BY MIKE WILLIAMSRice News staff
Rice University trustee, alumnus and benefactor M. Kenneth Oshman '62 died Aug. 6 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 71.
Oshman and his wife of 49 years, Barbara, donated the lead gift to Rice to establish the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), which was dedicated in December 2008.
In a letter to Rice trustees, President David Leebron and Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Crownover wrote, "Ken was a larger-than-life figure who excelled as an entrepreneur and business leader, a caring philanthropist, and who was always there to support his family and friends. ... He helped Rice in so many ways, including his always direct and sage advice, which he presented with both modesty and clarity."
|| M. KENNETH OSHMAN
His namesake building, which once housed Rice's central food-service operation, has become a point of pride for the George R. Brown School of Engineering. The OEDK gives engineering students a central facility to realize their required design projects, with easy access to a machine shop, a classroom, a wet lab, a welding shop and conference rooms.
Oshman told the gathering at the OEDK dedication that he and his wife were "looking at what we might be able to do (for Rice) when this idea came up. Barbara, not being an engineer, was not 1,000 percent sure we wanted to become part of something in the engineering department again, despite my love for the school.”
But the OEDK's mission to provide cross-discipline and cross-technology training not only for engineering students but also those in the humanities, social sciences, architecture and business won her over. “This will be a great base for that kind of education going forward,” he said.
Maria Oden, OEDK director and a professor in the practice of engineering education, said Oshman's vision is paying rich dividends. She said nine student teams from among 61 that completed projects at the kitchen this year have won recognition in national competitions.
"My sense was Ken Oshman initially appreciated, maybe more so than any of us here on campus, how this facility would change engineering education at Rice," Oden said. "He saw from the industry perspective what he wanted engineers to be able to do.
"I think a whole generation of engineering students owe a lot to Ken and his wife's willingness to step forward and support the OEDK," she said.
"From my perspective, the kitchen is his legacy at Rice," said Sidney Burrus, Rice's Maxfield Oshman Professor Emeritus and former dean of the Brown School of Engineering, whose connection to Oshman goes back to their days at Stanford. The OEDK, he said, "has not only changed Rice, it is a model that is changing higher education in the U.S. and around the world. It is remarkable."
"I'm delighted that Ken was able to see the OEDK become such a great success, a center of energy and hive of innovation for our undergraduate engineers," said Mark Embree, the John and Ann Doerr Professor and director of the Rice Center For Engineering Leadership. "This space has already transformed student life on campus, and the designs developed there have touched lives half a world away."
Oshman, a native of Rosenberg, Texas, was co-founder of the ROLM Corporation, a Silicon Valley telecommunications company acquired by IBM in 1984. He was a vice president at IBM until 1986, and chief executive officer of Echelon Corp., a networking company in San Jose, Calif., until 2009. He served as the company's executive chairman until his death.
After graduating summa cum laude from Rice, Oshman earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at Stanford University while working at Sylvania Corp. He was a member of President Ronald Reagan's economic policy planning committee and a committee to advise the president on high-temperature superconductivity. He received Rice's Distinguished Alumnus Award, was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and served on many corporate boards.
Oshman is survived by his wife; son and daughter-in-law Peter and Stephanie Oshman; son and daughter-in-law David and Joanna Oshman; four grandchildren; brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Tania Oshman; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday in Los Altos Hills, Calif.