Erich Enrique Kunhardt, 65, dies

Physicist, Academic Administrator, and Inventor

Erich Enrique Kunhardt, a professor of physics, a university administrator, and a prolific inventor, died on Monday, August 4, 2014 at the age of 65 in Manhattan, after a lengthy illness.

Erich Enrique Kunhardt was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1949. He came to the United States at the age of 12. He received a BS degree (1969) and a MS degree (1972) from New York University (NYU) and a PhD in Physics from the Polytechnic Institute of New York, Brooklyn (1976). He was a renowned researcher who worked on a wide range of physics topics including non-equilibrium kinetics in gases, liquids and condensed matter, pulsed power, breakdown phenomena, and the generation and maintenance of atmospheric-pressure plasmas and their technological applications in areas such as the sterilization of medical instruments, biological decontamination, and pollution control.

After serving on the faculty of Texas Tech University from 1976 to 1985, Erich Kunhardt returned to the Polytechnic Institute of New York, by then renamed Polytechnic University, as a professor and the first Director of its Weber Research Institute (WRI), which was formerly known as the Microwave Research Institute. Under his leadership, the WRI became a major force in the Department of Defense’s marquis Joint Services Electronics Program (JSEP) and was the recipient of multi-million DoD grants and contracts for research related to President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

Erich Kunhardt spent the years between 1992 and 2006 at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, where he served as Dean of the Arthur E. Imperatore School of Sciences and Arts from 2000 to 2006. In 2006, Erich Kunhardt returned once again to Brooklyn, this time as Provost of the Polytechnic University, a position he held for 3 years, during which he played a central role in the negotiations with NYU that resulted in the agreement that led to the recent merger of the two institutions. He spent his final years at Poly doing what he loved most — being a professor engaged in research and teaching. In addition to being a highly regarded researcher and admired teacher, Erich Kunhardt had 14 patents to his name. He also co-founded two start-up companies that commercialized his patented plasma technology, one of which was acquired by Stryker Instruments in 2005.

Erich Kunhardt lived in Manhattan and in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island. He is survived by his wife, Christine, and by his brother, Rudy, and two sisters, Janet and Tanya.

A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, August 16 at 10:30 am, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, 152 W. 71st Street in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.