University remembers alumnus, generous supporter Bob Aiken

Bob and his wife, Brenda, committed $20 million in 2017 to support biomedical engineering

Alumnus Robert “Bob” Aiken, who last year committed $20 million with his wife, Brenda, to support the university’s biomedical engineering efforts, died Monday at his home just west of Philadelphia. He was 88.

“Our hearts go out to Brenda and the entire Aiken family during this difficult time,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Bob was a warm and wise man who appreciated innovation for the ways it could help people reclaim parts of themselves lost to illness or injury. We are grateful for his support, insight and—most of all—recognition of the power of learning and discovery to transform lives.”

A 1952 mechanical engineering graduate, Aiken credited his professional success to his alma mater—both because of the excellent education his academic program provided, and also the social skills his fraternity allowed him to develop. The experiences made such an impact, in fact, that Bob started telling Brenda about his affection for the institution soon after they began dating.

Decades later, when the couple began considering how they might share their some of their good fortune in a meaningful way, Case Western Reserve came to mind. And the more the couple learned about the biomedical engineering department’s extraordinary breakthroughs, the more enthusiastic they became about supporting its work.

After initial gifts for scholarships for biomedical engineering majors, the Aikens decided to fund a major, multi-faceted strategic initiative fund for biomedical engineering. It, too, included student assistance, but also backed research endeavors that could lead to meaningful progress for patients.

“As saddened as we are by Bob’s passing, we are heartened to know that his spirit will live on in the accomplishments that the generosity that he and his wife, Brenda, have shown to the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” said Robert Kirsch, chair of the department. “By funding scholarships, research and collaborations among engineers and clinicians, their philanthropy will touch the lives of students, faculty and the patients that their work ultimately benefits.”

President Snyder announced the Aikens’ gift in the fall of 2017. While health concerns kept Bob and Brenda from being able to attend, the two did share their thoughts about the gift in a video prepared for the event.