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Timber Dick left a legacy of ideas

Timber Dick

Timber Dick, who held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management and administration from Yale University, began inventing ways to make life better—and faster—at an early age. Photo: Karen Rubin

In his all-too-short career at the University of Denver, Timber Dick had such a profound impact on faculty, staff and students that he is receiving one of the institution’s most prestigious awards: Distinguished Service to the University.

Dick’s life was cut short by a car accident that left his wife, Annette Tillemann-Dick, and their 11 children without “the most stabilizing force” in their lives and left DU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science without a tremendously special colleague. Dick served as the school’s director of marketing and recruitment from November 2003 until his accident in April 2008.

“We are all still so sad,” says Rahmat Shoureshi, the school’s dean. “To this day, I cannot believe he is gone.”

“The biggest and most important trait that Timber had for this job was his ability to connect with students, especially teenagers,” Shoureshi says. “The other part was that, even though Timber did not have a formal education in engineering or computer science, he had an innovative mind.”

Dick, who held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management and administration from Yale University, began inventing ways to make life better—and faster—at an early age. He was fascinated with automobiles and bicycles and worked tirelessly to improve their designs. He invented a better baby carrier when Annette complained about having to remove her children from car seats when they were sleeping. The result—the Sit ‘n’ Stroll—is sold by Hammacher-Schlemmer.

With his son Corban, Dick tackled what he believed is one of the biggest wastes in our society: the internal combustion engine. In an effort to reduce that waste, they invented the IRIS, which stands for Internally Radiating Impulse Structure; their company, Tendix, holds the patent.

“The IRIS replaces the piston and cylinder architecture found in most engines with a revolutionary device designed to more fully harness the energy of combustion activity,” Corban explains.

In the months after Dick’s death, the invention received major awards from NASA and ConocoPhillips.

Annette says Dick always involved their children in his work, whether it was his latest invention or re-wiring the dining room lights.

“Timber taught all of the time. He used absolutely everything to teach,” says Annette. “He especially liked bouncing problems off the kids to see what ideas they could come up with together.”

She says the DU environment was “great fertilizer” for his ideas.

Similarly, Shoureshi believes that Dick’s home life contributed to his rapport with DU students.

“He and Annette had 11 children! That prepared him to understand deeply how to communicate with students.”

Todd Rinehart, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment and director of admission, frequently saw Dick’s interaction with prospective students and their parents.

“Timber was very committed to making our world a better place and was inspired to invent things that helped people in their daily lives,” Rinehart says. “While he truly was committed to DU and the discipline of engineering, he shared the same innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that many of the young students he met with possessed.

“Timber believed in his heart that he could make a difference with a student who, someday in the future, would make a difference in our world.”

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