Dear Prof. Richards:
When I was still a teenager, you were my undergraduate advisor at the University of New Mexico (UNM). While seated in your office surrounded by rubber chickens, whoopee cushions, and other fanciful toys (which you had because of your side hobby of being a clown), I asked: “How can I know if I will ultimately enjoy a career in Mechanical Engineering?” You replied: “If you are willing to graduate one or two semesters late, then you can find the answer to that question by doing a co-op student internship.” To prepare me for this opportunity, your first action was to help me get a local internship at the Air Force Research Laboratory (then named Weapons Laboratory) at Kirtland AFB. You made telephone calls and otherwise worked your magic to get me into a co-op during the next summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I quickly came to realize that it was the PhDs who were doing the most interesting and self-directed work. I also learned at Los Alamos that educated people have the self-discipline to NOT SMOKE CIGARETTES and to NOT USE SWEAR WORDS. My supervisor at Los Alamos furthermore advised me to go back to UNM and take as many classes as possible from Buck Schreyer, which likewise delightfully shaped my career. Thus, Prof. Richards, you deserve more credit than anyone else for pointing me in the direction of a healthy PhD track, ultimately leading to 14 years as a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories and (most recently) as a professor of Mechanical Engineering since 2007.
I still fondly recall being the first of your students to use computer-generated graphics and laser printing in my senior research report, but that didn’t distract you from fulfilling your promise to find ten grammar/spelling errors. Did you ever fail in that quest with any other student? You were the person who graded my co-op report upon my return to UNM, where you taught me that “finite elements” is only *sometimes* hyphenated, consequently launching a campaign of my own to explain hyphenation rules to others (see, for example, my blog article https://csmbrannon.net/2013/08/04/hyphenation-in-technical-or-other-writing/).
In summary, Prof. Richards, you have profoundly influenced my life! I love you for everything you have done for me and for countless other students.
Sincerely, Rebecca Brannon