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Honorary doctorate recipient has spent career helping engineers become industry leaders

Lee Ritchey speaks as he receives an honorary doctorate. At right is University President Robert S. Nelsen. (Sacramento State/Rachael Howery)

Lee Ritchey got a plum assignment after earning an Engineering degree from Sacramento State in 1967 and starting his career in Silicon Valley: creating a circuit board that NASA sent into space on the Apollo moon mission.

“It’s still transmitting signals today,” said Ritchey, founder and president of Speeding Edge, an international training and consulting company based in the Bay Area.

Ritchey took the skills he acquired at Sac State and wired them into a career as one of the world’s top authorities on high-speed circuit and system design. Over the years, he also has given generously of his time and money to the University.

Lee Ritchey, who helped launch the College of Engineering and Computer Science's Hornet Leadership Program in 2018, said he wants to ensure students "can get the benefit of my experience."

For his contributions, he is a 2021 recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Science degree, which was be conferred during an Aug. 11 ceremony.

Throughout his career, Ritchey has aspired to help others succeed. As he progressed in the technology industry, he discovered many young engineers lack crucial leadership skills in areas such as purchasing, marketing, and human resources.

“There were no mentors, no senior engineers to pass along these fundamental skills because people were creating things, making millions of dollars, and getting out of the business,” he said. “I thought, ‘This needs to be fixed.’ ”

Ritchey’s company, founded in 1994, offers consulting and training courses that represent “real world” challenges that engineers can apply to their current or future design projects. He has been a frequent guest lecturer at Sac State and donates to the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the Alumni Association and the Sac State Fund. He also is a member of the Dean’s Leadership Circle.

Three years ago, Ritchey helped launch the college’s Hornet Leadership Program. The program now serves hundreds of students, offering scholarships, sponsoring conferences, and linking to industry authorities.

Lorenzo Smith, a former ECS dean, wrote in a letter nominating Ritchey for an honorary doctorate that Ritchey “gives his time, treasures and talent to Sacramento State students as if it were part of his job. In doing so, he sows seeds of inspiration to others.”

Sac State gave him the foundation for a successful career in technology, Ritchey said. He cautioned, however, that “the field changes very fast,” and engineers need to continually educate and reinvent themselves.

“You’ve got to make sure you keep learning,” he said, “because tomorrow you’re going to be doing something you’ve never done before.”

Ritchey enrolled at Sac State after serving in the U.S. Air Force as an electronics specialist. His last assignment was at the former McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands.

“I decided I needed to get an Engineering degree, and right across town was this place called Sac State,” he said.

Because of an administrative mistake during registration, Ritchey initially was denied entry to the University. However, with determination and a little help from the dean’s office, he got in and went on to be a top electrical engineering student who was active in the campus community, serving as student body vice president  during his senior year.

Decades later, Ritchey still finds joy in helping young engineers succeed, he said.

“I want to make sure kids can get the benefit of my experience,” Ritchey said. “Over the years, I’ve taught more than 11,000 students. When the light bulb goes on in their heads, it’s wonderful. It only takes one, and it just makes your day.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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