The Legacy That Will Live On

Richard A. Auhll’s Lasting Impact on the Michigan Aerospace Community

It is with great sadness that Michigan Aerospace says a final farewell to an inspiration and momentous contributor to the Michigan Aerospace Department. As we mourn the loss of Richard A. Auhll, an outstanding member of the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) and a Michigan Aerospace alumni (BSE Aero ‘63), we look back at the outstanding contributions and lasting impact he has left on the industry and here within the walls of FXB.

“In the over two decades of my association with U-M, Richard has unfailingly backed the Aerospace Engineering Department and its activities. His presence, uplifting support, and exemplary character have greatly motivated both our students and faculty. His absence will be profoundly felt,” comments Carlos Cesnik, the Richard A. Auhll Department Chair of Aerospace Engineering.

Not only was Auhll a devoted member of the Michigan Aerospace community, but he was also licensed as an instrument-rated jet aircraft solo pilot. He began his career as a rocket engineer before earning an MS in aerospace engineering from Stanford and later went on to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School. 

In 1969, he assumed ownership of Circon Corporation, where he served as chairman of the board of directors, president, and CEO for 30 years. Upon retiring in 1998, his focus shifted toward education across various levels and fields, leaving an enduring legacy of generosity and commitment in multiple forms and across a vast variety of disciplines.

Auhll’s dedication to the aerospace industry was acknowledged when he received the Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award for Aerospace Engineering in 1996. His commitment to our institution continued to shine as he established the Richard A. Auhll Professorship Fund in 2000 and assumed a leading role as a major donor to the Aerospace Engineering Centennial Scholarship Challenge Fund in 2014 in celebration of Michigan Aerospace Engineering’s Centennial Anniversary. This included matching up to $100,000 in gifts to the department for endowed student support and developing an important resource for students enrolled in aerospace engineering.

His invaluable service extended to the Department’s Industrial Advisory Board, where he had been a cherished member since 2008. Auhll’s gracious generosity reached new heights in 2018, as he endowed the Richard A. Auhll Department Chair of Aerospace Engineering Fund. Through this endowment, he continued to provide essential support to various chairs within the Department of Aerospace Engineering, including the esteemed Anthony (Tony) Waas and Michigan Aerospace’s current chair, Carlos Cesnik. 

“Richard Auhll exemplifies the solid foundational training that our students receive at UM Aero. After his degree here, he worked in the Rocket industry in Northern California, then branched out to pioneer a new line of technology development related to biomedical imaging which spurned an entirely new industry. I will miss the wisdom that he imparted to me during my time as chair” explains Waas, the Felix Pawlowski Collegiate Professor and the previous Richard A. Auhll Department Chair of Aerospace Engineering.

Auhll’s legacy will forever be remembered and cherished within the University of Michigan family for all of his generous contributions and support. He was not only a mentor but also a significant contributor to the Department of Aerospace Engineering here at the University of Michigan.