Giving back to advance engineering in Michigan

Ray La Frey hopes his scholarship will encourage more students like Sarah Buchholz (left) and Kathleen Haynes (right) to pursue engineering studies.

Photo of three people (L to R) Sarah Buchholz, Ray La Frey, Kathleen HaynesTwo MSU College of Engineering students are already reaping the benefits of the Raymond R. La Frey Scholarship Fund. Sarah Bucholz, a senior from Haslett, Mich., majoring in biosystems engineering, and Kathleen Haynes, a junior from Dimondale, Mich., majoring in environmental engineering, were awarded the fund's first scholarships in the fall of 2013.

La Frey, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1961 and a master's degree in 1963 in electrical engineering, was inspired to set up the scholarship fund because of his successful engineering career. It included six years as an officer in the U.S. Army and 35 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, where he helped develop advanced technology for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"I hope these scholarships will encourage more students to enter engineering fields, and I especially wanted them for residents of Michigan—where I was raised," La Frey explained. "I want to see Michigan regain the manufacturing leadership it had while I was a student; and bright, innovative engineers can help make that happen."

He originally chose MSU because he liked the campus and the way that staff helped students adjust to college life. He picked electrical engineering as his major early in his sophomore year after becoming interested in electronics while working on radios with a college roommate.

La Frey was in the ROTC at MSU and after graduation was initially stationed with the U.S Army Satellite Communications Agency at Ft. Monmouth, N.J.

"My assignment was testing experimental satellite communication links, including taking the first earth station to Vietnam in 1964 for an operational link back to Hawaii." He later extended his active duty and was responsible for the installation of the first worldwide military “satcom” (satellite communications) system earth stations in Europe and Africa. Those experiences helped him land a job at the prestigious Lincoln Laboratory.

La Frey and his wife, Phyllis, now live in New Braunfels, Texas, but he looks back on his career and sees how his engineering degrees from MSU made all that possible. "I have many fond memories of MSU, including some excellent engineering professors, such as Joseph Strelzoff and Herman Koenig. There were also a fascinating ancient history teacher and several social science instructors, all of whom added to a great educational experience."