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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2006

Founder of WSU aviation center dies

August 12, 2006

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— Fred Sudermann, who helped found the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University, has died. He was 73.

Sudermann died Wednesday, three weeks after he was diagnosed with advanced stages of pancreatic cancer.

Friends and colleagues remembered Sudermann for helping to establish the university's tradition of academic research.

As executive assistant to then-Wichita State president Warren Armstrong, Sudermann was put in charge of efforts to strengthen aviation research and support services at the university. The result was the National Institute for Aviation Research, which opened in 1985.

The 120,000-square-foot-facility has a full-time staff of 120 and nearly 100 students and graduate teaching assistants. Research projects includes efforts to improve aviation safety and performance.

"It will be one of his legacies as we go forward," said John Tomblin, executive director of the institute. "NIAR experienced a significant amount of growth through the state of Kansas, and Fred was instrumental in that."

Often his work was conducted on the golf course where he excelled at building friendships and raising money.

"I never realized how much work he could do playing golf," Tomblin said. "It ended up being four hours of straight work."

Sudermann was credited for increasing the amount of grants the university received by millions of dollars.

"If research doesn't go hand-in-hand with education, you only have half a university," said Gerald "Skip" Loper, former associate vice president for research at Wichita State.

His deep affection for the university was evident to all.

"His love for Wichita State was second only to his family and friends," his son, Mark Sudermann, said.

Family members also recalled his love of creating art. His home is filled with his handiwork, which includes a carved wooden owl, dozens of painted rocks and a giant bobblehead dog that dwells in the backyard.

He is survived by his wife, Jane, five children and eight grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for 3 p.m. today at University Congregational Church.

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