Marlin U. Thomas

June 28, 1942

Brief Biography

Marlin U. Thomas is a former President of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) and National Secretary of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS).  Thomas received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn prior to moving to the flagship campus in Ann Arbor. There, he received a masters and PhD in industrial and operations engineering. In 1971, he accepted an assistant professorship at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Operations Research. There, he co-authored an influential article on an infiltration game with time dependent payoff.

Thomas went on to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for two years prior to a brief stint at the Chrysler Corporation. At Chrysler, he worked as a Manager of Planning and Analysis and was tasked with vehicle reliability and warranty. Thomas returned to academia in 1979, joining the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Missouri, where he developed a generalized maximum entropy principle. From 1982 to 1993, he held positions at Cleveland State University, the National Science Foundation, and Lehigh University prior to joining Purdue University.  In that time, he was named an IIE Fellow.

From 2002 to 2008, Thomas received a number of honors from IIE, serving as president of that organization from 2001 to 2002. He was presented with the President’s Award for dedicated service to the institute, the Holzman Distinguished Educator Award for his outstanding teaching career, the Wellington Award for original research in engineering economics, and the Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award for his distinguished contributions towards the betterment of mankind. Thomas was elected a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) for his service to INFORMS and TIMS and role as INFORMS Liaison to IEE, aiding collaboration between the OR and industrial engineering communities.

In 2006, Thomas became the Dean of the Graduate School of Engineering and Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Three years later, he an Adedeji Badiru co-published the Handbook of Military Industrial Engineering, the first significant and comprehensive resource to outline industrial engineering applications with a focus on the improvement of military operations.  In addition to his academic work, Thomas led a thirty-two year career with the United States Navy as a Captain in the Civil Engineer Corps, earning a series of accolades including the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Legion of Merit.

Other Biographies

Institute of Industrial Engineers. Instructor Biographies: Marlin Thomas. Accessed June 12, 2015. (link)

United States Air Force. Biographies: Dr. Marlin U. Thomas. Accessed June 12, 2015. (link)

University of Michigan College of Engineering. Industrial & Operations Engineering Faculty: Marlin U. Thomas. Accessed July 2, 2018. (link)


University of Michigan-Dearborn, BS 1967

University of Michigan, MS 1968

University of Michigan, PhD 1971


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • Chrysler Corporation
  • Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Marlin Thomas (2017) Interview by Mark Lawley, October 23, 2017, Houston, TX.

NOTE:  The video chapter transcripts below are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Early Life
Chapter 2: Navy, College and Graduate School
Chapter 3: Chrysler and the Seabees
Chapter 4: University of Missouri and Cleveland State
Chapter 5: National Science Foundation and Lehigh
Chapter 6: Purdue
Chapter 7: Air Force Institute of Technology
Chapter 8: Dedication to Service

Awards and Honors

Institute of Industrial Engineers Fellow 1990

Institute of Industrial Engineers President's Award 2002

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2003

IIE Albert G. Holzman Distinguished Educator Award 2004

IIE Wellington Award for Research in Engineering Economy 2006

IIE Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award 2008 

Professional Service

Institute of Industrial Engineers, President 2001-2002

The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS), National Secretary 1989-1992

Selected Publications

Nisgav Y. & Thomas M. U. (1976) An infiltration game with time dependent payoff. Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 23(2): 297-302.

Barr D. R. & Thomas M. U. (1977) An approximate test of Markov chain lumpability. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 72(357): 175-179.

Thomas M. U. (1979) A generalized maximum entropy principle. Operations Research, 27(6): 1188-1196.

Thomas M. U. (1989) Note - a prediction model for manufacturing warranty reserves. Management Science, 35(12): 1515-1519. 

Rao S. S. Thomas M. U. (1999) Warranty economic decision models: a summary and some suggested directions for future use. Operations Research, 47(6): 807-820.

Thomas M. U. (2002) Supply chain reliability for contingency operations.Annual Proceedings of the 2002 Reliability and Maintainability Symposium, 61-67. IEEE: Seattle, WA. 

Richard J. P. & Thomas M. U. (2006) Warranty based method for establishing reliability improvement targets. IIE Transactions, 38(12): 1049-1058.

Badiru A. B. & Thomas M. U. (2009) Handbook of Military Industrial Engineering. Taylor & Francis:  London.

Thomas M. U. (2010) Models for managing contingency construction operations. Journals of Construction Engineering & Management, 136(3): 391-398.