Professor Emeritus W. Ray Rummell, who taught industrial technology for 37 years, passed away January 30. He was 84.
Born December 27, 1935, he grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and at 15 moved to the small college town of California, Pennsylvania, where he developed his strong work ethic and lifelong love of hunting and fishing. He then hitchhiked to Colorado to attend Trinidad State Junior College, where he earned his associate’s degree. He served in the US Army, primarily as a rifle range officer training sharpshooters, before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Northern Colorado. He went on to work as a production supervisor in a machine lab serving Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque while also attending the University of New Mexico.
In 1968, Chico State hired Rummell to put together the University’s industrial technology program. He ultimately designed and built the program curriculum, specified all the machinery and equipment, and supervised its launch, while going on to build a legacy as a respected and impassioned professor.
“Ray was extremely passionate about hands-on manufacturing education and was a champion for student success and recognition,” said retired Dean Mike Ward, who also served as department chair and associate dean during Rummell’s decades on campus. “He has left a strong legacy for manufacturing education at Chico State.”
Rummell, who earned his doctorate from Arizona State University in 1970, enjoyed prolific success in soliciting donations and writing grants to not only purchase the software and equipment to start the program but to ensure it continued to be state-of-the-art. He also worked closely with industry to ensure curriculum was on track and to find career pathways for graduates, and secured thousands of dollars in industry-sponsored student scholarships.
“That’s what he always looked for—a piece of the puzzle to come together,” said business professor Bill Maligie (Manufacturing Technology, ’81), noting the philosophy was as true for manufacturing as it was for educating students.
He knew him first as a professor, then as a colleague, and later as a friend. Rummell greatly respected the synergy between their different areas of expertise and they collaborated often on projects and assignments, Maligie said, fondly recalling a promotional frisbee they once made with the University’s name on it.
“He was very thorough, extremely organized, and he was there to help students whenever you needed it,” he said, noting the hoist-winch he made in Rummell’s introductory class remains a prized possession, hanging in his garage to this day.
Sustainable manufacturing professor Scott Brogden (Industrial Arts, ’90) said he felt quite privileged to take his mentor’s place when Rummell retired in 2005, although he “left huge shoes that I could never fill.”
“Ray was an extremely dedicated professor who gave 110 percent to teaching. He spent many hours both in class and outside teaching students the right way to manufacture products,” Brogden said, noting that Rummell’s support did not end at graduation. “He helped me land my first job at Makino, Inc., which was truly a dream for me. He visited my family and toured Makino twice during the six years I lived in Ohio, and when I decided to come back to California, he helped me get my next job as a manufacturing engineer at Spectra-Physics Lasers in Oroville.”
Rummell was responsible for sending graduates into the workforce who outperformed their peers from better-known institutions because of their pointed and precise knowledge, Maligie said. In doing so, he not only made them leaders within their field but established a reputation for the University, too.
“In my mind, one of the good things about being a professor is when you make enough of an impact on a student that years later, they make an effort to come back and thank you and say, ‘I am where I am today because of what you did,’” Maligie said. “As a testimony to Ray, that happened a lot for him.”
Rummell started a local chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), served in all of its officer positions as well as chair of the local region, and was elected international director. He was also faculty advisor of the Chico State SME student chapter, and among his proudest career moments were the many times they won the Grand Prize at the SME CAD/CAM Robotics Challenge Contest, a major collegiate competition that he was instrumental in creating and managed for seven years. After his retirement, he was asked to continue managing it and enjoyed doing so for 12 years.
During his career, he received more than 30 awards from SME, the Foundry Educational Foundation, the American Foundry Society, and the National Association of Industrial Technology.
Away from campus, he enjoyed hunting and fishing, especially late-night sturgeon fishing, and telling his life stories to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was also an avid tennis player, and he played the Northern California circuit for more than two decades, winning numerous singles and doubles titles.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lillie; children Shelley Presnell and Raymond Rummell, and Lori Sullivan; grandchildren Kala Sullivan, Matthew Sullivan, Christopher Wise-Presnell and Patrick Presnell; great-grandchildren Lillie and Mya McClintock and Irene Presnell; and brothers Fred W. Rummell and George Rummell.
Interment will be private. A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 8, at the family home at 2 Cottage Circle in Chico. The family asks that any memorial contributions in his name be directed to the University’s W. Ray Rummell Scholarship.
The University flag will be lowered Thursday, February 6, in his memory.