Pitt-Bradford to honor Rice with tech department name | News


The new engineering technology programs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will be part of the new KOA Engineering Technology Department, named for Lester Rice, chairman emeritus and former CEO of KOA Speer Electronics Inc.

“I cannot stress enough Lester Rice’s longstanding and very generous support of Pitt-Bradford and his laser-focused commitment to our four-year engineering technology development programs,” said Rick Esch, President acting from Pitt-Bradford. “He spent decades – literally decades – as a program champion, and we are proud to name this new department in his honor.”

The newly named department will include the new majors in Mechanical Engineering Technology and Power Engineering Technology, which will be offered for the first time this fall, as well as any additional engineering technology-related programs that will be developed in the future.

A plaque, designating the new department and Rice’s significant support and contributions to the programs, will be prominently displayed in the new George B. Duke Engineering and Information Technologies building, which is currently under construction and will open in the fall.

“It’s important that everyone who enters the Duke Building, including future generations of engineering technology students, knows Les’s unprecedented generosity and commitment to these programs,” Esch said. “Les was adamant that Pitt-Bradford had an engineering program and did everything he could to push it forward.”

Rice’s strong advocacy for engineering at Pitt-Bradford grew, in part, from the professional path he chose. Rice, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, has spent her entire career in the electronics industry.

After serving in the US Navy, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1955 and began his career with Westinghouse Corp. After 16 years at Westinghouse, he joined Airco Speer in St. Marys. In 1980, US operations merged with KOA Corp. and KOA Speer Electronics was established in Bradford.

As an engineer and someone who cared deeply about his community, Rice also knew that well-prepared graduates of Pitt-Bradford engineering programs would have a significant impact on area businesses and industries.

Rice channeled his passion and engineering knowledge to become one of the earliest and strongest advocates of Pitt-Bradford’s engineering program. And, as chairman, CEO and chairman of KOA Speer, he established a corporate culture of philanthropy that continues to thrive, nearly seven years after his death in June 2015.

Rice’s longstanding support of Pitt-Bradford extended beyond engineering technology.

He and his wife, Barbara, and KOA Speer have generously supported many other campus projects and initiatives, including the renovation and expansion of Frame-Westerberg Commons and the Richard E. and Ruth McDowell Sport and Fitness Center.

Evidence of this philanthropy can be seen across campus: the Lester and Barbara Rice House, Rice Auditorium in Fisher Hall, KOA Dining Hall, and Mukaiyama University Hall in Commons , the KOA Art Gallery and the KOA Speer. Electronics Lobby in Blaisdell Hall and KOA Arena in the Sport and Fitness Center.

In addition to his financial support, Rice has served on the Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board and its Executive Committee. In 1997, he received the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Pitt-Bradford’s highest honor.

According to Rice’s sons Scott, Tim and Jeff, their father’s goal was to work with KOA Speer for the benefit of Pitt-Bradford and the community.

“It’s too bad he couldn’t see his dream come true for Pitt-Bradford to offer engineering programs,” Scott Rice said.


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