Leo Kempel recommended as engineering dean

July 23, 2014

Kempel to continue to lead the college he has served for 16 years

Following a national search, Leo C. Kempel, professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been recommended as the ninth dean of the Michigan State University College of Engineering. His appointment is pending approval by the MSU Board of Trustees.

Leo Kempel has been recommended as the college's ninth dean.

Kempel, 48, has established a distinguished academic career that includes serving as acting dean of the college since March 2013 when former dean Satish Udpa was named MSU’s executive vice president for administrative services. Kempel was associate dean for research for the college prior to being named acting dean.

Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs June Pierce Youatt made the announcement July 23.

“I am pleased to announce that I will be recommending Leo Kempel to the MSU Board of Trustees for the position of dean of the College of Engineering, effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Kempel will assume the role of dean at a time of enormous possibility for the college,” she said.

“Several of the University's most significant opportunities for leadership in research and innovation will be closely tied to the work of the college,” Youtt continued. “I am confident Leo can quickly work with college and campus leaders to craft a plan that strategically sets the college's direction for growth. His former work with the High Performance Computing Center and his experience as research dean within the College—coupled with his enthusiasm for the college—position him well for the challenge,” she added.

“I am honored to have been selected as the next dean of the MSU College of Engineering, and to have the opportunity to work with our extraordinary community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, university and industry partners going into the future,” Kempel said.

“It is an exciting time in our college. Our new Bio Engineering Facility, scheduled to open in 2015, will launch our expansion in biomedical research. At the same time, we are building on a solid foundation of innovation across the college and expanding our efforts in automotive, energy, health, materials, as well as computational science and engineering, and data science and engineering. I look forward to leading the College of Engineering as we grow in size and stature to become the fastest rising college of engineering in the nation,” he added.

Kempel has been a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since 1998. He served as the inaugural director of the MSU High Performance Computing Center from 2004 to 2006, then as associate dean for special initiatives until being named associate dean for research in 2008.

As associate dean and acting dean, Kempel has led numerous efforts to expand and strengthen the college’s research, academic, and outreach missions. Since 2006, the college and university have:

  • increased the college’s annual research expenditures from $27 million to $53.4 million (FY 2011-12) during times of economic challenge.
  • initiated a program to help new faculty members successfully obtain National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grants and other early career awards. The college has received 20 NSF CAREER Award grants since 2007.
  • helped establish an Applied Research Laboratory, also known as the University Research Organization.
  • led space management endeavors that have resulted in the addition of new space in the Engineering Research Complex; allocation of the third floor of the Trout Building for College of Engineering research; provided space in Wilson and Wonders Halls for housing the Cornerstone and Residential Experience (CoRe) program; and the groundbreaking of a new Bio Engineering Facility, set to open in August 2015.
  • supported improvements in fundraising, including endowment commitments of more than $6.5 million since July 2013 (up from $2.9 million in the previous 12 months). Total giving to the college since July 2013 is approximately $9 million.
  • led efforts to establish collaborative relationships internationally, including five new global partners in the past year increasing the college’s international research and scholarly exchange programs to 27 engaged global partnerships, dozens of global internship locations, and 14 study abroad relationships allowing students to build international competencies.

Kempel’s membership and service on the U.S. Air Force’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) is a significant recognition of his leadership as a researcher in applied electromagnetics. His research focuses on conformal antennas, engineered materials, and measurement of electromagnetic properties of materials.  

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Applied Computational Electromagnetics Society (ACES). He has served on numerous IEEE committees and is a member of the IEEE (Institute-level) Fellow Board. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including the NSF CAREER award, the MSU Teacher-Scholar award, and the MSU College of Engineering’s Withrow Distinguished Scholar award.

Kempel received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1989, and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1990 and a PhD degree from the University of Michigan in 1994.

A look back: Deans of the MSU College of Engineering

  • 1907 - George Bissel is appointed first dean of engineering
  • 1929 - G. W. Bissel retires, H. B. Dirks, professor of mechanical engineering, is appointed dean          
  • 1948 - H. B. Dirks retires and Lorin G. Miller, chairperson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is appointed dean
  • 1953 - L. G. Miller retires and J. D. Ryder, head of electrical engineering at University of Illinois, is appointed dean
  • 1968 - J. D. Ryder retires, Lawrence W. Von Tersch, associate dean, is appointed dean
  • 1989 - Lawrence W. Von Tersch retires, Theodore A. Bickart, dean of engineering at Syracuse University, is appointed dean
  • 1998 - Theodore Bickart retires, George Van Dusen named acting dean
  • 1999 - Janie Fouke, division director, Bioengineering and Environmental Systems at the National Science Foundation, is appointed dean
  • 2005 - Janie Fouke leaves MSU to become provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Florida, Satish Udpa is appointed dean
  • 2013 - Satish Udpa named MSU executive vice president for administrative services, Leo Kempel, associate dean for research, is named acting dean
  • 2014 - Leo Kempel is recommended as full-time dean