A retired U.S. Air Force civil engineering officer, Kitch came to ASU in 2015 after teaching for nine years at California State Polytechnic University. He was looking for a university that would let him build an engineering program his way, and ASU fit the bill.
“It was clear when I got here that this was a great place and a great job for me,” Kitch said. “I felt like I could really come in and make a difference.”
And he certainly has. Since his arrival, Kitch has built ASU’s engineering program from offering one bachelor’s degree and being housed in portable buildings to instructing students in two distinct degree programs through the David L. Hirschfeld Department of Engineering in the state-of-the-art Hunter Strain Engineering Labs.
“To build a great team from nothing has been a real thrill.”
In September 2020, ASU’s civil engineering program earned ABET accreditation, and Kitch is already working toward the same goal for the mechanical engineering program. Enrollment also continues to grow, and both programs are graduating practice-ready engineers. But Kitch refuses to take all the credit.
“I’ve been able to hire great faculty and the support of the entire university has been great,” he said. “What has been accomplished in our department is a team achievement. I’ve had the pleasure of leading that team, and I think that’s what is most exciting and most satisfying about it. To build a great team from nothing has been a real thrill.”
Something else Kitch has been able to build is strong relationships in the community.
“We have a great Industry Advisory Council,” he said. “They hire our students as interns and later as practicing engineers, and they set up field trips and industry visits for us. And the community as a whole has also been tremendously supportive. Everyone in town seems to know about our program, and they’ve donated millions of dollars. It has been incredible!”
For his stellar leadership of his department and service to ASU, Kitch has earned the Alumni Association’s 2021 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.
“I was completely surprised,” Kitch said. “I’ve looked at the award winners every year, but I never imagined myself in that group. I have no idea where my nomination came from, but I’m very honored.”
Kitch and his wife, Elizabeth, recently welcomed their first grandchild. They also have a son, Nathan, and a daughter, Rachel, who briefly attended ASU before heading to medical school.