Thursday, May. 9th 2024

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AVANT Acoustics Announces Passing of Beloved Founder, Bob Coffeen

It is with great sadness to share the recent news of the death of Robert (Bob) Coffeen, our founder, owner, and President from 1964 until his retirement.

“Although I didn’t get to know him well personally, between all the stories from our team, getting to meet Mr. Coffeen at his last guest KU lecture, and hearing from customers and colleagues all over the country, it cannot be overstated how much love and respect that others express when mentioning him. For my part, Bob started something amazing and now I get to be the steward of his company for a short while, but what is more evident and important is the impact he has had on our employees. And there, his professional legacy remains alive and well” expressed Company Owner, Dondi Dix.

Professionalism, pride in work, and industry influence are a few of the terms we have been discussing and hearing from across the country about Mr. Coffeen.

His goal to “make every project our company touches sound great” remains the center driver of our designing, consulting, and commissioning work.

Many of the staff he hired, trained, and worked with for the last half of his career are still with the company and we are all missing him already.

Bob Ledo, Senior Vice President and with the firm since 1988 wanted to share his favorite part of working with Mr. Coffeen, “For me it is those quiet moments with Bob that I will cherish the most. One such moment occurred while returning home from a project late one night in the Duke, Bob in the left seat, I in the right. With the hum of the airplane engines in the background, we talked about the moon, the stars, and our small part in this great big universe. Then unplanned silence as we both gazed out the cockpit window watching the dozens of airliners queuing up to land above Chicago.”

Bob Coffeen’s story: After his first project in this field, inventing the design of the paging system for Dulles Airport in Washington D.C (while with Burns & McDonnell, a longtime collaborative partner with our firm), Bob Coffeen founded R.C. Coffeen & Associates in 1964, consulting in Electro-Acoustics and Industrial Control Systems. Following the mentorship of Dr. C. Paul Boner, Bob began employing a sound system equalization method on several projects. His firm then took off and expanded.

The company continued through the years as Coffeen Anderson Fricke & Associates, later as Coffeen Fricke & Associates, Inc., Consultants in Acoustics and Audio-Visual Communications. Bob was renowned for his research in acoustical engineering, particularly stadiums and performance venues. Key projects included the original sound systems for Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Station (GEHA Field). He was particularly proud of work done for arenas, stadiums, and churches across the United States, including Yardley Hall and Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College. 

Bob’s skills were known internationally, resulting in many journeys around the globe. He was also a private pilot and at one point, the firm owned three airplanes. Flying was an immense joy of Bob’s, a passion that was shared by others in the firm. The firm was later purchased and continues today as AVANT Acoustics in Lenexa, KS.

Bob retired from the firm so he could continue with his instruction in architectural acoustics at the University of Kansas. He was an adjunct faculty member with the School of Architecture until his full retirement in 2017. In KU’s classrooms and labs, he worked with students in designing acoustics for planned or existing buildings and facilities. He taught them how to use computer modeling and auralization programs. A highlight of many years was an annual trip with students to Chicago for company and building tours. Former students and colleagues honored him with the Jack and Nancy Bradley Student Recognition Award. He also received an Excellence in Teaching Award, chosen by undergraduate students in KU’s Architectural Engineering department.

Bob received multiple industry honors throughout his career. He was named the 2006 National Systems Contractors Association Educator of the Year. He received the Rossing Prize as the nation’s top educator in acoustics by the Acoustical Society of America where he was a life member. Bob was a life member of the Audio Engineering Society and a Life Member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers.

Jill Elmers, Senior Associate and with the firm since 1993 remembers working with Bob fondly, “Bob was instrumental in my early education at Coffeen Fricke. I enjoyed every moment of trying to learn as much as I could during our time together in the field and in the office.”

Ed Charland, Vice President with the firm since 1990 recalls experience learned from Coffeen, “I have many fond memories of working with Bob, designing, and commissioning audio systems for all types of applications. I especially remember several trips to overseas projects in Japan and Germany, where Bob would embrace the local culture and easily communicate acoustical and sound system concepts regardless of language differences. His passion for his work, always presented with good humor, was infectious.”  

In attendance at his last ever guest lecture at KU, “The History of the Microphone” in the fall of 2021, were a few AVANT team members all of whom witnessed a true connection with the students, a love and knowledge of the industry like none other, and true pride in practice while in Murphy Hall, which he designed the acoustical elements of that make it an outstanding performance venue.

A celebration of life visitation will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2024, from 11:00 ~ 1:00 p.m., at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence, with brief comments by the family at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Acoustical Society Foundation Fund, in care of the funeral home.

Here is a link to his obituary and additional information:



AVANT ACOUSTICS, LLC  Lenexa, KS  Phone: (913) 888-9111  Email:

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