Charles V. Kirkpatrick, who as dean from 1965-1975 led the UH Cullen College of Engineering through a period of tremendous growth, passed away in December at the age of 95.
Born in Jacksonville, Texas, Kirkpatrick earned his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University in 1940. He then worked as a professional engineer for a short time before joining the U.S. Army during World War II. He served in the European theater, attaining the rank of major and earning a Bronze Star and the Belgian Croix DeGuerre.
After the war, Kirkpatrick returned to Texas. He joined the college faculty in 1948 and earned his master’s degree in 1952. Along the way, he became a recognized authority in the field of gas lift, publishing a book and several articles as well as lecturing internationally on the subject.
During his time at the University of Houston, Kirkpatrick also actively supported engineering students and the profession. He served as advisor to both the UH student chapters of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He was also a member of the SPE’s national board of directors.
In the early 1960s Kirkpatrick was named interim dean of the Cullen College and was appointed the post on a permanent basis in 1965, becoming the college’s second dean. During this period the University of Houston became a state institution, resulting in a huge increase in the college’s enrollment and the corresponding growth in faculty count. Kirkpatrick successfully led the college through this time of transition.
Kirpatrick also oversaw significant improvement to the college’s graduate program. Under his watch, the college began offering Ph.D.s in five academic areas and hired several prominent faculty members to support these programs.
These efforts earned Kirkpatrick a number of honors, highlighted by an Honorary Doctorate awarded in 1970 by the College of Chinese Culture in Taiwan.
In 1975, after a decade as the college’s permanent dean, Kirkpatrick stepped down from that post. He retired from the college three years later.
Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering Charles Dalton worked with Kirkpatrick for many years, and recalled him to be a good leader with high standards. As dean, Dalton noted, Kirkpatrick was particularly concerned with the needs of the faculty.
“He visited each faculty member several times a year to see how we were doing, what we needed, what we wanted,” said Dalton. “That was a big commitment, but he took the time.”
Kirkpatrick’s family requests that any gifts in his memory be made to the Charles V. Kirkpatrick Scholarship Fund or the William C. Miller Endowed Chair of Engineering, established by a student of Kirkpatrick in honor of the former dean.