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MU Alumnus Establishes Engineering Professorship

March 5, 2007

Story Contact:  Katherine Kostiuk, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — F. Robert Naka was once deemed an enemy by the United States, but he later showed himself to be one of the most trusted Americans when he ran a secret U.S. spy satellite organization. Naka, a friend and graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, recently gave $550,000 to establish the F. Robert & Patricia N. Naka Professorship in Electrical Engineering.

The F. Robert & Patricia N. Naka Professorship in Electrical Engineering will provide professors with research support and equipment, professional development, teaching materials, travel, staff support and salary stipend. The gift is in addition to an endowed scholarship for undergraduate engineering students in electrical engineering that Naka and his wife created in 1991. The fund was created when Naka received a check for $20,000 from the government as reparation for the detainment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Naka was detained when he was a sophomore UCLA pre-engineering student. After nine months of imprisonment, the American Friends Service Committee, or Quakers, helped Naka find a home at MU through the Japanese American Student Relocation Council.

"I felt the committee and the University of Missouri had taken on a brave act in a time of need, but I also felt trepidation of further mistreatment," Naka said. "As it turned out, when I arrived at Missouri, I was just another student."

Naka was anything but just another student to the faculty at MU, especially Professor Jesse Wrench who invited the Japanese-American students to his home for a Sunday afternoon tea. Additionally, his engineering professors were complimentary of Naka's work as he succeeded at MU.

After graduating from MU in 1947, Naka went on to earn his master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota and his doctorate in electron optics from Harvard University. He became one of the most trusted Americans in the nation when he was chosen to supervise the National Reconnaissance Office, a secret spy satellite organization. He is referred to as the "Father of Stealth Technology" for his work in developing the technology for the famous U-2 spy plane and also served as the Chief Scientist for the U.S. Air Force.

"Naka serves as an inspiration to the University of Missouri-Columbia's student body, and illustrates what can be achieved through hard work and drive," said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. "The University is grateful for his continued contributions to the College of Engineering,"