Flying Under the Radar - Opportunities for future generations

Richard and Joan Houser
Richard E. Houser is known as the “father of the cruise missile,” but to hear him tell it, he was simply part of a team.

Before he became a star of avionics, Houser was a small-town boy from Garrett, Indiana. He became an Eagle Scout and earned a merit scholarship that enabled him to go to Purdue. He was a member of Scabbard and Blade, Alpha Phi Omega and Eta Kappa Nu while at Purdue. 

Houser graduated with a BS in electrical engineering in 1940, went to work as a project engineer for General Motors, and married his high school sweetheart, Joan. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted and ordered to report to Cruft Laboratories at Harvard University. There, he quickly found fellow Purdue grads and was given Harvard and MIT training in a little something new (and top secret) called radar. 

Houser remembered being in his room, studying, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He served two active duty tours with the Army/Air Force. His main responsibilities in World War II were installation and maintenance of ground and airborne radar equipment, and research and development of missile guidance.  

During the Korean War, Houser served as a major and branch chief for weapon delivery systems in the Radiation Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). 

He later worked as a research engineer, guidance systems, Special Projects Laboratory; branch chief, Aircraft Radiation Laboratory; and division chief, Electronic Warfare Division, WPAFB. He was responsible for the development and production of complete avionics systems for the B-52, F-105, F-104, B-58C/KC 135, and F-111 aircraft. 

Richard E. Houser died September 12, 2009, at the age of 91.  His family has established a Presidential Scholarship in his honor. The first scholarship will be awarded during the current academic year and presented to a student based on Future Purdue Engineer of 2020 attributes and success factors.

Sons Steve, Mark and Kent stated, “Our wishes, as well as our father’s, are that this scholarship will help educate individuals in the engineering field and allow them to change people’s lives — as our father did. He loved and was proud of his years at Purdue and remained interested in the University throughout his life.”’

Even while living in Ohio, Richard flew the Purdue flag for every football game: “Not a good thing to do right around Ohio State,” Mark said, “but I’m pretty sure that when Purdue would win, he would make sure that flag was just a little bit higher.”