Eugene Henry Rietzke, 85, the founder of the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute and a founder and four-term president of the National Council of Technical Schools, died of pneumonia Jan. 3 at George Washington University Hospital.
In 1977, Mr. Rietzke, who never went to college himself, received a special citation from the Navy for his contributions as an educator in the field of electronics. In 1977 he also won the DeForest Audion Award, which is named after the inventor of the triode vacuum tube, a technological breakthrough in the early part of this century and a major development for radio science. The DeForest is a high honor in the field of electronic engineering.
Mr. Rietzke also held the Distinguished Service Award of the National Home Study Council and three Marconi Gold Medals of Achievement from the Veteran Wireless Operators Association.
The work that brought these and other honors began when Mr. Rietzke, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., enlisted in the Navy in World War I. In 1924, he was assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington as the first chief instructor in the Advanced Radio Materiel School.
One of the subjects he taught was the triode vacuum tube. Seeing a need for a textbook on the subject, he wrote one. In 1927, the Navy permitted him to market it for home study. This was the beginning of the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute.
Mr. Rietzke soon left the service to devote full time to his new enterprise, the purpose of which was to provide correspondence programs in advanced electronics engineering. In 1932, CREI, a residential school, was added. In World War II, the organization trained 3,000 technicians for war industries. In 1958, the first home study program in nuclear engineering technology was added to the curriculum and CREI International was established in London.
In 1964, Mr. Rietzke gave the school to a nonprofit board of trustees. Since then, it has been called the Capitol Institute of Technology. It is located in Kensington and offers two-year and four-year degree programs in such subjects as computers, lasers, radar, fiber optics, microprocessors and solar energy.
In the same year, the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute, the correspondence part of the school, was merged with the McGraw-Hill Continuing Education Center.
Mr. Rietzke was an active director of these organizations until 1980, when he became honorary chairman of the Capitol Institute of Technology.
During the Eisenhower administration, Mr. Rietzke served on a task force of the President's Advisory Committee on Scientists and Engineers. He also testified before numerous congressional committees about technical education, manpower and veterans benefits.
One of Mr. Rietzke's principal interests was keeping engineers abreast of new developments in their particular disciplines. In 1982, he urged the White House to undertake programs to this end in order to fill the country's perceived shortage of qualified technicians.
In accepting one of his Marconi Gold Medals from the Veteran Wireless Operators Association, Mr. Rietzke said: "Only in the United States can a farm boy like me receive a medal bestowed upon two presidents."
Mr. Rietzke's marriage to Martha Rietzke ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Lillie Lou, of Washington; two children by his first marriage, Eugene Henry Jr. of Bellingham, Wash., and Martha Helen Steer of Arlington, Tex.; an adopted son, R. Payson Fugitt of Middletown, R.I.; two sisters, Mrs. Harold Morehead and Mrs. Forrest Lunsway, both of California; a brother, R. Donovan of Minnesota; six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.