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Rolf Faste, associate professor of mechanical engineering, dies

Rolf A. Faste, associate professor of mechanical engineering, died of esophageal cancer March 6 at his home in Toyon Hall. He was 59.

"Rolf Faste was an incredibly strong individual with a definite point of view that he passed on to his students," said David Kelley, professor of mechanical engineering. "He brought a very important dimension to the School of Engineering through the Product Design Program, a program which leveraged Rolf's uniqueness. He will be missed by all of us, especially the design division faculty and students."

Faste directed the Product Design Program at Stanford, a joint program with the Mechanical Engineering and Art departments that breaks down the traditional barriers between art and engineering to create functional as well as creative and aesthetically pleasing designs.

"Rolf's recent work explored the interactions of the mind, the body, play and creativity," said Sheri Sheppard, associate professor of mechanical engineering. "He helped to expand the entire product design community's notion of innovation. As part of his teaching, Rolf worked closely with students in mechanical engineering and product design to help them discover their own creativity. His tireless pursuit of new ideas and his uncanny ability to expand conventional thinking about design will be greatly missed."

With his wife, Linda, he was a resident fellow at Toyon Hall, where they worked hard to create a personal experience with each student. "Rolf and Linda successfully created a warm and supportive home for hundreds of Stanford undergraduates," wrote Jane Camarillo, director of Residential Education, in an e-mail announcing Faste's death. "Rolf said that the primary goal for the Toyon resident fellows and staff was to learn the name of each Toyon resident so that they could recognize and call them by name."

Born in Seattle on Sept. 6, 1943, Faste earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1965, a master's degree in engineering design from Tufts University in 1972 and a bachelor's degree in architecture from Syracuse University in 1977. He came to Stanford in 1984 from Syracuse University, where he was a professor of design at the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Faste was interested in exploring the way that the body and mind influence technical creativity; understanding needs and cultural meaning in the creation of products; and incorporating functional, aesthetic and humanistic concerns in the design of products. He was on the board of directors of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation of Ventura, Calif.

Throughout his career, Faste designed, consulted on or participated in the creation of numerous products, including knee braces, toothbrushes, medical equipment and devices to improve accessibility for the disabled. He held five patents and one patent pending for his innovations.

Faste was known for his dedication to bringing together two seemingly separate fields -- art and engineering. At Stanford, he taught numerous courses that demonstrated his desire to integrate right and left-brain thinking, including Aesthetics of Machinery, Ambidextrous Thinking and Expression of Function. He also led or taught in several creativity workshops and seminars, including the "Creativity Workshop for Professors" and "Creative Problem Solving Skills for Your Profession and Life."

In 1994, he received the Raymond J. Perrin Award for Teaching and Course Development.

In addition to his wife, Linda Faste, of Stanford, he is survived by sons Trygve Andreas Faste of Pontiac, Mich., and Haakon Anthony Faste of Florence, Italy; mother Edith Morch Faste of Edmonds, Wash.; brother Eric Faste of Belfair, Wash.; and sister Andrea Faste of Seattle.

A memorial is planned for Friday, March 21, at 2 p.m. in the lounge of Toyon Hall. Information about contributing memorial gifts can be found at

Bronwyn Barnett is a science writing intern at Stanford News Service.


By Bronwyn Barnett

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