Wheeler joined the Cullen College of Engineering as an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering in 1968. In 1969, he held dual appointments as assistant professor in the departments of mechanical engineering and mathematics. Three years later, he became an associate professor, then, since 1976, professor.
“I learned a lot from Lewis,” remarked Pradeep Sharma, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor and department chair, in his address at the September 6 event. “The foremost was the crystal clear sense of ethics when it comes to the important things of our job… you can always count on Lewis to do the right thing and make the correct decision. His ethics, and the fact that he is somewhat of a perfectionist, is most evident in his teaching….I have always wondered whether our students realized how much care and time he spends on ensuring that what they are getting is truly world class.”
Wheeler’s primary research interest has focused on continuum mechanics, mathematical elasticity theory, lattice dynamics and structure. He has supervised the research of over 20 graduate students during his tenure at UH.
Wheeler’s service includes a two-year appointment as interim chair of the mechanical engineering department, as well as Faculty Senate president.
An American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) fellow, Wheeler was awarded the 2002 Dean Claude L. Wilson Award for lifetime achievement as an outstanding engineering educator.
ASME honored Wheeler with the 2004 Dedicated Service Award, in recognition of his contribution to the Journal of Applied Mechanics as its technical editor. He served as the journal’s chief editor for 10 years and was instrumental in shaping the modern version of the journal. Wheeler was also the founding editor of Mathematics and Mechanics of Solids and served in that role for 10 years.
Wheeler graduated from UH with Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in mechanical engineering in 1963 and 1964, respectively. He received his doctorate in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology in 1969.