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Scholarship Named for TEA Founder

Richard O. “Dick” Kaufmann, the late founder of Thermal Engineering of Arizona (TEA), recently got a boost to his legacy in the form of an honorary doctorate and scholarship in his name from the University of New Haven, West Haven, CT.

“He had no clue of this whatsoever,” said Kaufmann’s son Kenneth, who was approached by university officials about their plans shortly after his father’s passing on Dec. 22, 2012. They younger Kaufmann also works in equipment design for TEA at the company’s Tucson, AZ, headquarters. “It was kind of a nice surprise. It really was.”

Kenneth and his sister, Laura Miranto, accepted the honorary Doctor of Engineering degree on their father’s behalf on May 19 during a graduation ceremony at the Toyota Presents Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, CT.

Richard, a native of North Madison, CT, received an associate and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of New Haven in 1963 and ’67, respectively.

His company, TEA, is now in its 36th year. Since its founding, TEA has built more than 1,500 large commercial laundries, according to a news release. A commercial laundry pioneer, Kaufmann invented a continuous flow laundry system and held five registered patents in his name.

Now a scholarship program for freshman engineering students bears the Kaufmann name as well. The program, which will draw on a university endowment, including funds donated by Richard during his lifetime, is designed as a competition among U.S.-born high school seniors, Kenneth said. This national award for innovative engineering will pay all tuition and lab costs for incoming freshman at the university. To compete, students must devise and demonstrate their own engineering projects. “It is absolutely an engineering competition,” Kenneth said. “They have to come up with something. They have to write it up and it has to work.”

The inaugural competition for this award, formally known as the Richard O. Kaufmann Scholarship Fund for Innovative Engineering, will take place this fall as part of an engineering fair on the UNH campus, he said.

The scholarship reflects well on Richard’s career, which was dedicated to innovative engineering design. In addition to his contributions to the textile services industry, Kaufmann designed a firehouse in the early 1960s in North Madison that continues to operate today. He also designed a 360-degree round house in Tucson for his family home. Richard enjoyed rebuilding classic cars as well. One of these was a 1940 Plymouth pickup truck that he painted fire engine red and dubbed the “Nomad.”

With the Kaufmann scholarship program now in place, Richard’s lifetime contributions to the textile services industry will live on by helping to inspire tomorrow’s leaders in engineering. For more information on the scholarship, contact Ron Harichandran, dean of the Tagliatela College of Engineering, University of New Haven, at