There is no set formula for how personal interaction results in a lasting impact, but for H. Ronald Miller (BSAE ’61, MSAE’62) one such impact took root in crossing paths with a new faculty member, who had an interesting idea and a challenging problem. Prof. Vince Muirhead started on the KUAE faculty in 1961, the same year Ron graduated with his Bachelor’s degree. Prof. Muirhead had what Ron describes as a “very practical engineering background,” with time as a naval aviator (Vince flew 34 types of aircraft including Hellcats, Wildcats, Corsairs, and helicopters) and then graduate studies in supersonic aerodynamics. It is worth noting that Vince was a young naval officer stationed on the U.S.S. Maryland, anchored next to the U.S.S. Arizona, on December 7, 1941.
Vince was excited about a new line of analytical and experimental research for airflow over electrically charged wedges, and Ron shared that excitement. In a time where Aerospace Engineering was pushing boundaries of speed, performance and angle of attack, creative solutions to maintaining attached flow were required. Ron and Vince found themselves pursuing solutions together as Ron worked this topic as a Master’s thesis, using high voltage surface charges on a wedge shaped model in supersonic flow to influence the ionized boundary layer with electrical forces. The ultimate goal was to find a way to maintain attached flow at higher angles of attack.
Ron credits this collaboration for resulting in his first “dream job,” which actually ended up becoming a series of dream jobs. Ron started his career with the Douglas Aerophysics Laboratory, based in large part, he believes, because of his MS line of research. Douglas at the time was developing an experimental capability for a Hypersonic Impulse Tunnel (HIT), and Ron’s experience was directly relevant to this new field. His ~5 years with Douglas led to another ~5 years working with NASA, DoD and other customers at the Lockheed Aerospace Sciences Laboratory, as a Scientist Associate for both analytical and experimental projects. The passion for these early days is as evident today as it was then, as is his appreciation for the influence of Prof. Muirhead and those early experiments.
Ron later received his MBA with a Finance major in 1971, at a time when the research portfolios and private laboratories of the major airframers were in decline. As an avid personal investor, Ron realized his analytical skills, programming skills and love of problem solving were also well suited to observing and leveraging technical trends in financial markets. This led him to developing predictive analytics models which have sustained him for 48 years (and counting) in his current dream job as Managing Director, Investments with the Investment Planning and Management Group in Atlanta of Raymond James & Associates.
Ron and Vince stayed in touch through the years, with their last talk just a few months after Vince’s 100th birthday, when they had a good discussion about Vince’s KU career and this scholarship fund. When Vince sadly passed on April 30, 2019, Ron and his wife Sandra established a scholarship fund through KU Endowment in his honor. This fund will support the next generation of Aerospace Engineers as they start their path to their dream job(s), and will introduce a new generation of Aerospace Engineers to the sustained influence of Prof. Vince Muirhead.