Welcomed into the Valpo community more than three decades ago, Alan Kraft, Ph.D., who passed away in August, served the University in many capacities throughout his tenure, engaging students, inspiring colleagues, and advancing the University’s mission.
“Al Kraft was a role model, a mentor, and a friend to faculty and students alike,” says Doug Tougaw, Ph.D., Leitha and Willard Richardson Professor of Engineering and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department. “Working tirelessly to help everyone at Valpo in any way he could, Al strengthened the University as a result of his life’s work. We should all be so blessed as to leave behind a legacy as remarkable as his.”
A professor for 31 years, Alan was the senior member of the electrical and computer engineering department, where he developed close, mutually beneficial relationships with his colleagues. He was known amongst his colleagues as much for his impeccable advice and insight as for his amazing sense of humor.
As a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Alan taught several courses, with circuits and power systems emerging as his favorites. While his course material was challenging, he was known for his accessibility to his students, who he assisted endlessly in and outside the classroom. Alan possessed a true love for teaching, finding extreme satisfaction in mentoring students.
In the classroom, Alan was very animated, popular for the catchphrases he utilized throughout his lessons. These phrases live on, with his students currently selling t-shirts featuring his words, such as “Count the Nodes!” and “Stay out of the right-hand plane!”
“Through Professor Kraft, I learned the basics of electrical engineering. He was a dedicated professor who worked tirelessly to ensure everyone had a complete understanding of the course material,” says John White ’17, electrical engineering major. “Professor Kraft had a huge impact on me and my time at Valpo. He was my mentor and good friend.”
Beyond teaching, Alan devoted his time in service to the University in countless ways — member of the Educational Policy Committee and the Committee on Academic and Professional Standards, faculty liaison to the Honor Council, electrical and computer engineering representative to the College of Engineering Curriculum Committee — advancing student success by ensuring academic programming was of the highest possible quality and delivered in a fair and equitable manner.
“Al Kraft had a strong belief that a Valpo education and the Valpo experience were of tremendous value,” says Mark LaBarbera, director of athletics. “His energy for providing students with a quality education through the unique combinations of experiences Valpo offers was almost limitless.”
An avid fan of Valpo Athletics, Alan never missed a basketball game and could be found in attendance at many other sporting events, especially football games. In his role as chair of the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, Alan provided guidance to the athletic department, directly influencing the success of the program.
“Al enjoyed interacting with students through his classes, attending games, and helping with football recruiting,” Director LaBarbera says. “He was generous with his time and provided me with thoughtful counsel during his many years as the chair of the faculty athletics committee.”
During his tenure at Valpo, Al dedicated countless weekends hosting prospective engineering students on football visit days. According to Assistant Football Coach Vincent Giacalone,
Al was a “crucial aspect” to the recruiting process, leaving students and families in awe after detailing the suitability of Valpo’s engineering program to student-athletes.
Al’s investment in Valpo’s student-athletes was apparent in his attendance at many a football practice, watching as his students prepared for the upcoming game. “He wanted to be part of what they were so passionate about,” says Coach Giacalone. “Watching them prepare brought him joy. More so than his role in the recruitment process, Al will be missed because he truly cared about his students beyond the walls of his classroom.”
Alan’s commitment to ROTC is another one of the many ways in which he impacted the lives of his students and colleagues. He was instrumental in establishing both an Army and Air Force ROTC program at Valpo, serving as the advisor for both programs from their inception until his passing. Alan believed in the mission of ROTC and fulfilled this role with passion and enthusiasm.
“Professor Kraft was genuine, kind hearted, and passionate. He had the utmost respect for those in the military, and he brought out the best in people, says Kaitlyn Taylor ’17, ROTC cadet. “He inspired us to be better people and better cadets through his huge smile and infectious love for his job. His spirit will continue on in the hearts of his cadets, and he will be dearly missed.”
As a servant-leader, Alan embraced the core values of Valparaiso University. He had great faith in the University and its capacity for greatness. It was his belief in the impact of the Valpo experience that inspired the entire Valpo community on a daily basis and will be greatly missed for years to come.