Kenneth W. DeBaun, Emeritus Trustee, passed away on Wednesday, November 3, 2010. A member of the Stevens community since 1943, he has been a long-time supporter and benefactor of his alma mater.
DeBaun began his time at Stevens in 1943, leaving for a tour of duty in the US Navy, and returning to finish his degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1949. From 1950 to 1953, he returned to campus to take classes in the Stevens’ Graduate School in business, management and patent law.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Stevens Institute of Technology, DeBaun founded and served as President and CEO of 13 companies. In the field of airflow and air filtration, he holds 10 US patents, and his ventures included Servodyne Corporation, Servodyne Industries, Air Monitor Corporation and Air Filter Sales and Service Companies. His other companies, Chateau DeBaun Hospitality Center, Vineyards and Winery, Custom Vintners of Sonoma County, Debco and HOPPER Self-Storage Facilities, DeBaun Family Properties, LLC and DeBaun Family Investments, LLC, reflect the entrepreneur’s quest for a range of product excellence.
Through the decades of his successful life, his wife Grace served as an advisor and astute business partner. Together, they raised three children and welcomed many grandchildren, who have since taken over many of their ongoing business ventures. DeBaun took great pride in his many ventures, and enjoyed watching them operate, grow and prosper.
A true innovator and entrepreneur, DeBaun contributed time and energy to a wide range of other endeavors as well. A tremendous champion and supporter of Stevens, he served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 1990. DeBaun was also a member of the Stevens President’s Circle and acted as West Coast chair of the Edwin A. Stevens Society. His generous giving toward the growth of the University over the years can be witnessed in the Grace E. and Kenneth W. DeBaun Center for the Performing Arts and the state-of-the-art DeBaun Athletic Complex, which includes DeBaun Field. In addition, DeBaun’s philanthropy has included support for the Aquatics Center, the Babbio Center Atrium, Stevens Annual Fund, Chi Phi Fraternity and the Chemical Engineering Laboratory.
In 1991, DeBaun received the Stevens Honor Award and in 1995 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering from the University. He has also received the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. Entrepreneur Award in 2003, which recognizes extraordinary contributions to the field of business and technology innovation. In 2005, Stevens Institute of Technology established the Edwin A. Steven’s Founder’s Award, to honor an individual whose exceptional generosity demonstrates true leadership through his or her philanthropic support of the University. DeBaun was named the recipient of this award in its inaugural year.
Interim President of Stevens, Dr. George P. Korfiatis, commented: “Ken has been an outstanding friend of the University for many years. For those of us who had the good fortune of knowing Ken and interacting with him over the years, this passing is an even greater loss. His memory and legacy are with his family, friends, and colleagues.”
“His incredible generosity throughout the decades has had a tremendous impact on the quality of life for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Dr. Maureen P. Weatherall, vice president and chief administrative officer. “Past, present and future students have been and will continue to be touched by Kenneth DeBaun’s considerable contributions to the University.”
“A long-time supporter of Stevens and its Athletics programs, Kenneth DeBaun has made important contributions to the University, including our athletics facilities,” said Russell Rogers, Director of Athletics at Stevens. “I am grateful to have worked with him during my time here. He will be greatly missed by the entire community.”
Quoted in a University publication in 2007, DeBaun stated: “My association with Stevens started in 1943… I was most impressed with by the recognition and respect with which the military and industry regarded Stevens. I resolved that if I was ever in a financial position to contribute to Stevens (to which I have openly attributed my success in the business world), I would direct my resources to enhance student life and activities on campus.”
Kenneth DeBaun truly exemplified the spirit of entrepreneurship, hard-work, dedication and generosity. The Stevens community has a deep appreciation for all he has accomplished and contributed. A devoted member of the community for many decades, he has touched the lives of many people, and his passing is a great loss.