While Richard Campbell (MS ’77) only spent one year at Caltech, the Institute had an outsized impact on his life and career. So much so that he recently set up a bequest to support scholarships. 

“Caltech really took good care of its students,” says Campbell, who came to the Institute on a full fellowship. “And I always felt that if I was in a position to give back, I would.”

Undergraduate scholarships are a high philanthropic priority for the Institute. Campbell’s bequest intention will advance the newly launched Initiative for Caltech Students, which raises funds to create an even more exceptional student experience.

Now, recently retired from a fulfilling career in the renewable power industry, Campbell is a proud member of the Torchbearers, a group of alumni and friends who invest in the future of the Institute by including it in their estate plans. 

“Caltech is one of only two organizations I have singled out for giving,” he says.

He notes that it wasn’t necessarily what he learned at Caltech that made him successful, but rather the people he met and the reputation of the Institute that gave him a boost. 

“By competing with some really smart people, I developed a level of confidence that helped me in my professional life,” Campbell says. “No matter what the problem was, I could just go in, attack the problem, and do my best. And when people found out I went to Caltech, that gave me a level of credibility that was unbeatable.”

In fact, his career started with an introduction from his Caltech adviser, the late chemical engineer Bill Corcoran, to Ben Holt, a pioneer of geothermal energy plants. Campbell went on to work for Holt’s company for nearly 23 years, becoming a trailblazer in the field himself. He designed two world-first geothermal power plants: one is an air-cooled binary-cycle power plant at Mammoth Lakes, California, and the other is the only geothermal plant to operate in the state of Texas. In recognition of these and other accomplishments, Campbell is the only person to have received the industry’s most prestigious honor, the Joseph W. Aidlin Award, and the Ben Holt Geothermal Power Plant Award.

In 2021, the pandemic pushed him into retirement earlier than he would have preferred. Campbell, who lives outside of Denver, Colorado, says he struggled with this until a friend gave him some sage advice: Don’t let your work define you.

“That was a profound statement to me,” Campbell says. “I’ve got some great hobbies, and I’ve got my whole family here—three kids, and each has a son—so I just changed my mindset, thanks to my friend.” 

Fortunately for Caltech, Campbell’s free time also gave him the opportunity to reflect on the benefits his affiliation with the Institute allowed him to enjoy—something he recommends all alumni do. 

“I’m paying it forward, and I hope others will, too,” Campbell says. “I was given a really nice gift when I needed it. And now that I can afford it, I’m going to give that same gift to future students.”