Ralph G. Anderson, 86, a University of Kentucky graduate and supporter who founded one of the nation's largest engineering firms, died Saturday night in Cincinnati.
He was a philanthropist known for supporting historic preservation and for his commitment to Kentucky agriculture.
"Mr. Anderson was one of the most inspiring people I've ever known," said Margaret Lane, who wrote a biography, Anderson's Legacy, honoring the 50th anniversary of the company he founded, Belcan Corp. "He was a visionary, a creative genius in the engineering world."
Cincinnati-based Belcan provides engineering, staffing, multimedia and technology services, and generates annual sales of almost $500 million, according to the company Web site. It has more than 7,500 employees worldwide.
Despite Mr. Anderson's success, "he had never forgotten his roots," said Tom Lester, dean of the UK College of Engineering. "Ralph was certainly one of the most philanthropic individuals I've ever known."
A 1950 graduate of UK's mechanical engineering program, he was a lead donor for the Ralph G. Anderson Building, a $25 million facility that houses UK's mechanical engineering programs, and he was "an ardent supporter of the solar car team" at UK, Lester said.
"He was always interested in improving the lives of students," he said.
A native of Harrodsburg, "Mr. Anderson was a hero in Mercer County," Lane said.
He donated land for Anderson-Dean Community Park, renovated historic buildings and undertook other initiatives there, according to a statement from the state agriculture commissioner's office.
His Anderson Circle Farm, north of Harrodsburg, encompasses more than 7,000 acres and is "a model of modern agricultural practices," Lester said. "He was very much into land conservation."
Mr. Anderson had donated 50 acres along U.S. 127 in Mercer County for the Kentucky Agricultural Heritage Center, said Lane, chairman of the board for the center.
She said the center will be dedicated to honoring the history and future of farming, and will include exhibits and demonstrations of farming practices, with an emphasis on sustainable energy. The non-profit organization hopes to break ground for the center later this year.
"He had very deep roots in agriculture. He really appreciated the land," said Joe Myers, general manager of Anderson Circle Farm. "He had a great appreciation for angus cattle."
Myers said he'll remember Mr. Anderson's sharp wit.
"You'd be talking, and he'd come off with some kind of wisecrack," Myers recalled. "He kind of had a little smirky laugh himself, and it always came at the right time."
Mr. Anderson, a veteran of World War II, was the widower of Ruth Anderson and had one daughter, Candace McCaw of Cincinnati.
Arrangements were incomplete Monday at Thomas-Justin Memorial Funeral Home in Cincinnati.