Major CoE Donor Richard Auhll Receives UCSB Honorary Alumnus Award

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Richard Auhll, a longtime member of the Dean’s Cabinet for UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering (CoE) and a key donor, has received the 2020 Honorary Alumnus Award from the UCSB Alumni Association. He funded the Auhll Professor and Dean of Engineering Endowed Chair and the Auhll Engineering Student Center. He participated in the UC President’s Engineering Advisory Council for all UC campuses, is a UCSB Gold Circle donor, and was the chairman of the UCSB Foundation.
“We congratulate Richard Auhll on this well-deserved honor. We are grateful for his tremendous leadership and sustained support of the college and university,” said Rod Alferness, the Richard A. Auhll Professor and Dean of the College of Engineering. “A longtime supporter of the college, Richard’s generous gifts enable the college to support innovative educational programs and highly impactful pioneering research for which we are extremely thankful.”
Auhll majored in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, then landed a job as a rocket engineer in the Advanced Design Group of United Technologies Corporation’s Rocket Division in the San Francisco Bay area. While there, he earned a master’s in aerospace engineering from Stanford. Later, he left to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School, where a new goal came into focus: “heading a high-tech company on the West Coast.” He moved to California and was hired by UCSB benefactor Harold Frank to lead one of his companies, Circon Corporation, which made ultra-miniature tools for microscope work on computer memories.
Auhll eventually purchased Circon and refocused it, based on his own market intelligence gathering, to manufacture the world’s smallest surgical instruments. That led to developing the world’s smallest color video-camera systems, which were connected to video monitors and used for teaching and to conduct micro-surgical eye and brain procedures. The micro-video system revolutionized endoscopy by allowing surgeons to use both eyes to view their procedures through ultra-small incisions magnified on color video screens, rather than squinting into a single eyepiece.
The UCSB Alumni Association established its award program in 1960 to honor outstanding alumni and friends of the university. The awards program has evolved over the years to honor success, service, and philanthropy. The Honorary Alumnus Award was added in 1970 when it was presented to Theodore Harder, the UC Santa Barbara football coach. In the last fifty-nine years, UCSB Alumni has honored more than two hundred individuals. As the excellence of UCSB and its alumni have grown, these awards have highlighted the men and women who have brought distinction to their alma mater. Read Auhll’s profile and about other 2020 Alumni winners who were featured in the Fall 2020 issue of Coastlines by clicking here
Convergence spoke with the Champion of Engineering last September, and asked him what motivated his tremendous contributions to UCSB and the College of Engineering over the years. He replied:“I am a true believer in higher education because of the very substantial benefits I have derived from it, especially as I was the first in my family to attend college. I believe that my success has been grounded in the knowledge, analytical thinking, and self-confidence I developed during my university education. I support the universities where I earned my degrees, and I also support UCSB due to the intellectual stimulation and the warm friendships I’ve developed with professors and staff over time. I believe in what they’re doing here.,” Auhll said. To read the entire interview in Convergence click here, then scroll to page 12.  

RIchard Auhll, 2020 Honorary Alumnus Award from the UCSB Alumni Association