• Arthur A. Limpert testing a ship model in the Naval Tank. (Photo submitted by Jack Underwood, courtesy of Jack and Nancy Underwood.)

  • A boat model in Arthur Limpert's Naval Architecture workshop. (Photo submitted by Jack Underwood, courtesy of Jack and Nancy Underwood.)
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Jack Underwood, manager, Enterprise Infrastructure, Data Center & Operational Services for Michigan Medicine and student in the U-M College of Engineering, shares this reflection of his great grandfather, Arthur A. Limpert.

My great grandfather Arthur A. Limpert was a model ship builder for the Department of Navel Architecture and Marine Engineering during the 1930’s and 1940’s. He is mentioned in the history of the department, as follows:

“The construction of models for use in the Naval Tank requires mechanical skill and the ability to read ship drawings. The first few models were made by Sadler with the help of student assistants. In 1907, Hermann Graf was appointed Model Maker and continued in that position until his death in 1927. A mechanic of the highest order, he was responsible for the construction of various instruments, and he made many improvements in the tank facilities. Arthur A. Limpert, of the Buildings and Grounds Department, succeeded Graf. An excellent mechanic in wood and metal, his rich experience in boat-building, pattern-making, and allied fields had prepared him well for the variety of work arising in a model-testing tank. Until he died in 1945 ‘Art’ Limpert was one of the first staff members visited by alumni on their return to the campus. Douglas Van Aken held the position of Model Maker from 1946 to 1950 and was succeeded by Phillip A. Schnell.”

I remember visiting the naval tank as a child and hearing stories from my mother and grandmother about how the tank was drained fighting a building fire on campus. We also were able to see a model that my great grandfather apparently built. The highlight of the visit was the chance to ride on the car that tows the models in the water. It is also my understanding that my great grandfather actually passed away while at work in West Hall in 1945.

I now attend biweekly Student Astronomical Society meetings just three floors above where my great grandfather did the work he loved.

The University of Michigan has been and continues to be an important part of my life.

I was born here, have worked here a total of 15 years and am now studying electrical engineering.

It will be an honor to be an alumnus once I complete my studies.

I look forward to serving the university for years to come.

  • Detroit Free Press clipping, April 15, 1945. Caption reads: "In the whole United States there are only five naval tanks like the one at the University of Michigan. Precise scale models of ships are given try-outs. Prof. L.A. Baier, Department of Naval Architecture, works here with the model of a postwar river barge. Through these tank tests, the efficiency of the barges has already been increased 30 per cent."