1984.
In 1984, while at ITT Grinnell, Thielsch was asked to downsize his department from a staff of 65 to nine. He immediately prepared a list of downsized employees and put his own name on the top. He founded Thielsch Engineering Inc. a short time later with six former Grinnell employees. In four years, the company grew into a $5 million dollar operation. The company today has over 350 employees and more than $65 million in revenues with customers worldwide. The success of Thielsch Engineering can be directly attributed to Helmut Thielsch’s passion for engineering and his dedication to the company. He instilled in senior managers his two overriding goals: never stop growing the business and be responsive to the company’s customers.
More than 50 years after Thielsch finished the curriculum for his Master’s program, in January 2003, the Chairman of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University, G. Slade Cargill III, along with other Lehigh officials came to Thielsch Engineering’s headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island, and awarded him his Master’s of Engineering degree. In a commendatory letter, Lehigh President Gregory Farrington spoke highly of Mr. Thielsch’s contributions to the field of engineering. “Your perseverance in pursuing your degree reflects your approach to life. Leaving campus without your degree in 1949 was undoubtedly difficult, as was starting and building your company to the success it has become. The qualities you possess are those we hope to instill in all Lehigh students.”
After Helmut Thielsch’s death in May 2003, the new President and Chief Executive Officer of Thielsch Engineering, Tom Lent, stated, “as the company moves through this sad and difficult time, all business concerns at Thielsch will continue in the manner Helmut would expect of us. It is the best tribute we can pay to his memory.”
Summary of Helmut Thielsch’s accomplishments
- Author of more than 200 professional and engineering articles on failure analysis, piping and pressure vessel materials, quality assurance, testing, and many other topics
- Authored the book Defects and Failures in Pressure Vessels and Piping, which is extensively used as a reference book of material failures. Translations of this book have been published in Spanish and German.
- Prepared major chapters for handbooks published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Welding Society, the American Society for Metals, and for the Piping Handbook, which is recognized as the foremost reference handbook in the piping industry.
- Lecturer at conferences on failures and failure prevention sponsored by various universities such as the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pennsylvania, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute of New York, the University of Missouri, New York University, University of North Carolina, and University of Connecticut
- Lecturer at conferences sponsored by major engineering societies including ASME, ASM, AWS, ASTM, ASNT, ASQC, AMS, and the Mexican Petroleum Institute
- Presented special engineering seminars in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia
Memberships and Recognition:
- Elected by the American Society for Metals to the FELLOW membership in recognition for “distinguished contributions in the field of metals and materials”
- Recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, the American Board of Forensic Examiners, and the American College of Forensic Examiners
- Served on major committees writing national Codes and Standards, including the Committee on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
- Member of the Component Technology Committee of the Argonne National Laboratory, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy
- Consultant to the Advisory Committee for the Reactor Safeguards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; retained as an expert by the Commission
- Member of the Fabrication, Inspection and Testing Committee (the Pressure Vessel and Piping Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
- Chairman of the Metallurgical Engineering Committee of the Pipe Fabrication Institute
- Member of the Failure Analysis Committee of the Materials Testing and Quality Control Division of ASM International
- Member of the Sigma Xi Honorary Scientific Research Society
Profiled in “Who’s Who in America”, “Who’s Who in the East” and “Who’s Who in Engineering”
- Comfort A. Adams Lecture Award from the American Welding Society for “attainments in the Science and Art of Welding”
- 1984 Freeman Award from the Providence Engineering Society for “outstanding contribution in the field of engineering”
- Third Annual Safety Award and Medal from the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors for contributions to the boiler and pressure vessel industry
- John J. Tuohy Businessman of the Year 2000 Award from the City of Cranston
- 2002 Business Leadership Award presented by the Providence Business News