Richard Scharchburg was a nationally known historian of the automotive industry, serving on various boards across the country. At the time of his passing, he had taught at Kettering University for more than 36 years and was preparing to retire from teaching. During his career, he published several books on the automotive industry, including “Carriages Without Horses: J. Frank Duryea and the Birth of the American Industry,” which received two national awards.
He was the recipient of the Thomas McKean Memorial Cup, presented by the Antique Automobile Club of America, and the Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot Award, presented by the Society of Automotive historians. Days before his death he was interviewed by the History Channel for the Modern Marvel show on the history of Buick.
Scharchburg is remembered by many for his distinct characteristics. If he ruffled feathers, it was only to get things right and never to offend. “You always know where I stand on an issue,” he would say, and anyone who knew him well or met him for the first time was well aware of this.
His former students remember him as a master teacher who made going to class interesting. Fellow professors said that “Scharchburg had a unique way of making historical events exciting and made great people live again.”
He provided a role model for future leaders - Dan Hancock, class of 1973, said “Richard Scharchburg taught me that business challenges cannot all be reduced to a simple polynomial solution set.” Dan said that, as a mentor, Scharchburg taught him that sustained achievement requires life balance, with maintenance of close friendships as a top priority.
Scharchburg was very much involved in the community, having served as President of the Genesee County Historical Society and the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Foundation, which restored the Durant Dort Office Building, the birthplace of General Motors. He also served on the Sloan Museum Advisory Board, Whaley Historical House Museum, and the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library.