Congratulations to University of Utah College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown, who has been installed as the inaugural chairholder of the H.E Thomas Presidential Endowed Dean’s Chair. He was honored during a presentation last month hosted by U President Ruth Watkins and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Daniel A. Reed.

“I deeply appreciate the honor that my friend, Ed Thomas, has brought to me and to the College of Engineering by endowing the deanship,” Brown said. “Ed is an engineer at heart—a builder, an inventor, and a problem solver.”

A longtime supporter of the college, H.E. “Ed” Thomas is a self-made entrepreneur who rose from a humble background through a lifetime of hard work, perseverance, and self-reliance. He built a successful construction company which led to a series of investments in commercial and industrial land development. In 2006, he created a need-based scholarship endowment for students from his hometown of Springville, Utah. In establishing the $4 million endowed deanship, Thomas wishes to honor the contributions of the present dean and help preserve and advance a tradition of excellence in the College of Engineering in perpetuity.

U President Ruth Watkins, SVP Dan Reed and COE Dean Richard Brown at a presentation for the H.E Thomas Presidential Endowed Dean’s Chair.

“His generous donation will help ensure the college’s financial vitality and enable it to take advantage of emerging opportunities as it continues to provide the workforce and ideas that drive Utah’s tech economy,” Brown added.

Dean Richard B. Brown has presided over the growth and transformation of the University of Utah College of Engineering for 16 years. He received BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Brigham Young University, and following a six-­year career in industry, an EE Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Dr. Brown began his academic career at the University of Michigan, where he developed UM’s integrated circuit design program while conducting research in microprocessor design, silicon­-based sensors, and brain probes. He returned to the University of Utah as dean of engineering in 2004.

U President Ruth Watkins at a presentation for Dean Richard B. Brown.

Dean Brown holds 21 patents and authored more than 225 peer-reviewed publications. He is a founder of four companies, i-SENS, Sensicore, Mobius Microsystems, and e-SENS. A fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, he was awarded the Utah Governor’s Medal for Excellence in Science and Technology. In 2018, he received the University of Utah’s highest honor, the Rosenblatt Prize.

With an unwavering commitment to academic excellence, Dean Brown has been recognized for the transformation of the engineering campus, tripling the student enrollment, and doubling the size of the College of Engineering faculty. During his tenure as dean, the number of peer-reviewed publications rose from 398 to 1,222 per year, and externally-funded engineering research expenditures grew from $30 million to $97 million per year. Facing unprecedented demand from industry, the College has increased the number of degrees awarded from 484 to more than 1,100 per year. At the same time, the percentage of the university’s incoming students who are choosing engineering or computer science majors has risen from 7% to 23%.

H.E. “Ed” Thomas

Attendees at a presentation for Dean Richard B. Brown watch a video address from H.E. “Ed” Thomas.

From his first job driving a tractor at age seven, through a progression of business ventures, Ed’s philosophy has been, “Never give up.” Hard-working and industrious, Ed had business interests that ranged from owning a gas station, to a cement company, and ultimately, a construction company. In his later years, Ed succeeded in real estate and commercial land development.

Fifteen years ago, Ed developed a deep-seated friendship with Dean Richard Brown while attempting to solve an engineering problem related to ship design. An engineer at heart, he also flew and maintained his own airplane. He believes strongly in Dean Brown’s leadership and his commitment to provide educational opportunities for students. The Presidential Endowed Dean’s Chair represents the culmination of Ed’s lifetime achievements, characterized by overcoming challenges and making life better.

Click below to see a video of the presentation honoring Dean Brown.