Remembering Roger Kieckhafer


By Glen Archer, Interim Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

Professor Roger Kieckhafer was an inventor, engineer, researcher, educator, veteran and valued faculty member at Michigan Technological University. He died on Friday, July 17 in a tragic vehicle-bicycle accident. He was 69.

The loss to the faculty and staff in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Engineering is immense. We will not recover quickly from the shock of his death.

Roger received his Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1974 and earned his Master’s and PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1982 and 1983, respectively. The years between were spent in service to the United States Navy as a Nuclear Officer aboard the Trident missile submarine USS Abraham Lincoln. He also supervised the construction of the USS Indianapolis. His time in industry was also well spent, producing several patents that were licensed to Allied Signal, now Honeywell Corporation.

Roger was fond of classical music, particularly opera, and sang in the Copper Country Chorale, often accompanied by his daughter, Maggie, on organ. He also sang in the prestigious Pine Mountain Music Festival, including the premiere of the opera Rockland, based on the story of the 1906 miner strike in Rockland, Michigan.

Roger was instrumental in creating the computer engineering degree program at Michigan Tech. Working with Linda Ott in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Sciences and Arts, he bridged the gap between two departments in two separate colleges, crafting a program that educated hundreds—a new breed of engineer steeped in both worlds.

Even after the development of the computer engineering program, Roger’s collaboration with the Department of Computer Science continued. “We worked together on a strategic hiring initiative, multiple curricular issues, reorganization discussions and countless other issues,” said Dr. Linda Ott, Chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Roger was always supportive. He clearly believed that we would have stronger programs working together rather than competing.”

Roger was a strong advocate for the ABET accreditation process in the ECE department. He led the initial ABET accreditation of the Computer Engineering program. The procedures and processes he set in place then are still in play nearly 20 years later, guiding the department’s subsequent accreditation for both its electrical engineering and computer engineering degrees.

In the words of Computer Engineering faculty member Kit Cischke, “For Roger, it always boiled down to what was best for our students. The content of our classes. The things our students needed to know to get good jobs. The assignments. The kinds of things they needed to do in the real world. Students were forever contacting Roger after graduation, saying, ‘Thanks for teaching me that. I’m using it every day in my job.’”

Over the past few days, Roger’s former students have reached out to express their grief and sadness. They have shared how much Roger meant to them during their time at Michigan Tech and how well he prepared them for the success they enjoy today. One of those students was Joseph Rabaut. In his words, “I can’t tell you how devastated I am. Dr. Kieckhafer was an amazing person and one of the best professors at Tech. He helped me a lot throughout the past few years, giving me advice and recommendations, and helping me understand computer engineering. I don’t really know what else to say, because words can’t really describe losing him.”

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

As we move forward, his legacy will live on. As suggested by several people, a scholarship fund will be set up in Roger’s memory.

Roger is survived by his wife, Patricia Kieckhafer; son, Alexander Kieckhafer (Mallika Lavakumar) and thoroughly adored granddaughters, Ananya Kieckhafer and Ishani Kieckhafer of Cleveland, Ohio; daughter, Katherine Kieckhafer of Boston, Massachusetts; and Maggie Kieckhafer (Tahmoures Tabatabaei) of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Roger’s obituary can be read here.

If you have memories of Dr. Roger Kieckhafer, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.


One Comment on "Remembering Roger Kieckhafer"

  • Eric Johnson
    July 25, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    He was a great professor and taught me a lot. He will be missed.

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