Robert M. Critchfield

1890 - 1973

The ninth Endowed Professorship at the Ohio State University was established in July 1975 after the approval of the Board of Trustees. This is known as the Robert M. Critchfield Professorship in Engineering, supported by a large bequest by the late Robert M. Critchfield, EE'16, former Vice President of General Motors Corp., who died in December, 1973. Appointment to this Professorship is upon recommendation of the Dean of the College of Engineering to the Provost and with approval by the Trustees of the Ohio State University. Selection is made from the faculty of the College of Engineering, preferably from the electrical engineering faculty when the fund was initially established. Recently, a selection can also be made from computer engineering and computer science faculty. An appointment of a senior faculty to this endowed chair professorship is a special honor and recognition to the faculty's achievement as an eminent scholar and educator. Endowed chair professors are one of the highest honors bestowed on senior-level professors in U.S. universities. Income from the endowment can be used at the chairholder's discretion for various research activities.

The current holder of the Robert M. Critchfield Professorship in Engineering is Xiaodong Zhang, who is Professor and was Chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, 2006-2018, at the Ohio State University. This appointment was approved by the Board of Trustees on September 23, 2005.

Robert M. Critchfield was born in 1890 in Columbus, Ohio. He had been known as a "hard worker" since his boyhood. Young Critchfield got his first part-time job while still in elementary school. He had a newspaper route, delivering papers to North Side homes.

After Critchfield entered high school at North High School in Columbus, he took a job where his interest in mechanics and electricity could be utilized. Many of his after-school hours were spent at the Citizens Telephone Co,, repairing instruments in its shop.

Critchfield entered the Ohio State University in 1911, majoring in electrical engineering, where he was an excellent student. He became a member of Alpha Tau Omega and Lambda Phi Omega social fraternities, and was elected to Eta Kappa Nu, electrical engineering honorary, and Sigma Xi, scientific honorary society. Whenever Critchfield had any spare time, he would be in the phone company's shop or installing its equipment in Columbus homes.

Critchfield was not able to take part in much extracurricular activity on campus because most of his efforts were directed toward study or his job. However, he did manage some participation. He headed a group which founded a co-op book store for engineering students; and was chosen to supervise one of the Electrical Shows produced by electrical engineering juniors and seniors every other year.

The heavy-scheduled young man decided on track as the outlet for his athletic interest. He made the team and later was upped to the varsity. A pulled cartilage in his ankle shortly after getting on the first string forced him to drop the sport.

When Critchfield received his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering at Ohio State, in 1916, he learned from his phone company foreman that he had worked the equivalent of five solid years during after school hours and vacation with the company. This remarkable amount of part-time work occurred in the eight-year period he was in high school and the University.

After his graduation from Ohio State, Critchfield went to work for Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. in East Pittsburgh, Pa. With the advent of World War I, Critchfield left Westinghouse to enlist in the U.S. Navy as an electrician, first class. He was soon promoted to ensign, then to lieutenant (j.g.). He was stationed in Washington D.C., at various navy yards and worked on early Naval fire control operations.

In 1919, after the war ended, Critchfield joined the Owen-Dyneto Corp. in Syracuse, N.Y., as an assistant engineer. He began his long association with the General Motors Corp. two years later (1921) when he went with his Remy Electric Division in Anderson, Ind. He was named assist chief engineer of the division which became Delco-Remy in 1933, chief engineer in 1936 and factory manager in 1947.

Under the leadership of Critchfield, Delco-Remy developed and produced many electrical items for aircraft during World War II. These included automatic pilots, engine controls, generators, batteries and voltage regulators. In 1951, he was promoted to assistant manager of General Motors' Allison Division, producer of aircraft engines and aviation equipment, in Indianapolis. In 1954, Critchfield became the general manager of the Pontiac Motor Division in Pontiac, Michigan. He was also appointed as vice president of the General Motors.

In June 1956, the General Motors executive, returned to his home University in his home town, Columbus, where he started his hardworking and successful career as a newpaper boy. This time, he received the Benjamin G. Lamme Medal, the highest honor Ohio State bestows upon its distinguished alumni in engineering and technical arts, in recognition of his meritorious achievement in the field of engineering.


"Phones to Autos, Engineer at Work", Ohio State University Monthly, October, 1952, Vol. 44, No. 1, page. 13.

"Lamme Medalist", Ohio State University Monthly, June 1956, Vol. 47, No. 9, page 6.

"The Ninth Endowed Professorship", Ohio State University Monthly, September 1975, page 10.

"Trustees Meeting Record", Ohio State University Recent News Releases, September 23, 2005.