CWRU athletics, Nike pay tribute to Frank Rudy with new uniforms, commemorative patch

Rudy (’50), “Father of Nike Air,” is credited with inventing Nike’s Air Sole technology

Senior wide receiver Sean Lapcevic (left) and senior quarterback Billy Beecher

Thirty-five years after Nike introduced alumnus Frank Rudy’s revolutionary Air Sole technology, Nike and Case Western Reserve have teamed up to honor him through newly-designed uniforms and footwear for the university’s roughly 500 athletes on 19 varsity teams.

Rudy, a 1950 graduate of the former Case Institute of Technology, invented Nike’s famed Air Sole technology, first featured in the 1979 Nike Tailwind shoe.

Nike has a long history of partnering with creative innovators and entrepreneurs, and Rudy was one of the first partners, adopting the technology and going on to make Nike Air one of the most recognizable and defining performance technologies of its time.

“Frank Rudy holds a special place in Nike history,” said Todd Van Horne, Nike Vice President and Creative Director for Nike Football. “His relentless creativity and focus on solving problems was instrumental in pushing the limits of innovation and developing tools aimed to help athletes succeed.”

patchLast year, Kim McMahon, Rudy’s daughter, became aware of Case Western Reserve’s need for coordinated uniforms. In partnership with Van Horne and the Nike design team, they developed innovative new uniforms for all 19 team sports, as well as a specially designed emblem that includes Rudy’s initials, “MFR,” for Marion Franklin Rudy.

“It was our pleasure to unite NIKE and CWRU,” McMahon said. “Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. We were aware of CWRU’s need for new coordinated uniforms, and the opportunity arose when we were in touch with fabulous, talented people at NIKE whom I knew could make this happen. Thank you so much, NIKE, for putting your renowned creativity and innovation to work to outfit these teams and to design an all-encompassing and representative MFR emblem. Thank you, CWRU, for honoring my father as a CWRU alumni and his accomplishments.”

The emblem showcases Rudy’s initials as a 3D design with special texture and shine to resemble inflated Air-Sole units, and the orbiting planets pay tribute to his career as an aerospace engineer. The emblem’s background is comprised of stars, where he dreamed of things that made him such an inspired inventor.

Known as a “great thinker,” his favorite equation, L=MT², is also featured on the inside back collar. Similar to Einstein’s E=mc², Rudy’s formula also makes a complex subject simple: Life equals Mass times Time squared. Just as the Nike Air-Sole technology is an energy management system, life also is an energy management system.

“On behalf of the university and our students, I wish to express our sincere thanks to Nike and the Rudy family,” said Louis Stark, the university’s vice president for Student Affairs. “We truly appreciate this amazing gesture.”

Case Western Reserve will introduce the new uniforms as part of a revamped branding initiative this fall. The new Nike uniforms debuted Aug. 29 (women’s soccer, men’s soccer and volleyball) and Sept. 6 (football at home vs. Carnegie Mellon).


A Northeast Ohio native, Rudy was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served as a medic during World War II, advancing to the rank of medical and surgical noncommissioned officer. He returned to his undergraduate studies after the war, majoring in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. During his career in aerospace, Rudy worked on the Saturn and Apollo rocket engines and invented the ultra-high precision micro-ball spherical bearing used by the military. During his lifetime, Rudy held more than 250 patents. He was founder and president of Kim Enterprises Inc. During his expansive career, he was employed by North American Rockwell, Verdugo Products Co., Petro Mechanics, Pacific Airmotive and Lockheed Martin. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Rocket Society and the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.

Despite his remarkable success, Rudy never forgot his Cleveland roots. He and his wife, Margaret, have donated generously to the university to establish the M. Franklin Rudy and Margaret Domiter Rudy Professorship of Biomedical Engineering. Rudy had a particular passion for cancer research and the advancement of discoveries resulting in a cure, and the professorship focused on those areas. The family also supported cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic, and created a scholarship program for graduates of Rudy’s alma mater, Fairview Park High School.