Richard Desautel

Emeriti ProfessorDr. Desautel



  • Ph.D. Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering, Stanford University, 1975
  • M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Santa Clara, 1969
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 1964


Dr. Desautel was an intelligence analyst of foreign missile and satellite systems, specializing in ballistic missile flight mechanics and reentry systems during the Cold War. He worked as a flight test analysis engineer for Lockheed Missiles & Space Company (1966-1974) and as a senior engineer for ESL (1974-1982).  He joined the SJSU Mechanical Engineering Department as a lecturer in 1974 and then as an Associate Professor in 1982.  In 1985 he was asked by Dr. Jay Pinson, Dean of Engineering, to develop the Department of Aerospace Engineering and recruited the founding Aerospace Engineering faculty team consisting of Dr. Mourtos (joined in 1987), Ms. Jeanine Hunter (joined in 1989), and Dr. Pernicka (joined in 1990).

The BSAE Program was fully established and accredited by 1990 and already had more than 400 majors in 1991. The practice oriented MSAE Program was implemented in 1992. The rapid development and innovations in aerospace curriculum and laboratories were reported to enthusiastic response in a series of papers presented at ASEE and IEEE engineering education conferences.  The outstanding success of the new BSAE Program reflected in Dr. Desautel’s 1993 Leland Atwood Award for Outstanding Aerospace Educator from the Aerospace Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.  Since then, the Aerospace Engineering Department has thrived at both degree levels, producing well-trained engineers for the local aerospace industry and beyond.

Dr. Desautel also served as interim chair for the Civil Engineering Department. He retired in 2004 after receiving the McCoy Family Faculty Award for Excellence in Service from the College of Engineering but has returned several times to serve the College in various roles, such as, for example, as interim chair for the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department in AY 2011-2012.