2005 Honorary Degree
James D. Raisbeck
James D. Raisbeck has distinguished himself in aviation by combining a keen engineering ingenuity with a spirit of entrepreneurship that is unique in the modern-day aerospace industry.
He is the founder and chief executive officer of Raisbeck Engineering Inc. and Raisbeck Commercial Air Group Inc., both in Seattle. The two companies focus on integrating advanced technology into existing aircraft in ways that increase their productivity and profitability.
Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, Raisbeck earned his bachelor of science degree in aeronautical and aerospace engineering from Purdue in 1961 after spending parts of three years (1955-58) as a flight engineer for the U.S. Air Force. Soon after graduation, he went to work for the Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle as a research aerodynamicist, designing flaps.
In 1969, Raisbeck left Boeing when he was offered a job as president, chairman and chief engineer for Robertson Aircraft Corporation, where he teamed up with other former Boeing engineers to design single- and twin-engine Pipers and Cessnas.
Four years later, he founded his first company, Raisbeck Engineering, Inc., which has shaped several business turbine aircraft designs, including designing and producing the first supercritical wings to be used in general and commercial aviation. Raisbeck Engineering has equipped more than 3,000 business aircraft currently in service.
In 1996, he started Raisbeck Commercial Air Group, which specializes in designing noise-reduction systems for commercial aircraft needing to meet stiffer federal regulations. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the company began producing armored cockpit security systems that could be installed in existing commercial airliners.
Raisbeck serves on the boards of the Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Arts Fund, and the Museum of Flight, as well as on several corporate boards. His philanthropy includes multimillion-dollar grants to Purdue University, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, Cornish College of the Arts and the United Way, as well as to the ballet and opera. He has been honored many times for his professional accomplishments and philanthropy.