Fred Tepfer leaves the drawing board for retirement

Fred Tepfer in 2000
Fred Tepfer in 2000

You could call Fred Tepfer a bit of a Renaissance man, if 16th-century Europeans had been avid bicyclists, accomplished doodlers, enthusiastic collectors of oddities, and skilled architects and planners.

And on that last note alone, Tepfer qualifies. A member of the UO’s campus planning office for more than 30 years, he guided the planning and construction of some the university’s most recognizable modern buildings, including the Lillis Business Complex, Lewis Integrative Science Building, Living Learning Center, four other key science buildings — Willamette, Streisinger, Cascade and Deschutes — and a slew of other edifices.

Now, he faces his last big project: Retirement.

To mark the milestone, a retirement party will be held in the Willamette Atrium on Wednesday, April 20, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The campus community is invited to attend.

Tepfer came to the university in 1984 as a temporary hire for renovation and construction at the UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston. He quickly became a permanent employee well-suited to managing large projects.

That know-how came not only from his training but also his family history. Tepfer’s father, Sanford “Sandy” Tepfer, was a well-respected professor, researcher and biology department head who came to the UO in 1955 and served in many capacities until his passing in 2006.  Growing up in a household of scientists, researchers and other intellectuals left Tepfer with a grounding in the sciences and a broad ecumenical curiosity. 

A licensed architect with a strong artistic bent and an interest in both the built and the natural environment, Tepfer fit in well with the UO’s research community, both those in the natural sciences and the humanities. Over his career, he has championed both universal accessibility in campus buildings as well as alternative modes of transportation.

For decades Tepfer coordinated the UO’s transportation planning efforts, which resulted in improved bike routes, bike parking and storage, and other amenities. He brought the UO recognition and awards for leading-edge innovation; today, the campus has nearly twice as many parking spots for bikes as for cars.

In fact, his colleagues swear they could count on the fingers of one hand the occasions when Tepfer drove to work absent some urgent need.

He will also be remembered for his extensive and expressive doodlings and for being an accomplished postcard artist. He also is known for taking copious notes, often written on his hand, and for the manual Remington typewriter he still uses.

Tepfer also put in time in the classroom, guest lecturing in architecture classes, serving on student design and review panels and serving as an adjunct professor in architecture and educational leadership. He was awarded the Officer of Administration Recognition Award in 2001 and has served on the University Senate Executive Committee, Officers of Administrative Council (chair), Disabilities Issues Administrative Council, Environmental Issues Committee, President’s Faculty Advisory Council, Physical Access Committee, Student Health Advisory Council and EMU Board of Directors.

Tepfer’s colleagues say his expertise and historical knowledge will be a loss to the university, and his humor, mentorship and endless supply of chocolates will be greatly missed.