jack tsu on his graduation day from michigan

Aerospace alumnus turns 100

U-M Aerospace engineering extends belated birthday wishes to centenarian Jack Tsu, class of 1941.

Aerospace engineer, mountain climber, Olympic torch bearer, and University of Michigan alumnus Jack Tsu (BS 1941) celebrated his 100th birthday on August 2. Tsu gathered with his family and friends at his Manhattan Beach, CA, home to mark the occasion. 

Jack Tsu poses with a certificate
A proud Michigan alumnus, Jack Tsu is pictured holding a congratulatory certificate from the California legislature on his 100th birthday August 2, 2021

Born and raised in Shanghai China, Tsu left his homeland on his 18th birthday to attend school at the University of Michigan, where his older brother Henry had earned his degree. Although his English was limited, Tsu immersed himself in his studies and campus organizations like the Chinese Students Club and F.F. Fraternity, where he made many lifelong friends.

According to his self-published memoir, Tsu lived in Fletcher Hall and took a course in wind tunnel testing from Professor Felix Pawlowski, a noted researcher and founder of the aerospace engineering department at U-M. After graduating from Michigan he earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Caltech.  

Tsu enjoyed a successful career working for various aerospace engineering firms throughout the next 44 years, including Northrop Grumman, Radioplane Company, and TRW. His son Elbert Tsu said his father worked on Northrop YB-49 heavy bomber aircraft known as the Flying Wing as well as the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile and space launch rocket. 

An avid runner, Tsu continued his fitness regimen throughout his retirement years. At age 70, he climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States, for the second time in his life. Two years later, his sons Elbert and Theta accompanied him on a trek to the Mt. Everest base camp in Nepal, which is at nearly 18,000 feet. 

Tsu ran in scores of races and became a race organizer and participant in the Manhattan Beach 10K for more than 30 years. He won his age division 19 times, completing the race well into his 90s. In 2008, he achieved a lifelong dream of being a member of the Olympic torch relay team, carrying the flame for a brief stint as it made its way from Northern China to Beijing for the opening ceremonies. 

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