Charles H. Kruger is professor emeritus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Kruger is an internationally recognized researcher of physical gas dynamics, partially ionized plasmas, plasma chemistry, and plasma diagnostics. He is also highly regarded for his transformational leadership as an administrator, having spent half his Stanford career in senior administrative positions, including Vice Provost and Dean of Research and Graduate Policy (1993-2003).
In the first interview, Kruger describes growing up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, rebuilding a Model A Ford while in high school, and his early interests in mechanical engineering. He relates his undergraduate experiences at the University of Oklahoma and at MIT, where he gained laboratory experience and was awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Kruger recounts his decision to use the fellowship at the Imperial College of Science & Technology in London where he was exposed to the field of biology, built his first computer, and developed his interest in fluid mechanics and thermal dynamics. Kruger, explains his decision to pursue his PhD at MIT, his thesis on the axial-flow compressor in the free-molecule range, and his transition from being an assistant professor at MIT to working for Lockheed.
Kruger relates the series of events that led him to join Stanford as an assistant professor in mechanical engineering in 1962. He depicts the state of the university and the Mechanical Engineering Department at the time and explains his research in magentohydrodynamics in the High Temperature Gasdynamics Laboratory. He goes on to discuss teaching and working with students from a variety of backgrounds and emphasizes the value in learning to tackle new problems in new ways. Kruger speaks about the issue of having defense research on campus and his own research on air pollution.
In the next interview, Kruger talks about preparing the textbooks, Introduction to Physical Gas Dynamics with Walter G. Vincenti and Partially Ionized Gases with Morton Mitchner. He delves deeper into his inter-departmental collaborations, including his research with Richard Zare in the Chemistry Department. While serving as department chair of Mechanical Engineering from 1982 to 1988, he describes encouraging interaction between the divisions, dissolving the nuclear engineering program, and the evolution of the design division. Kruger also points to his involvement with air pollution as a discipline and experience on the hearing board of the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District. He explains how serving as senior associate dean of engineering led him to realize the importance of undergraduate teaching to the success of the university. Kruger alludes to the story of David Kelley, the founder of the D School, and his track to tenure at Stanford. He also briefly describes serving as chair of the Faculty Senate from 1990 to 1991 and the challenges he tackled, including the indirect cost crisis.
In the third and final interview, Kruger speaks of becoming Dean of Research and Graduate Policy in 1993, encouraging undergraduate research, and promoting collaboration between departments with the Graduate Fellowship Program. He describes the change within the administration at the time, working with the Office of Technology Licensing, and managing issues regarding federal funding. He then delves into the early stages of the Bio-X program when he worked with John Hennessy and others to bolster interaction between the Medical School and other parts of the university. The James H. Clark Center was one of the products of their efforts. Kruger concludes his interview with a discussion of the future directions of training and education, his experience running Bio-X after becoming emeriti faculty, and the overall strengthening of Stanford.
Charles H. Kruger, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, higher education, professors, interdisciplinary research, and federal funding
March 2, 2015 - April 1, 2015
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012