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Robert Kiefer Bedell AMP ’44

Robert Kiefer Bedell AMP ’44, April 5, 2011, in Brooklyn, New York. Robert attended Stanford for a semester before he was drafted into the army for service in World War II. He came to Reed for the premeteorology program and then served two years of stateside duty. “Reed was a wonderful and important experience for me. It was far more than just a wartime training program.” He earned a BS in engineering in 1947 from Stanford and spent the early years of his career as an engineer with Union Carbide. He worked in Europe, and took classes at the University of Grenoble, Sorbonne, and the Institut d’Études Politiques. He and writer Madelon Berns, who was working for Time magazine in Paris, were married in 1950. Back in the U.S., Robert worked for Westinghouse Electric International. In 1953, he accepted a full-time instructor position at Cooper Union School of Engineering, specializing in thermodynamics and heat transfer. The political protests he had participated in in the late ’40s came back to haunt him during the McCarthy era. He was fired from Cooper Union in 1958, turned to self-employment as an engineering consultant, and took part-time teaching assignments at the Columbia School of Architecture and the Pratt Institute. He created Robert K. Bedell, Engineers in 1969 and designed residential, institutional, and commercial projects. He was technical director of the Energy Task Force and installed one of the country’s first urban solar energy systems and wind generators. He developed a unique honeycomb-type solar collector and collaborated on several nationally regarded studies, ranging from the city’s overall energy needs to the disposal of municipal solid wastes. He was a peace activist, a humanist, and an atheist. He did blacksmithing and maple sugaring and enjoyed reading the New York Times. Madelon died in 1986. Survivors include two sons and a daughter and six grandchildren. “Robert’s presence had the gravity of the sun, and the warmth.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2013

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