In memoriam: Prof. Emeritus Keith S. Champlin

University of Minnesota ECE alumnus and long-time faculty member Professor Emeritus Keith Champlin passed away on February 20, 2023, at the age of 92. 

Late Professor Keith S Champlin in a dark suit against a light background

A licensed amateur radio operator, Champlin earned call letters W0MCY at age 15. Drafted during the Korean War, he taught Morse code and radio operating procedure to soldiers at Camp Rucker, Alabama. Discharged as a Master Sergeant in 1952, he used the G.I. Bill, to  earn a B.S degree (1954), followed by an M.S. degree (1955), and a Ph.D. (1958), all in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He joined the faculty of the University in 1958, and went on to earn full professorship in 1967. He also served as a Visiting Professor at the Laboratoire de Physique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, in Paris, France in 1963.

Champlin’s area of research was microwave properties of semiconductors. He graduated 16 Ph.D. students, several of whom went on to join major research universities as faculty. During his tenure at the University, Champlin was honored with distinguished teaching awards twice. He was instrumental in establishing the co-operative program in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and went on to be its first director. In 1997, he retired from the department as Professor Emeritus.

Professor Mos Kaveh, former dean of the College of Science and Engineering, speaks for all of ECE when he says, “Keith was a highly valued colleague with a reputation as one of the best teachers in the department. This reputation was amply confirmed by his teaching awards and by the student evaluations and comments, which were shared with me while I was the head of the department. In addition to his outstanding scholarship in microwave semiconductors, I remember Keith as an innovator and entrepreneur. In particular, the battery tester that he invented, I think originally to reliably test his boat's battery, became very successful in the market.” 

In addition to his academic career, Champlin was also a technical consultant to several companies including Honeywell, Northern Ordnance Division of FMC Corporation, Motorola, Sperry Univac, General Electronic Controls and Midtronics, Inc. An avid innovator, he is universally recognized as the inventor of the dynamic-conductance method for battery testing and as the designer of the first commercially successful electronic battery tester. Since 1974, electronic battery-testing devices based on Champlin’s innovative technology have been manufactured and marketed world-wide—first by Motorola, Inc. and since 1985 by Midtronics, Inc. His battery-testing methodology has become the accepted gold standard throughout the automotive, power, and telecommunications industries and his work continues to impact the lives of people everywhere. A prolific inventor in this area, at the time of his death Champlin had been issued over 60 patents worldwide.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will remember Professor Keith S. Champlin for his academic and professional contributions and accomplishments. 

*Our sincere thanks to the family of Professor Champlin for sharing his obituary. We drew on it heavily to prepare this tribute.