Lee Ritchey ’67 (Electrical and Electronic Engineering)

2015 Distinguished Service Award Recipient 

Lee Ritchey

The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the success and impact of Sacramento State through its alumni. Lee Ritchey was chosen for his services toward the Hornet community and beyond.

When Lee Ritchey ’67 (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) gazes up at the moon at night he can beam with pride, though it’s not in
his nature.

Ritchey reached an incredible professional peak just two years after graduating from Sac State, designing an advanced transistor radio for the Apollo missions. His handiwork was a part of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s moon landing.

“It was unbelievable,” says Ritchey, who is being honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the Sac State Alumni Association. “I thought, ‘I’m going to work in aerospace and they have the best engineers,’ but I was the only one who knew how to design transistors. There are six or seven of them on the moon right now.”

Ritchey may have never had the opportunity to work on the historic project were it not for his tenacity. After serving in the Air Force he was discharged and made plans to attend Sac State but his enrollment paperwork was lost. He sat outside the office of Donald Bailey, the dean of students, for three days waiting to plead his case.

“On the fourth day (Bailey) said, ‘You’re not going away are you?’” Ritchey says. “I said I had nowhere to go. He took my paperwork around and got me enrolled and then told me, ‘We need people like you in student government.’”

Ritchey followed the dean’s advice, serving as student body vice president while taking 22 units as a senior. It was a hectic year, but he learned to work with a wide range of constituents and developed management skills that he’s relied on throughout his career.

He landed the prestigious job on NASA’s Apollo project in Palo Alto, but when it abruptly ended in 1971, moving on proved challenging.

“It was a monstrous letdown,” Ritchey says.

His hard work and unyielding thirst for knowledge helped him succeed in ultracompetitive Silicon Valley. He worked for many startup companies, including Shared Resources, which he founded in 1982. He started his latest venture, Speeding Edge, in 1994. It’s a one-man operation that sends Ritchey all over the world teaching the ins and outs of his specialty—printed circuit board design, or PCB. Ritchey has published three books on the subject and is considered one of the world’s leading experts.

How does one stay relevant with an electrical and electronic engineering degree that is almost 50 years old?

“The hard truth is, what you learn in four years of college is how to learn,” Ritchey says. “I tell students all the time, the good news about being an electrical engineer is you won’t be doing the same thing for 30 years. The bad news is, there’s something new you have to do every day. If you thought you were done learning, you’re in the wrong place.”

Ritchey visits the Sac State campus often. He’s arranged field trips to Bay Area companies and he’s hired dozens of Hornets throughout his career.

As for earning the title of “Distinguished Alumni,” the self-effacing Ritchey says he is honored and surprised.

“I just did my job,” he says. “My contribution was I hired a bunch of Sac State students over the years and I smeared their good name across the world. I’m honored to be joining a group of prominent people.”