Born in Seattle, WA, he was the son of Var Saunders and Alice (Foltz) Baker. He grew up in Seattle and attended Roosevelt High School. A member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, he graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Ken married his college sweetheart, Ritchie Baird, in 1958 and started a family while pursuing a PhD. in Engineering (Applied Mechanics) from the University of California, Berkeley, which he completed in 1965.
Ken spent two years as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington where he taught advanced analytical mechanics, thermodynamics, optimal control theory, and introductory probability and statistics. He began work as a research engineer and applied mathematician, starting a career that spanned 40 years. His focus was in the aerospace and undersea-warfare industries, and in government – primarily concerning the Cold War and its aftermath. He authored or coauthored dozens of reports, most of which dealt with operational feasibility of advanced technology, and when appropriate, used mathematical modeling. His industrial and work history includes Boeing Company (1956-61); RAND Corporation (1967-72); Pacific-Sierra Research Corporation (1972-1980); U.S. Navy, Washington D.C. (1980-1983); and RAND Corporation (1983-98).
Ken and Ritchie enjoyed a vibrant social life with numerous groups of friends. They traveled around the world following their passion for wine and adventure. Ken was a teacher and lifelong learner, evident during retirement as he avidly continued to pursue interests in history, religion, science, economics, and political discourse. He was dedicated to a lifetime of health and fitness and was proud to complete over one hundred sessions of “The Great Courses” which he listened to while walking, running, hiking and strength training. He also continued to pursue research interests that centered on physical cosmology and the twin-primes conjecture through thoughtful dialogues in person -- and via Zoom -- with friends and former colleagues from the aerospace industry.
Ken is survived by his wife, Ritchie of Pacific Palisades; daughter Lynn Saunders Cutter and husband John, of Atkinson, NH; son David Saunders and wife Laurie of Del Mar, CA; son Jonathan “JB” Saunders and wife Pet Tuan of Santa Monica, CA; brother Robert Saunders, wife Donna Marie, and stepchildren Pam Frasier, Steve Frasier and Gail Sehlhorst, Dana Lin and Jill Satran; brother Ted Baker, wife Linda and children, Sean, Michelle, and Jamie Baker; stepsister Michelle Ellis and husband Gene; and seven grandchildren: Megan Cutter and husband Federico Zablah, Joshua Cutter, Andrew, Jessica and Tim Saunders, Sean and Benjamin Saunders.
The family requests that donations be made in Ken’s memory to support one of his favorite places, Grand Canyon National Park, where he and Ritchie enjoyed scenic hikes and a river trip during their many years together: Grand Canyon Conservancy (https://www.grandcanyon.org/) --whose mission is to inspire generations of park champions to cherish and support the natural wonder of Grand Canyon. Memorial arrangements are pending.