Al Sobey ’45, son of Kettering University founder Major Sobey, and a prolific inventor, businessman, and alumnus, passed away Monday, Dec. 9, at the age of 94 and surrounded by his family.
While a student at Kettering University during the 1940s, he distinguished himself as a member of the Robot Society, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Camera Club, and as Chairman of the Publications Council. At that time, the Publications Council oversaw all school publications including the handbook, the Technician, and the Reflector (for which he was Editor). His Co-op was with the Allison Division of GM, and he earned his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University in 1945. He was a member of the first class to be required to produce a thesis; his involved optimizing propulsion in propeller driven aircraft. His thesis, produced towards the end of World War II, was of such importance and utility that it was immediately classified by the Department of Defense. Only very recently was it declassified and made available publicly.
After graduating, he went on to have a long and successful career with General Motors, Transportation Technology, Booz Allen & Hamilton, and finally as President of his own company, Albert Sobey & Associates. He never stopped innovating and inspiring others throughout his life, ultimately holding more than 30 patents covering his groundbreaking work in turbine engines, rocketry, and other technologies. He also published dozens of articles and lectures as well as a textbook for aircraft and rocket control systems and designs for engineering energy efficiency in transportation systems.
Throughout his career, his connection to his alma mater never waned. In recognition of this, in 1995 he received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from the University followed by an honorary Doctorate of Engineering in 1997. He also generously established the Al Sobey Lectures on Leadership and Ethics Endowment in 2007. In October 2019, he returned to Kettering University during its Centennial year and Founders' Week. While on campus, he attended Robot Society Reunion, to the surprise and joy of students, staff, faculty and alumni. He, along with his family, also attended the Centennial Gala, where he was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
As the entire University community mourns his passing, it also celebrates his lasting impact. He lived a life that exemplified the core values of his beloved Robot Society – leadership which is creative, service that transcends self and citizenship that demonstrates responsibility.
Preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Barbara Boyd Sobey, he is survived by his sons Dan Sobey and Jim Sobey, a daughter Sue Dickinson and two grandchildren. Funeral services were held Jan. 18, 2020, in Bloomfield Hills. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made in his name to the Al Sobey Lectures on Leadership and Ethics Endowment at Kettering University.