Lasting Tribute

When Richard T. Hartzell (BSME ’57), died of cancer in 2006, his longtime friend Larry Miller wasn't ready to say goodbye. Instead, he funded an engineering scholarship in the hope that Hartzell's spirit—his excellence in engineering and his dedication to family and community—would live on in future engineers.

What makes this a remarkable story is that donor Larry Miller has no connection to Purdue. He was simply so moved by his friend's accomplishments that he endowed Hartzell's alma mater with the four-year renewable scholarship for undergraduates.

Hartzell spent his career as an automotive engineer. He was driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for life. After Purdue, he joined the Air Force in 1959 as a lieutenant and put his engineering skills to work studying maintenance procedures, drafting guidelines, and creating training manuals for the upkeep of the fleet. He joined Pontiac Motors in 1962 in the experimental and testing department and moved in 1984 to Nissan Motors USA as vice president of service.

Hartzell's creative spirit and curiosity drove him to explore many fields beyond engineering. They ranged from education—he obtained an MBA—to antiques and real estate, and from farming to classical music. He was active in his community of Orchard Lake, Michigan, serving on the city council and as mayor of Orchard Lake. A hunter and nature lover, he helped write development codes to preserve the natural beauty of the area and its lakes and wetlands. He was also involved at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church as a trustee and curator of the art collection.

Miller and Hartzell met over tennis and played regularly for 30 years. They also shared a love of engineering. “We were both passionate about what we did, and we respected each other's interests,” Miller says.

Ann Hartzell says she and the couple’s four children were moved by the show of friendship for her late husband. “What a wonderful tribute to Dick and to their friendship,” she says. “I know that Dick never expected to receive such an honor. What a tremendous legacy.”

Lindsay Van Esler, who in the fall will enter her sophomore year in civil engineering, is one of the first recipients of the Hartzell Scholarship. She hopes to use her education to do something for the environment, possibly in green building. The scholarship, she says, has given her the freedom to study at a top engineering program and engage in the Engineering Student Council and her sorority without worrying about a part-time job. As a student, Hartzell shared similar interests, as a member of the Student Union Board and spending time outside the classroom with his fraternity.

Van Esler, a Missouri native, seems to fit the description of a Hartzell scholar, who in the words of Ann Hartzell, should understand that “one never knows what life will bring; uses the skills they have been given to the best of their abilities; enjoys life; has fun; accepts challenges and learns from them; and values faith, family, and friends.”

–Linda Terhune