Former Dean Of Engineering Richard Seebass Dies Tuesday

Published: Nov. 13, 2000

A. Richard Seebass, former dean of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and past chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, died Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Boulder Community Hospital after a short illness. He was 64.

The university community honored Seebass by lowering the U.S. flag at Regent Hall to half-mast in recognition of his impact on the College of Engineering and the Boulder campus. His 13-year tenure as dean included large increases in research funding and private support, a 65 percent increase in the size of the faculty and the adoption of a pioneering, real-world approach to engineering education focusing on interdisciplinary, hands-on learning.

"Dick Seebass has left an important and lasting legacy at the University of Colorado at Boulder for which we all are grateful, " said CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard L. Byyny. "His service to CU and to the College of Engineering has had an enormous impact. The whole field of aerospace engineering was transformed through his contributions."

Engineering Dean Ross B. Corotis said, "Over the 13 years that Dick was dean, he left a tremendous impact in raising this college to be one of the leading research engineering schools in the world."

Seebass was dean of CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering from 1981 to 1994. Under his leadership, the college established several highly active research centers, increasing research expenditures ten-fold from $3 million to $30 million and increased its faculty from 95 to 156, bringing in many new faculty of national distinction. His strategic plan set ambitious goals for increases in minority and women students and faculty in engineering, resulting in a doubling of their numbers.

In 1981 he instituted a formal development plan for the college and conducted a successful Centennial Campaign that brought in contributions of $52.5 million. As a result of his leadership and direct involvement, private gifts were committed to build the Gemmill Engineering Library, establish the Herbst Program of Humanities for Engineers, create the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program and triple the scholarships in the college. The college’s innovative Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory was dedicated to Seebass when it opened in fall 1997.

He served as chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences from August 1995 through May 1999, presiding over a complete reform of the undergraduate curriculum. The aerospace department graduated its first class with the new hands-on, interdisciplinary curriculum in May 2000.

Seebass was an internationally renowned aerodynamicist, whose research earned him several prestigious awards, including the Max Planck Research Award (shared with Helmut Sobieczky in 1991), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ William F. Durand Medal and Lectureship (1994) and the International Astronautics Federation’s Frank J. Malina Medal (1994) for his contributions to space education. The University of Colorado honored him with the University Medal in 1994 and he also received the College of Engineering's Centennial Medal in 1993.

Seebass was a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and served on the AIAA Board of Directors' Executive Committee. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1985 for "fundamental contributions in aerodynamic theory related to the development of computational fluid mechanics and for service in engineering education."

He graduated magna cum laude in engineering from Princeton University in 1958, earning a master’s of science degree in aeronautical engineering there as well. He continued his studies as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Cornell University, completing his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1962, when he joined Cornell's faculty as an assistant professor. By 1972 he was associate dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell. In 1975 he joined the University of Arizona as a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and of mathematics, where he co-established the Program in Mathematics.

The family has requested that no flowers be sent. Contributions may be made to the Richard Seebass Honorary Scholarship Fund in care of the University of Colorado Foundation, Campus Box 422, Boulder, CO 80309-0422, or to the Boulder Community Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 9019, Boulder, CO 80301-9019.