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Klaus Ekkehard Rieckhoff is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at Simon Fraser University (SFU). He helped shape the department and the university through his active involvement in the governance of SFU, through his contributions to science and his devotion to teaching, as well as his involvement in the larger community.
Born in Weimar, Germany, Rieckhoff experienced life under both the Nazi and Communist regimes before escaping from the Soviet-occupied zone in 1947. Shortly after, he left for the western zones where he worked in various factories in Munich until he was accepted at the University of Karlsruhe where he studied mathematics and physics (1947-1949). He was accepted for one of 40 places in physics and mathematics from a pool of 400 applicants after an entrance examination administered to 160 of the applicants. In 1949, he left the university while continuing to work as a clerk in the actuarial department of a life insurance company (1948-1951). In December 1949, he married Marianne Neder with whom he has three children, Bernhard Andreas, Claudia Angela, and Cornelia Andrea.
Rieckhoff immigrated to Canada in 1952. Upon his arrival to Vancouver, B.C., he held various jobs as a dock worker (1952), sawmill worker (1953), and television technician (1953-1957) before earning his B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D at the University of British Columbia.
In 1965, Rieckhoff joined SFU as a charter faculty member and immersed himself in its life. He is regarded as a vital force in the Department of Physics, a department he helped to create and nurture. From 1966-1967, he was Acting Dean of Science, and from 1972-1976, he was Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. He has authored and co-authored more than 60 papers in the areas of spectroscopy and chemical physics, earning international recognition for his work. From 1976-1977, he worked at the IBM Research Lab in San Jose, California as Visiting Scientist. In 1987, he was a Visiting Professor at the universities of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez, U.S.A.), Queensland (Brisbane, Australia), and Bayreuth (Germany).
Rieckhoff's passion for critical inquiry is reflected in his multiple appointments, participation, and election to a number of faculty, departmental, and university committees. As a founding member of Senate, he supported the inclusion of undergraduate representation. He served on the Senate for 17 years and on the Board of Governors for 11 years, earning him the distinction of being one of the longest-serving members on both bodies. In recognition of his contributions to the governance and administration of SFU, the university named the Senate Chamber in his honour in 1982. Although the space has been renovated, a plaque remains in place. In 1998, SFU awarded him a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.