April 3, 2023

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

I am saddened to share with you the news that Professor Robert Rinker, a founding faculty member of our Department of Chemical Engineering, passed away in February. A devoted professor and accomplished researcher, he was instrumental in charting the department’s course to become the internationally renowned chemical engineering program it is today.

Professor Rinker came to UC Santa Barbara in 1965. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees at Caltech, where he also taught and conducted research as an assistant professor. An engineer widely known for his early work on catalyst/reactor design, he was the first faculty member in our campus’s fledgling Department of Chemical Engineering.

A revered instructor, mentor and colleague, Professor Rinker served as chair of the department from 1973 to 1978. Over the course of his teaching career, he was, on more than one occasion, the recipient of his department’s Professor of the Year award, which exemplifies the high esteem in which he was held by students and colleagues alike. An advocate of education for all, he championed our MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) University Program, encouraging students from diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue degrees in science and engineering.

Though he retired in 1992, Professor Rinker remained active at the University as an emeritus professor and by serving as associate dean of the College of Engineering until 2005. He is remembered for his enthusiasm, his passion for teaching, and his mentorship of generations of undergraduate students. Professor Rinker’s legacy continues in the Robert G. Rinker Chemical Engineering Teaching Laboratory, made possible by a $1 million endowment established and funded by UC Santa Barbara alumni, and the department's Robert G. Rinker Founder's Chair, currently held by Professor Michael Gordon.

The significance of Professor Rinker’s contributions to the field of chemical engineering are far-reaching and a source of pride for our campus. The impact of his scientific work will never be forgotten; nor will the essential role he played in advancing our University, and in establishing UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Chemical Engineering as one of the top in the country.

Our hearts are with Professor Rinker’s wife, Dayle, their three children, and their families. Our campus flag was lowered in Professor Rinker’s honor on March 29.


Henry T. Yang