SCN’s Hall of Fame: Bob Coffeen
The scene is Washington Dulles airport,sometime around 1959. As the only onewith any communications experience athis engineering firm, Bob Coffeen was taskedwith developing a system of prerecordedannouncements in various languages for theairport. It’s a standard technology in everyairport today, but ‘it was fairly revolutionaryat the time,’ he said.Back then, recordings were made onmagnetic tape. Soon after, Coffeen wasdesigning airport audio systems across thecountry.
‘I became self unemployed,’ Coffeen said,chuckling, about the trajectory his career tookfollowing the job that effectively changed thecourse of acoustical engineering as we know it.
Coffeen is a professor at the University of Kansas, School of Architecture, Design andPlanning. He served as an engineering officerfor the U.S. Army before going to work forBurns and McDonnell Engineering Companyin Kansas City. From there, he foundeda consulting firm in the early ’60s,which later became Coffeen Fricke andAssociates.
Bob taught the electro-acoustics class I took at the University of Kansas my last semester in college.