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Altenkirch named president of UAHuntsville

Published 2:57pm Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Robert A. Altenkirch, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has been chosen to lead The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System voted unanimously for his appointment in a meeting today on the UAHuntsville campus.

Altenkirch

With extensive expertise in combustion and microgravity research, Dr. Altenkirch was the principal investigator on 10 space shuttle experiments and has close ties to the astrophysics and solar physics communities.  NJIT is recognized for breakthrough research in those disciplines and operates the Big Bear (California) Solar Observatory in addition to a dedicated array of solar radio telescopes at the Owens Valley (California) Radio Observatory.  During his nine-year tenure at NJIT, he led improvements in the quality of student life, emphasized private fundraising and alumni relations, and strengthened the recruitment of high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds.

“Dr. Altenkirch brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience in areas that are crucial to UAHuntsville and the city’s continued growth,” said UA System Trustee Finis St. John IV, who chaired the Presidential search committee.  “Filling the position of president was the Board of Trustees’ highest priority. We believe Bob Altenkirch is a strong leader who will be great for this university, the community and the state of Alabama.”

UA System Chancellor Malcolm Portera said Altenkirch’s leadership skills, his focus on student success and ability to strengthen research are an excellent fit for UAHuntsville.

“From the outset of this search process, we surveyed the entire faculty, staff and student body to hear what they were looking for in UAHuntsville’s next president,” Dr. Portera said. “This is a very special place with rare opportunities for growth. Dr. Altenkirch’s background is an ideal match for the interests of this campus, and in this city. I an extremely proud to recommend him as UAHuntsville’s sixth president.”

Since Dr. Altenkirch became NJIT president in 2002, the campus’ research program has doubled in size, and ranked among the 25 fastest-growing research programs in the nation.

Under Dr. Altenkirch’s leadership, the university has made significant investments in new research facilities to give students the competitive edge necessary in today’s global high-tech marketplace. NJIT is ranked in the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report, and fall 2011 enrollment is 9,500, a record for that university.

During his tenure at NJIT, contract and grant awards increased more than 100 percent, and the endowment’s corpus has grown more than 60 percent.

Dr. Altenkirch previously served as Vice President for Research at Mississippi State University (1998-2002), where he is credited with building the foundation for unparalleled growth in MSU’s research program. Before his arrival, science and engineering expenditures, as reported to the National Science Foundation (NSF), totaled $84 million. For 2010, MSU’s NSF-reported expenditures reached $215 million.

He was Dean of Engineering at MSU (1988-1995) when the NSF awarded the institution the Engineering Research Center (ERC) designation. The ERC has become a nationally prominent center for computational fluid dynamics research and applications. While at MSU, Dr. Altenkirch helped lead development of the Thad Cochran Science Park, a multi-tenant incubator facility, and was instrumental in securing a $1 billion Nissan investment for the state.

Dr. Altenkirch earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University, an M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue.   He and his wife Beth have two adult children.

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