Ron Rich holds his Circle of Excellence Award, a clear trophy in the shape of a gear, while standing next to program director Ara Arabyan.

Ron Rich, right, stands with Engineering Design Program director Ara Arabyan, after receiving the first Engineering Design Program Circle of Excellence Award at Design Day 2019.

 

Longtime partner honored by UA Engineering Design Program for supporting and strengthening future engineers.

The University of Arizona Engineering Design Program presented Ron Rich – the recently retired director of engineering for auxiliary power systems at Honeywell – with its inaugural Circle of Excellence Award at Design Day 2019 on April 29, in recognition of his longstanding support.

“Watching one of the college’s alumni go on to a successful career is always rewarding,” said program director Ara Arabyan. “But there is something particularly special about alumni who pour their time and energy back into their alma mater. It is a pleasure to give this award to Ron in recognition of his lasting impact on our students.”

Not only did Rich earn his UA bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1982, but he’s been a valuable partner to the College of Engineering and the Engineering Design Program for more than two decades as a guest lecturer and judge.

Under his leadership, Honeywell has supported more than 70 capstone projects in the last 11 years, including 12 in the 2018-2019 academic year alone – the most projects a single company has ever sponsored in one year.

“I’ve always been a proponent of the program,” Rich said. “One of my roles was to support undergraduate programs, because Honeywell hires new graduates from the UA every year. We hire nearly all the disciplines in the College of Engineering.”

Arizona Born and Bred

Rich grew up in Phoenix and moved to Tucson to attend the UA, where he says he had the opportunity to grow as both an engineer and a person.

“My education here was critical,” he said. “Both the technical aspects of it and the hands-on learning that I got to do working with a few of my professors.”

One of the most valuable lessons he learned came from his own senior capstone experience. For their project, he and his team designed a racing wheelchair for quadriplegic students. They worked hard on it, applying concepts from classes and learning new skills, such as welding. They presented their design on a Saturday morning, and the chair was set to be delivered to their customers – three wheelchair-using students on campus – on Monday.

At lunchtime Saturday, a classmate accidentally broke the chair. The capstone instructor told the team they had to repair it if they wanted to graduate, despite their insistence that they didn’t cause the damage.

“I learned quickly that life isn’t fair, and that customers don’t care about the noise behind the scenes,” Rich said. “Our professor taught us that, despite what happened, you’ve got to fix the chair, complete the project and deliver it to your customers.”

Rich learned lifelong lessons from his own senior design project, and he’s been happy to watch the UA Engineering Design Program mature, evolve and become more interdisciplinary.

“I’m privileged to have been a part of this, and I hope that I’m still involved for many years to come,” he said.