Dr. Robert James Parden died July 20, 2014, after a brief illness, at home in Saratoga surrounded by his family. He was 92.
Dr. Parden was a former professor and dean of the School of Engineering, 1954-1982. His dynamic presence, longevity with the University, and visionary leadership in the School of Engineering are legendary. Among his many contributions to the University, Dr. Parden launched the graduate engineering program in 1959, offering "Early Bird" classes for working professionals, and established the Department of Engineering Management and Leadership in 1978. He remained a faculty member of the Department until retirement in 2012. An inductee in the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, Dr. Parden helped build a reputation for Santa Clara throughout the high-tech industry. He left an indelible mark on his colleagues and students as a skilled professional, passionate teacher, and gifted leader.
Robert James Parden was born in Mason City, Iowa on April 17, 1922, the son of James Ambrose Parden and Mary Fahey Parden. He was raised in Iowa City, Iowa. He served as Lieutenant in the US Army Quartermaster Corp before earning his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of Iowa. In 1953, he became one of the first PhD graduates of the University of Iowa’s Department of Industrial Engineering. He then embarked on a 50 year career marked by distinguished contributions in industry practice, engineering education and university administration. He was a sought after speaker at conferences and published numerous books and papers.
Dr. Parden began his career as professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1954 Dr. Parden was appointed Dean of the Engineering College at Santa Clara University. There he expanded and updated the engineering curriculum and led efforts that brought the Sullivan Engineering Center and laboratories to the university. Dean Parden created the nation’s first successful continuing education program for graduate engineering, established graduate programs that ushered Silicon Valley Companies to the forefront of engineering management, and expanded the imprint of Santa Clara University throughout the high-tech industry. Another key component of Dean Parden’s success was that the School of Engineering drew not only students but also adjunct faculty members from high-tech. People like Intel’s CEO Andy Grove and ESL’s President William Perry, who went on to serve as the United States’ Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. Dr. Parden authored seminal research in the field of engineering management and was an active leader of the American Society for Engineering Education, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and American Institute of Industrial Engineers. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi honorary societies and was a licensed Professional Engineer and General Contractor. In 1993 Dr. Parden was inducted into the Silicon Valley Hall of Fame.
Bob’s matched his passion for engineering excellence with lifelong dedication to his community and his large and active local family. He set out to live the American Dream and he accomplished it. Bob was a long time resident of Saratoga, residing in the home he designed and built in 1959 until his passing. Bob was a licensed professional engineer and general building contractor. He founded Parden Construction and proudly served on the Saratoga Planning Commission. Bob was able to see Saratoga grow as the Silicon Valley was transforming from the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where orchards of fruit trees blossomed each spring. For Bob life was also an exploration he looked at with a keen mind through his travels. Whether it was his regular trips to Aptos to enjoy the Pacific, or his wider world travels, Bob always enjoyed the experience. His last cruise to Alaska with three generations of his family was in 2013 and he traveled to Aptos in June 2014 with 18 members of his immediate family.
Bob is survived by Elizabeth Taylor Parden, his devoted and loving wife of 59 years; four children: Pattie Bradley ’78 of San Jose, Jim (Lisa) Parden of Saratoga, Jack Parden ’83 (Mary) Parden of Redwood Shores, and Nancy Badgett ’85 (Mel) of Saratoga. He also leaves nine beloved grandchildren, who were all wild about their Bop. His sister, Dorothy Smith of Iowa City, Iowa, brother in law Jack Taylor (Wilbi) along with many loved and accomplished nieces and nephews.
With a keen intellect, charming wit and warm heart, Bob lived life to its fullest and invested in others with uncommon compassion and integrity. He taught many, inspired many more and was admired and loved by all who knew him.
The family asks that letters of condolences be made to his wife, Betty, c/o Santa Clara University, Dean’s Office.