School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering Director Stephen Phillips, left, with Richard Stone, second from left, Richard’s wife Lourdes Stone, second from right, and alum Robert Garner, right, at the ASU electrical engineering alumni mixer in September 2022. Photographer Douglas Fairbairn
Richard Stone, ‘59 BSE in electrical engineering, first set foot on the ASU campus in 1956 after transferring from Phoenix College. Stone was among the first to study in ASU’s engineering program in what was then known as the College of Applied Arts and Sciences.
He would later become one of the school’s first electrical engineering graduates.
The engineering program began with the approval of a bachelor’s degree in engineering the same year that Stone came to ASU, 1956.
“Dean Lee P. Thompson and Professor George Beakley came from Texas Tech and started the School of Engineering,” Stone says. ”I took classes from both, and they were excellent teachers.”
Stone chose engineering as his major after growing up fascinated by electronics. A class in high school furthered Stone’s interest in engineering.
Contributing even more to Stone’s exposure to electronics, his father was an IBM customer engineer, a job title the company used for those who maintained and repaired its computers. This job even led Stone to get a job on campus maintaining an IBM computer.
He says the on-campus areas dedicated to engineering were often empty when he started because the program was new. General Electric rented some of this space from the college, which contained a rented IBM 704 computer.
“I would get up early each morning, walk over to the computer center, turn on the air conditioning, which was very important, then turn on all the boxes of the computer and start a system test,” Stone says.
After IBM’s customer engineers would arrive in the morning, Stone would leave for classes.
“In the afternoon after classes, I would return and do preventative maintenance on tape units and manage the parts inventory,” he adds.
Stone was also at ASU for a big moment: The announcement of the university’s name change from Arizona State College. The name change was up for a vote across the state of Arizona as ballot Proposition 200 in 1958.
“After the vote, that evening everyone on campus was summoned to the Student Union where President Grady Gammage announced from the balcony that we were now Arizona State University,” Stone says. “There was a huge roar, and everyone was so happy. I will never forget it.”
Once ASU began offering electrical engineering degrees with the addition of courses specific to electrical engineering, Stone picked the program as his focus.
He recalls that some of the GE employees taught classes at ASU. He remembers particularly enjoying a class in computer programming from GE employee Dan McCracken. The class helped Stone realize programming was what he wanted to do after college.
After graduation in 1959, Stone spent nine years in the U.S. Navy. He then joined IBM as a software engineer in 1968 and stayed at the company until retiring in 2002.
Stone notes that a lot has changed in electrical engineering and at ASU since he graduated. Despite the large changes at both the school and his career field, he’ll always treasure his time in both.
“I have very good memories from my time at ASU, and I’m so glad I went there,” Stone says.