Photo of awardee

Richard B. Rivir

Senior Scientist, Aircraft Propulsion,
Aerospace Systems Directorate,
Air Force Research Laboratory

In recognition of his longstanding technical leadership in propulsion focused on the fundamental understanding of the relationship between aerodynamics and heat transfer behavior.

Richard B. Rivir has enjoyed an incredible, 53-year career in one place, something today’s engineering graduates may have difficulty duplicating.

“Technologies are changing at such a rate that current grads will change disciplines and jobs much more frequently,” he says. “I suggest finding a discipline you love and enjoy and go where the action is!”

Rivir has been with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate in electric propulsion, plans, advanced propulsion, and turbines.

He is an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Fellow; served on Von Karman Institute’s Technical Advisory Committee; chaired the International Gas Turbine Heat Transfer Committee; and was a National Research Council advisor and research advisor for over 100 graduate students. He currently serves on the Purdue Aerospace and Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories advisory boards.

“Purdue provided a wonderful experience and some of my fondest memories,” he recalls. “My father would have loved the career I have. He taught math and flying and I wish he was around to see what his choice of Purdue did for me. I think Purdue provided a better, well-rounded education; and I was exposed to more depth across aerospace than my peers. I hope I’ve been able to pass on some of the experiences I gained at Purdue to students with whom I’ve worked.”

According to Rivir, his most significant career milestone was becoming the AFRL Chief Scientist for Propulsion in 2010. “This is the position that was once held by Hans von Ohain in the 1990s. Hans designed and flew the first gas turbine engine in Germany in 1939. There is a plaque on my desk to remind me that Hans sat at this desk and I have some very high standards to live up to.”

Regarding the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus award, Rivir says, “I would put this right up there as the most significant recognition in my career — I could not ask for any higher.”

Rivir calls his Purdue experience “absolutely one of the very best times in my life. Bar none. I had wonderful instructors who were great mentors, although I’m sure none knew it. I remember Paul Lykoudis, Elmer Bruhn, George Palmer, Piston Joe Liston, and so many others who still continue to make a difference for me every day.” He adds, “I had a wonderful mentor in Rudolf Edse at OSU; however, I have no difficulty saying that any time there’s a Purdue-Ohio State competition, I root for Purdue — absolutely no question.”

At age 74, Rivir still plays tennis nearly every day. He has run nine marathons — including Boston and Stockholm, and he does some bicycling, including five trips across Iowa.

Rivir is excited about what lies ahead. “We are making really significant improvements in aircraft and propulsion that will materialize in the next decade and I would like to be a part of it.” 

Career Highlights

2010-12 Chief Scientist, Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
2001-10 Senior Scientist, Turbine Engines and Heat Transfer
1997-2001 Principal Aerospace Engineer, Turbine Aero Thermal Research
1984-97 Aerospace Engineer, Turbine Aero Thermal Research
1976 PhD AAE, The Ohio State University
1968 MSAAE, The Ohio State University
1960 BSAAE, Purdue University