The Story of Dr. Richard Ewing's passing, as I experienced and witnessed it

This is the memorial message that I shared with the family on his memorial page, link below

We have not met yet, but know that I am profoundly saddened by your (our) loss. I have been the benefactor of Dick's kindness, vision and leadership for four years here at Texas A&M. Very few people know these facts, but my intent is for this to change. I had admired Dr. Ewing from a distance but recently I had the great fortune to work closely with him for the last year. This has impacted me deeper than I can describe in words.

My hope was to contribute to his benefit in return for his complete dedication to higher education - to create a better world. He did this in the spirit of true love and service. I lost my father this year as well. Dr. Ewing and my father were of the same spirit, one of selfless service. He was my mentor.

We were all so fortunate to have him in our lives and I truly believe his spirit will support us to create the better and more peaceful world he had envisioned. I received an apropos quote from another great American yesterday:

"I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything."

Abraham Lincoln
1809-1865, Sixteenth President of the USA

With Love
Andrew Skadberg, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Scientist
Institute for Scientific Computation
Texas A&M University

This story relates to the untimely death of Dr. Richard Ewing, the Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University in the midst of investigation by the Center of Disease Control. Here is the memorial Web page for Dr. Ewing - he was truly a great man!

In 2004 Dr. Ewing had created an initiative called the Technology Transfer Commercialization Initiative (TTCI). I know about it intimately because I was the only professor to start a company under the original vision of Dr. Ewing. The President of my company AdventGX was the entrepreneur advising Dr. Ewing on the strategy. I have documents and powerpoints on my computer about the TTCI initiative - some addressed to Robert Gates, at the time the President of TAMU (Dr. Gates went on to be the Secretary of Defense after leaving TAMU. This was the leadership structure at the university, essentially, was gutted. Dr. Ewing was the last top people).

The TTCI was envisioned to become a $1.2 billion/year activity by year seven. I was participating in year 1.It was a project to be conducted at the University level, not the University System level. It was really the culmination of Dr. Ewing's life achievements, he had dedicated his life to Texas and Texas A&M.

As the TTCI project started to mature they brought in a new director - Guy Deitrich. Guy is personal friends with the governor - they run together. Soon after taking the job, Guy magically got promoted to Vice Chancellor, and the TTCI was suddenly taken out of Dr. Ewing's realm of responsibility because Guy reported to the System level which is higher than the University.

As you can imagine this pissed Dr. Ewing off (the TTCI was "his baby"). Additionally, various projects and monies were suddenly being handed out to various companies in hopes of stimulating activities for the TTCI, which were not happening because Guy is only a political player. I do not know the details of this, because I was working on other projects.

I assume that Guy didn't know how to make the TTCI actually work, so he was trying to "bribe" his way into making it look like something was happening (this is my interpretation). One project that I know of that was essentially given away for no benefit to Dr. Ewing (the project principle) was called DREAMS - a technology for EMS ambulance communications, live, with hospitals. The TTCI just gave it away, according to what Dr. Ewing told me.

I worked side by side with Dr. Ewing the last 3 months of his life. Prior to that I didn't really get to see him all that much so I never really knew how kind and humble of a person that he was. He is one of the greatest people I have ever known.

Spending a number of long days working with him in November and December 2007, putting together a pre-proposal to create an institute in Saudi Arabia (King Abdulah University of Science and Technology) (which the university got $20 million for - mainly because of Dr. Ewing's influence), I was able to have some personal conversations with Dick. I also spent some time with him at the Bush China-U.S. conference in Oct. 2007 which was another creation of Dr. Ewing.

During one of those conversations he told me that he had accumulated, as I recall, about $60 million that the Governor (Rick Perry), Deitrich and another chancellor wanted to get their hands on.

I don't know all of the details because I really don't care for politics, but when I asked Dick what was going on when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) investigation was going on (about mishandling of some bio-defense research - the story published was about a couple of students got sick because of exposure to a virus), he told me that he had gotten crossways with these people (especially another chancellor that was taking charge after Robert Gates (Current Secretary of Def.) left - I don't know his name).

BTW: did you know that all of the top leadership, five total, left A&M at the same time - Dick was one of the last? It was a very strange and disturbing phenomena, like a headless horse.

Dick said that he had confronted them about what they were doing with various funds and he told me that he told them that what they were doing was illegal and if they didn't stop they were going to go to "fucking jail". He was relaying this information to me in the midst of a constant barrage of many hour meetings, several times per week, with the CDC investigators. As I understood it, they were very much "trumped up" charges that were the result of the shoddy lab management by someone many layers below Dr. Ewing. I suspect totally fabricated.

He told me another story about Guy. That when Dick had confronted him about how he had absconded with the TTCI, and the surprise promotion, Guy responded that he had no idea that that was going to happen. And, Guy said he was sorry and literally wanted to "hug and make up". Dick didn't tell me what he said, but I can imagine something - Fuck You.

Not very many people know the huge contributions that Dr. Ewing made to Texas and to A&M during his life. You can get a small sense from reading all of the tributes. But during the last days of his life, he was working unbelievable hours trying to get this (King Abdullah Univ. of Science & Tech.) proposal out, in the midst of being threatened with 30 years in jail and $6 million of personal fines (those are the numbers that I remember Dick mentioning to me).

What person would not die of a heart attack under that kind of pressure? He did not deserve to be treated that way, no one does. Finally, one of the last things Dick told me just a day or two before he died, he said, with incredible sincerity "Andy, don't get too powerful".

That is what I know. There are other people who would know much more than I (except for the details of the TTCI, because I was the only real benefactor), but they are still working at A&M. And I suspect that if something like that could happen to him, they are scared shitless to come forward and speak out.

I have worked, watched and actually done research on Texas government since about 1993. I was part of entrepreneurial projects at Texas Parks & Wildlife from 1993 - 1997. And, I was previously a tourism Professor, and I have worked with all of the major tourism agencies (TxDOT, TDED (slurped into the Governor´s Office), TPWD, THC and TCA). I'd watched the politics, and in my opinion it stinks. But after I watched the tragedy of Dr. Ewing's death, well I just didn't want any part of it. So I left Texas A&M in Feb. of 2008.

I am speaking out now because I think these power paradigms are going away. And, if I can make some contribution to the change, I thought I would make an attempt. In some respects, I feel obligated to at least speak out on Dr. Ewing´s behalf. I was absolutely crushed, as all who knew him were, when he died. I actually cried more for Dr. Ewing than my own father who died in 2007 as well. Dr. Ewing actually died on my father's birthday Dec. 5h.

I was working on some incredible projects, kind of in secret, for Dr. Ewing on commercialization and utilization of some phenomenal technologies, one called a hyperspectral sensor. All of those opportunities went away since, in my opinion, Dr. Ewing was last true visionary at a high level at Texas A&M.

I have never shared anything like this, nor have I previously written this story up. I do not have any idea how to proceed if this would be something of interest for a journalist who was interested in bringing to light something that should probably be known.

Thanks for your time,