Col­lege head stressed jobs over aca­demics

HENRY RIGGS, 1935 - 2015

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Steve Chawkins steve.chawkins @latimes.com

Henry E. Riggs, a for­mer pres­i­dent of Har­vey Mudd Col­lege in Clare­mont and found­ing pres­i­dent of the Keck Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute of Ap­plied Life Sciences, has died. He was 80.

Riggs, an early elec­tron­ics ex­ec­u­tive in what be­came Sil­i­con Val­ley, died June 10 at his home in Palo Alto af­ter a brief ill­ness, his son-in-law Andy McCarthy said.

As head of Har­vey Mudd and, later, the Keck Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute, Riggs em­pha­sized de­vel­op­ment of ca­reer skills in science and bio­engi­neer­ing over pure aca­demics.

Opened in 1997, the grad­u­ate school was de­signed to turn out more stu­dents with master’s de­grees than with doc­tor­ates.

“The for­ma­tion of this in­sti­tute is in part a re­sponse to the cry that the na­tion’s univer­si­ties are pro­duc­ing too many Ph.D. sci­en­tists these days, and that the train­ing they re­ceive is not well-tuned to the needs of in­dus­try,” Riggs told The Times in a 1997 in­ter­view.

He said the in­sti­tute aimed to cre­ate “a new gen­er­a­tion of bio­engi­neers with lead­ing-edge knowl­edge and a prac­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion.”

Funded ini­tially with a $50-mil­lion grant from the W.M. Keck Foun­da­tion, the in­sti­tute be­came the sev­enth school of the Clare­mont Col­leges con­sor­tium — a group com­posed of Har­vey Mudd, Clare­mont McKenna Col­lege, Pitzer Col­lege, Pomona Col­lege, Scripps Col­lege and the Clare­mont Grad­u­ate Univer­sity.

A skilled fundraiser, Riggs was a Stan­ford vice pres­i­dent in the 1980s, although he in­for­mally de­scribed him­self as the univer­sity’s “sales man­ager.” He ran a de­vel­op­ment of­fice with a staff of 190 and di­rected what the As­so­ci­ated Press in 1986 de­scribed as “the big­gest sales drive ever for an Amer­i­can univer­sity.”

Un­der Riggs, the school’s cen­ten­nial cam­paign suc­ceeded in its goal of rais­ing more than $1 bil­lion.

But Riggs also was a critic of lav­ish spend­ing and bloated fees at top col­leges.

In a 2011 New York Times op-ed piece, he said some col­leges boosted their tu­ition mostly be­cause they could — and not do­ing so, they feared, would sug­gest to the public that they weren’t first-rate schools.

He also took on col­leges that drew stu­dents by of­fer­ing “merit schol­ar­ships,” re­gard­less of their fam­i­lies’ abil­ity to pay the full freight.

In a 1996 es­say in the Los An­ge­les Times, he called the wide­spread prac­tice “un­fair and dan­ger­ous.”

“The truth is, that for the vast ma­jor­ity of in­sti­tu­tions, a dol­lar spent on merit schol­ar­ships is a dol­lar that could oth­er­wise be in­vested in sup­port of the eco­nom­i­cally de­serv­ing stu­dent,” he wrote.

Henry Earle Riggs was born in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1935, and grew up in Hins­dale, Ill.

In 1957, he grad­u­ated from Stan­ford, where he was a mem­ber of Phi Beta Kappa. Three years later, he re­ceived an MBA from Har­vard.

Early in his ca­reer, Riggs worked for the tech com­pa­nies Icore In­dus­tries, in Sun­ny­vale, and Mea­surex Corp., in Cu­per­tino. He started teach­ing at Stan­ford part time in 1967. Seven years later, he de­voted him­self to it full time, teach­ing classes in in­dus­trial ac­count­ing and en­gi­neer­ing man­age­ment. He took his Stan­ford de­vel­op­ment job in 1983 be­fore sign­ing on as Har­vey Mudd’s pres­i­dent in 1988.

At his in­au­gu­ra­tion, the school’s li­brary was dec­o­rated with a huge bow tie. Riggs had started wear­ing bow ties in the 1960s and con­tin­ued to do so through­out his aca­demic ca­reer.

He left Har­vey Mudd for the Keck grad­u­ate school in 1997 and re­tired in 2003.

Riggs bought his first boat — a 32-foot cabin-cruiser called It’s About Time — at 70. He pi­loted a round-trip voy­age to Alaska when he was 75.

“He was al­ways in­ter­ested in tak­ing on new chal­lenges,” McCarthy said.

Un­til a few weeks be­fore his death, Riggs taught a class on fundrais­ing as part of Stan­ford’s adult ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

His sur­vivors in­clude Gayle, his wife of 57 years; sis­ter Ruth Wen­del; chil­dren Betsy McCarthy, Peter Riggs and Katie Riggs; and six grand­chil­dren.

Darryl Bush As­so­ci­ated Press

EX­EC­U­TIVE TURNED ED­U­CA­TOR A one­time tech ex­ec­u­tive, Henry E. Riggs was found­ing pres­i­dent of the Keck Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute of Ap­plied Life Sciences.

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