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Dayton Engineer

University of Dayton School of Engineering Phil Doepker and Philip Appiah-Kubi

University of Dayton Professor Emeritus Phil Doepker remains engaged with his alma mater

By Debbie Juniewicz

Rest, relaxation and retirement – they might appear to go together but not for Phil Doepker.

The professor emeritus of the University of Dayton Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is busier than ever.

“I need to be active,” the 77-year-old said. “My days are pretty full, sometimes a little too full,” he added with a smile.

As part of the University’s Stitt Scholars Program housed at The Hub, – one of the largest university-anchored innovation hubs in the country – Doepker has been instrumental in helping to develop the program and in mentoring a variety of innovative projects. Program director, Philip Appiah-Kubi, credits Doepker with helping the University secure a significant gift from the Stitt Family Foundation.

“And the deliverables of a project he mentored were used to secure $15,000 from the PNC Bank to support black-owned businesses in the Greater West Dayton area,” Appiah-Kubi added.

Other projects that Doepker has worked on include a marketing study and survey analysis for an entrepreneur start-up that designed a safety harness for use by tree trimmers, foresters and fire fighters. Another team developed a “library” containing evidence-based ways to help people with cancer, sponsored by a new group of physicians and pharmacists.

His projects have varied greatly but with a common thread.

“I am a big proponent of experiential learning,” Doepker said. “It’s about the students working with real innovators and entrepreneurs, away from campus, on real projects.”

Doepker’s penchant for experiential learning would come as no surprise to his colleagues or former students as he became the founding director of the University’s Innovation Center in 2007. While his stint as director ended in 2011, his connection with the Innovation Center remains strong.

“We’ve had people come in with really neat ideas who want to develop products and obtain patents,” Doepker said. “I have mentored student teams to expose them to analysis, testing, developing business plans and preliminary patent applications.”

His dedication to his alma mater extends beyond the School of Engineering, as Doepker currently serves as chair of the Golden Flyers Executive Committee, working with alumni who have celebrated their 50th year anniversary of their graduation. He takes seriously the group’s mission “to engage all Golden Flyers to be informed advocates for the University.” Under his leadership, communication has been prioritized and additional opportunities for engagement have been established. The Golden Flyers will be returning to campus to attend presentations and meet with students as part of the University’s Stander Symposium. “I saw what we were doing when I became chair, and I wanted to place more of an emphasis on service,” the 1967 UD graduate said.

While some retirees become quite comfortable in their recliner, Doepker prefers to remain engaged with his alma mater – not because he has to, but because he wants to.

“I just like helping people – especially students and graduates – it’s that simple,” he said.



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