Karl Haltman Bergey

December 25, 1922May 28, 2019

Karl Bergey, aged 96, passed away on May 27th at his home in Norman. Karl was a retired University of Oklahoma professor, chairman of a local small wind turbine manufacturing company, and a highly-regarded designer of small airplanes. Karl was born on Christmas day 1922 and grew up in Lewistown, PA.

As a boy, he developed a passion for model airplanes and all things aviation related - a passion he never lost. He studied at Penn State before joining the Navy and attended flight navigation school, finishing near the end of WWII. After returning to college he received his degree in Aeronautical Engineering then worked a year at Grumman Aviation before entering M.I.T. where he earned a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering. After college, Karl worked for North American Aircraft in California, where he met his first wife Patricia Ambrose. Karl joined Piper Aircraft in 1957 and moved the family to Vero Beach, FL. While at Piper, Karl led the development and certification of the iconic Piper Cherokee, which went on to become one of the best-selling planes in general aviation. Karl joined Aero Commander as VP of Engineering in 1968 and moved the family to Norman, OK. While at Aero Commander, Karl led the development of new small planes including the Aero Commander 114. In recognition of his contributions to general aviation, Karl received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2002. In 2003 he received an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus award from Penn State.

Karl joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma in the School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in 1970. Over the next 40 years, Karl taught and inspired countless engineering students and oversaw student projects that designed and built award-winning electric cars, wind turbines, weather drones and aircraft. Karl continued to mentor student projects until age 94. With the help of students, he also designed and built a high-performance 4-place plane, the Cougar, which made its maiden flight in 2017. Karl was a wellspring of knowledge of aviation history and a simple question about an obscure plane or aircraft designer would often lead to an hours-long gem of a history lesson. Starting in 1971, well before the energy crisis, Karl wrote feasibility studies on wind power and he testified before Congress in 1975 on the potential for wind energy to become a significant source of energy for the U.S. In 1977 Karl, along with his son Michael, founded Bergey Windpower Co. (BWC) in space rented from O.U. on North Campus. BWC went on to become the leading manufacturer of small wind turbines in the U.S., with installations in all 50 States and over 120 countries. Karl came in to work at BWC every day; he never retired. The company’s success has been in large part due to Karl’s belief in the value of simplicity. He often quoted French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

Karl has been described as an “engineer’s engineer,” and he leaves behind a legacy of design excellence, machines that make the world a better place, and thousands of impassioned O.U. graduates. He enjoyed making mead (honey wine), researching the writings of Shakespeare (or was it Christopher Marlowe?) and living in the country. Karl and Patricia were known for holding massive Bastille Day picnics for hundreds of friends.

Karl is survived by his wife, Jimmie Bergey, of Norman; sister Martha Wiser of Princeton, NJ; four children, Michael Bergey and his wife Fran Bergey, Elizabeth Bergey and her husband Kenneth Hobson and Daniel Bergey and his wife Jennifer Bergey, all of Norman, and Andrew Bergey and his wife Julie Bergey of Thornton, CO; and five grandchildren, Matthew Bergey of Norman, Laura Bergey of Oklahoma City, Russell Hobson and Sarah Hobson of Norman, and Rachel Bergey of Thornton, CO. Karl was preceded in death by his wife Patricia and his parents Karl and Mary Bergey.

A remembrance of a life well lived will be held on Thursday, June 13 at 3:00 PM at The Hall at the Railhouse, 102 W. Eufaula in Norman. In lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to the O.U. Foundation (100 W. Timberdale, Norman, OK 73019) marked for AME scholarships in memory of Karl Bergey.


  • Memorial Service Thursday, June 13, 2019


Karl Haltman Bergey

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Steve Rowland

June 13, 2019

Dr. Bergey was a true gentleman and a fine professor. He brought real-world experience to the subjects he taught, thus bringing them to life in an inspiring and exciting way. He was always excited and gratified to hear how the careers of his former students were going.

His passing leaves the world a lesser place.

William Sutton

June 6, 2019

Karl was a truly great man. I spent a lot of time at N. Campus on various projects at OU. Karl was always there to lend inspiration
during the many times of technical issues. Katherine and I really enjoyed our times together with Karl and Jimmie. I hope that Jimmie, the extended Bergey family, and Karl's many students are holding up well from this loss.