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Former Chair Richard Storch supports ISE faculty endowed fellowship fund for Ph.D. research

By Amy Sprague
March 3, 2021

Richard Storch

Former Chair Richard Storch helped establish the ISE program into a department and continues his support to strengthen it into the future.

Richard Storch’s entry into the ISE program is a tale of serendipity to find a passion. A native of Queens, New York, he attended college at the Webb Institute on Long Island which offered basic engineering leading to a B.S. degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. Storch notes, “It was totally free and it sounded like a good deal. I figured if I didn’t like the naval focus, that I could transfer.”

But he liked the school and found a lifelong interest in the shipbuilding industry. From his free college education, he went on to MIT and then entered the Coast Guard as an officer. He moved to Seattle in 1972 to work for a naval engineering company and enrolled at the UW to pursue his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering focusing on ship stability and safety.

“I really liked the academic environment at the UW and I wanted to stay,” he says, “but I needed funding to cover my research.” He pursued a few avenues of funding with little luck until he established a partnership with Todd Shipyards (now Vigor Shipyards). They were interested in using statistics to improve shipbuilding productivity based on the approach applied within the Japanese shipbuilding industry. With funding ultimately flowing to that proposal, he set up shop at the UW as a research assistant professor.

At that time, industrial engineering was a fifth year B.S. degree program in the Mechanical Engineering Department, with teaching collaboration with the Business School. And then in the mid 1980s, the founders of the local Fluke Corporation, themselves UW alumni in electrical engineering, needed employees with a greater knowledge of manufacturing and endowed the College of Engineering with the agreement to establish an independent industrial engineering program.

Storch remembers, “The dean’s office basically said that they were starting a new industrial engineering program and for anyone interested to raise their hand. So I did.”

In 2003, the College of Engineering invited Storch to assume the directorship of the program, which soon became its own department. He remembers talking to the incoming Dean Matt O’Donnell, who said that having an excellent College of Engineering requires every department to be excellent.

“That history is why I am still supporting this department. I feel honored and humbled to have been a part of this great university. Every year, it is rated in the top five public universities in the world. It was quite an honor to be part of that. I was very excited to play my part in developing ISE into a department and hiring wonderful faculty and staff and attracting talented students,” he says.

Storch’s giving will go toward doctoral research, stemming from both his difficulties initially funding his own research and his drive to strengthen the department. He explains, “While all students are important to a department, it’s the Ph.D. research that gets the most acclaim. When I first started, we had very little funded research, and it typically was not long-term. You had to string together year-to-year projects which was inefficient and nerve-wracking. I remember the insecurity of this funding issue. It really imprinted on me how important it was to have other sources of support for Ph.D. students, and that is why I am motivated to give.”