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a group of students displays their capstone project

Kenneth Hartwein’s gift strengthens experiential education in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. These 2023 aerospace graduates won multiple awards at Craig M. Berge Design Day for their capstone project, a robotic system designed to enter and explore Martian lava tubes for geological survey.

Alumnus Remembers Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering With $2.8M Bequest

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Alumnus Remembers Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering With $2.8M Bequest

Oct. 10, 2023
Kenneth Hartwein wanted to help educate problem-solving engineers.

The University of Arizona Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering has received a $2.8 million bequest from alumnus Kenneth Hartwein, who died in March at the age of 93.

Hartwein grew up in Tucson and graduated from the UA in 1953 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

Kenneth Hartwein with his son, Jack, and wife, Peggy.
Kenneth Hartwein with his son, Jack, and wife, Peggy.

Hartwein's gift, which was left through a bequest, will be used to create an endowment that will prepare students to take on challenging roles early in their careers, said David Hahn, the Craig M. Berge Dean of the College of Engineering.

"The College of Engineering emphasizes experience in educating engineers who change the world. Every student graduates with the confidence of having completed multiple professional-level projects," Hahn said. "Kenneth Hartwein's generosity will help us continually improve the resources that ensure aerospace and mechanical engineering students can apply coursework in tangible ways, which is well aligned with Kenneth's own hands-on learning."

Initial plans for the gift include funding equipment and student assistant pay for the department's many lab-based courses, said Farzad Mashayek, department head and professor.

"In the classroom, students see the theory," he said, adding that, in the lab, which is part of required coursework, "they actually see it in practice, which is huge for understanding what is going on."

Student clubs are another priority area for the gift. Aerospace and mechanical engineering students are active in several, such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. AIAA hosts the annual Design Build Fly competition, which challenges students to create remote-controlled aircraft meeting specific requirements. Hartwein's gift will support future College of Engineering entries in the event. The gift also will help the UArizona chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – the top club for students in that major – to elevate its presence in national ASME competitions. Other popular clubs for aerospace and mechanical engineering students that will benefit include the Society of Automotive Engineers, Baja Wildcat Racing and BattleBots.

"These extracurricular activities are extremely important," Mashayek said. "This is where students get hands-on experience for what they learn in classrooms. They build things and compete, and they also learn how to organize the chapters."

With multiple touchpoints, "the gift will benefit every single student, multiple times," Mashayek said.

"When a graduate of the University of Arizona achieves success and then chooses to share that success with their alma mater, it is an incredible affirmation of the value we provide to students," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "I am very grateful for Mr. Hartwein's generosity, and especially for his investment in preparing students for their future careers."

A Go-to Problem Solver and Experiential Learner

Hartwein's career path can be traced to the admiration he held for his father. John Lawson worked as a machinist at UArizona, said Gary Rudd, a longtime neighbor and the trustee of his estate.

"Ken learned a lot about metallurgy, machining and work ethic from his father. He did many things with his father that helped him as an engineering student," Rudd said.

Hartwein designated his gift for experiential education because he wanted to help the college educate problem-solvers, Rudd said. Hartwein worked for Shell Oil Co. nearly his entire career and earned a reputation as a problem-solver. He was awarded several patents for inventions related to his field.

"He was a go-to guy for Shell. If they had a problem with a well, he could solve it," Rudd said.

Rudd and his family met Hartwein and his wife, Peggy, when the couple moved to Fredericksburg, Texas, upon Hartwein's retirement.

The Rudds' daughters were aged 5 and 10 at the time. Over the next 30 years, the Hartweins became like another set of grandparents to the children and like parents to Rudd and his wife, Nancy.

"They spent holidays with us and adopted us as family," Rudd said. "We were lucky. They were some of the nicest people I've ever known."

Rudd said Hartwein had a tremendous memory and shared stories about his career with him. When Hartwein graduated from UArizona, Shell recruited him, but he chose to join the U.S. Air Force on a classified project related to the Korean War. His work included developing technology to reduce the time that pilots flying F-86 fighter jets spent in the path of enemy fire.

a black and white photo of an F-86 fighter jet
Hartwein kept this photo of an F-86 fighter jet. He worked on a project with the planes during the Korean War.

The war ended soon after Hartwein enlisted, but the technology he helped advance went on to be useful during the Vietnam War, Rudd said.

After retiring, Hartwein began investing in stocks as a hobby. Much like engineering, it was something he learned about from his father, he told Rudd. Hartwein found success and amassed wealth from his investments.

"He was very generous and wanted to share with his alma mater," Rudd said.

"We are always incredibly grateful for the generosity of alumni who choose to give back to the alma mater that helped shape their lives and careers" said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "Problem-solving and hands-on learning are integral parts of preparing our students for successful careers, and we are pleased that this gift will serve our engineering students in this way for years to come."