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MU officials rename Engineering Building West ‘Naka Hall’ after MU alumnus, donor

Photo of Elizabeth Loboa, Curt Davis and Hank Foley with the Naka family.

Mizzou Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa (fourth from left), Naka Endowed Professor Curt Davis (left) and MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley (right) pose with members of the Naka family following a dedication ceremony renaming Engineering Building West after F. Robert and Patricia Naka. Photo by Nick Duncan/Mizzou Engineering

Officials at the University of Missouri renamed Engineering Building West, located on Sixth Street on the MU campus, F. Robert and Patricia Naka Hall after MU alumnus and donor F. Robert Naka and his wife, Patricia, in a ceremony held Sept. 16. Known as the father of stealth technology, Robert Naka passed away in 2013. His illustrious career included enabling U.S military aircraft to avoid radar detection and stints as chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force and deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Additionally, he was a member of the NASA Space Program Advisory Council, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the National Academy of Engineering and was a four-time recipient of the U.S. Air Force Exceptional Service medal.

Photo of Hank Foley speaking at a podium.

MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley speaks at the Naka Hall dedication ceremony Sept. 16, 2016. Photo by Jennifer Hollis/Mizzou Engineering

Naka earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MU in 1945, then went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from Harvard University before conducting research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and for the U.S. Air Force.

“We are elated to memorialize a man of Dr. Naka’s character and stature on our campus,” said MU interim Chancellor Hank Foley. “Dr. Naka has made incredible contributions to science, his country and our university. I can think of no better person to honor in this way by renaming one of our primary engineering education and research buildings after him. I would like to thank Dr. Naka and his family for their support of this great institution.”

During World War II, Naka and his parents were three of the thousands of Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps. Upon his release in 1943, the Japanese American Student Relocation Council, supported by the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee, arranged for 4,000 college-aged Japanese-Americans to attend universities in the Midwest, Naka included.

Naka left a legacy of generosity and service to his alma mater, serving as a founding member of the Engineering Dean’s Advisory Committee and a member of the Engineering Campaign Leadership Team. He was exceptionally generous to the College of Engineering, funding scholarships and improvements to College of Engineering facilities. For his service and generosity, Naka earned a Missouri Honor Award in 1971 and was granted an honorary doctorate in 2008 from the College of Engineering.

Photo of Elizabeth Naka speaking at a podium.

Elizabeth Naka speaks on behalf of the Naka family at a dedication ceremony for Naka Hall on Sept. 16, 2016. Photo by Trevor Liptak/Mizzou Engineering

“I cannot thank the Naka family enough for their generous support of the College of Engineering,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the MU College of Engineering. “Private support is critical as we continually strive to provide the space, infrastructure and cutting-edge technology needed to educate the next generation of engineering leaders.”

“It is an honor for our parents to have their names on this building,” said David Naka, son of Robert and Patricia. “We are grateful, and proud. It also is a privilege to be associated with the University of Missouri, and its leadership in providing education and opportunity to each new generation.”

Photo of Curt Davis speaking behind a podium.

Naka Endowed Professor Curt Davis talks about the life and legacy of 1945 electrical engineering alumnus F. Robert Naka at the Naka Hall dedication ceremony Sept. 16, 2016.

Naka also funded an endowed professorship in 2007. The Naka Endowed Professor is Curt Davis, the founder and director of the MU Center for Geospatial Intelligence, an interdisciplinary center that focuses on geospatial intelligence needs critical for national security, homeland defense and military combat support.

“Bob Naka’s extraordinary life and engineering career deserve not only to be recognized but also remembered as part of MU’s rich tradition and history,” Davis said. “Not only by us here today but really, hopefully for generations to come now that we’re dedicating Engineering Building West for Dr. Naka.”

Nathan Hurst, MU News Bureau, contributed to this report