Vickers Announces Retirement as Director of Microelectronics-Photonics Program

Ken Vickers
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Ken Vickers

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ken Vickers, director of the interdisciplinary microelectronics-photonics graduate program, has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 29. Vickers developed the program, better known as microEP, and has been the sole director in the program’s 16-year history.

Vickers completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics at the University of Arkansas in 1976 and 1978, but he did not return to the campus in a faculty role until 1998. He spent the first 20 years of his professional life at Texas Instruments and spent his last eight years at the company as the engineering manager of the integrated circuit factory in Sherman, Texas. Though he never had any intention of becoming an academic, leaving TI to create the microEP program at the U of A was the chance of a lifetime.

“I had an interest in education coming out in traditional ways, but I never thought of joining a university. However, I was given the opportunity to create a graduate program I would have loved to have had available when I finished my bachelor’s in physics.” he said.

Vickers has had tremendous success in his careers at both TI and the U of A. He has had more than 32 patents issued, won more than three million dollars in grant funding and grown the microEP program from 11 enrolled students to 65 enrolled students.

He is unsure of how he will take to retirement. He thinks his retirement will play out similar to a scenario between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner from Looney Tunes. In a typical episode, Coyote chases after Road Runner but ultimately goes over a cliff, while Road Runner stops just short.

“I don’t know if I’m the Coyote or the Road Runner,” Vickers said. “I was able to walk away from one career without worrying; we’ll see if I can do the same with this career.”

Rick Wise, who has served as chair of the Industrial Advisory Committee for the microEP program for more than 10 years, was recently hired to fill the director position. Vickers acknowledged that his transition into retirement is made easier because of Wise’s credentials.

“It helps that the person we hired is someone I have tremendous respect for and who knows a lot about the program. I am handing off to someone I have a great deal of confidence in,” he said.

 Vickers’ thoroughly enjoyed his time at the University of Arkansas but is looking forward to spending more time with his family post-retirement.

“It’s been a great ride. I feel I’ve been given opportunities from a lot of people and have been able to work with great faculty, great staff and great students,” he said. “Now, I’m going to be taking care of a 30-year honey-do list.”


Amanda Cantu, director of communications
Graduate School and International Education


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