By James B. Reed.
A friend and former colleague at NCSL, Frank Kreith of Boulder, Colo., passed away recently.
Kreith served as a science and technology fellow at NCSL from 1988 until 2002.
During his tenure here, Frank was a mentor to so many of us who worked on environment, energy and transportation issues. I was privileged to work with him on a number of intriguing projects during his 13 years at NCSL.
Frank was quite accomplished as an academic, an author and university professor when he came to NCSL. His impressive resume and warm personality allowed him to patiently and kindly tutor us in many aspects of the science-public policy nexus. He was also very open to learning from us, many of whom were several decades his junior. In 2016, he was awarded the AAES 2017 John Fritz Medal, a distinction previously earned by the likes of Alexander Bell, George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison and President Herbert Hoover.
One project I especially enjoyed with Frank was in his role as the editor-in-chief of the CRC Handbook of Mechanical Engineering, 1998 edition. He asked me and a colleague to submit a chapter for publication in this handbook on the topic of intelligent transportation systems. It was a privilege working with him on this project, getting his feedback and encouragement.
When I received my complimentary copy of the book, I was astonished at the breadth of the publication. It covered 20 mechanical engineering topics, filling more than 3,000 pages, and involving over 160 authors. I still have it and it must weigh 10 or 15 pounds.
Another project on which I worked closely with him in 1998-1999, was the Ground Transportation for the 21st Century conference, featuring a deep dive into cutting-edge ground transportation technology and policy developments.
The conference was way ahead of its time in examining electric vehicles, hybrids, fuel cells and alternative fuel vehicles. It also looked at public transportation advancements, telecommuting, and the marriage of computers, communications and automotive technology. The outcomes of this conference were shared widely in a book of the same name published by NCSL in 1999.
Frank really helped us at NCSL and our many legislative constituents to think more carefully about emerging technology trends and the consequent public policy impacts. The seeds planted by Frank’s work here gave us an appreciation of and sensitivity to the monumental coming changes that we now see in full bloom as we anticipate the introduction of highly-automated vehicles and other transportation technology advancements.
On a personal level, Frank was warm and caring and interested in what each of us thought about this or that. He hosted us for gatherings at his lovely Boulder home along with his wonderful wife, Marion. Due to some issues with his back, he was an early proponent and adopter of the standing office desk, which is now standard in many offices.
His contributions to NCSL both personally and professionally were much appreciated and he will be greatly missed.
James B. Reed directs the Environment, Energy and Transportation Program at NCSL.