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Derby Spotlight - Kenneth Holmboe

Holmboe With TrophiesBack home after Kenneth’s Championship win in the
1947 All-American Soap Box Derby

Derby Spotlight – Kenneth Holmboe

In 1947, Kenneth Holmboe was 14 years old when he became a World Champion at the 10th annual All-American Soap Box Derby. At that time the Soap Box Derby was sponsored by Chevrolet and Holmboe received a cash scholarship as his prize for winning the race.

“He always spoke about the fun he had before the race spending time with all of the other racers,” Kevin Holmboe (Kenneth’s son) said. “There were lots of activities for all. He also mentioned being in the spotlight with Hollywood stars and corporate CEO’s such as Harvey Firestone.” In 1947 celebrities such as Jimmy Stewart and Air Force General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle attended the races.

Holmboe had the time of his life in Akron in 1947 at the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship. He was so amazed that there were tens of thousands of people in the stands cheering on the racers as they went down the track. After winning the World Championship he went to Chattanooga, Tennessee and received the key to the city. Also, he was lucky to spend time in New York City with Jimmy Stewart around the time he was famous for starring in "Harvey" on Broadway. 

Early in his career, he became very active in developing a local Soap Box Derby race in State College, Pennsylvania and held workshops to further educate young children about the Soap Box Derby. Both of his sons; Eric and Kevin, participated in the Soap Box Derby in the 1970’s.

During a recent visit to the Soap Box Derby office in Akron, Kevin and his sister, Kristi Holmboe Ross, reminisced about their fathers Derby career and his life after being crowned World Champion in 1947. “There is no doubt that the Soap Box Derby influenced my father throughout college and life,” said Kevin Holmboe. “Every aspect of building and designing a car is what STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is all about. My father already had a good set of morals thanks to his loving parents, Lee and Rebecca, but the Derby reinforced every value a young man should have”. It should also be mentioned that Ernie Holmboe, Kenneth’s younger brother, also participated in the Soap Box Derby. “I think the lesson was that if you put in the honest work and learned from others, you should pass those virtues on…which both he and Ernie did very well in their careers.”

Kenneth Holmboe always had a love for engineering. He was always interested in math and solving difficult problems. Rather than play word cross puzzles, he would simply write out complicated math equations. With his passion for engineering and math, the Soap Box Derby was a perfect fit for him.

Winning the scholarship greatly helped Holmboe with his educational expenses to attend Webb Institutes of Naval Architecture and Carnegie Mellon University. He ultimately completed a Doctorate Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University. Going to college was very exciting for Holmboe because he became the first person in his family to attend college.

After college, his first engineering job was with North American Aviation in Columbus, Ohio. After a long career in a number of engineering positions to include Westinghouse and Metrocom Data Systems (his own company), he closed out his career as a senior scientist and mentor at Raytheon in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where he worked on a number of national defense projects and received several awards for his contributions to engineering and design. His work at Raytheon included: nuclear testing programs, torpedo designs, ship designs and advances in underwater engines and propulsion. He was also given a patent posthumously by Raytheon for an engineering design based on a new engine technology.  Kenneth Holmboe retired from Raytheon Company on May 1, 2016. Sadly and only one day later, he passed away peacefully at his home in Portsmouth, RI at age 83.

 “Whether it was mentoring others, raising a family, starting a business or being an industry expert, the Derby proved that hard, honest work and respect for others will help you in your life,” Kevin said. “Treat others as you would treat yourself” was a constant phrase he would use.


Kenneth With Jimmy Stewart

Kenneth Holmboe and Jimmy Stewart at the 1947 All-American Soap Box Derby.


Kenneths Car

Kenneth Holmboe’s Championship car from the 1947 All-American Soap Box Derby.


Kenneth Back Home After Win

Back home after Kenneth’s
Championship win in 1947 with 
father Lee, mother Rebecca,
brother Ernie and sister Betty Lee.

Note: This is the eleventh in a series of spotlights on former Derby racers who have gone on to study/work in a STEM related field. If you know of someone who we could spotlight please let us know at 

Past Spotlight Features

Nicole Stout - Spotlight (January, 2016)

Michael Gallo - Spotlight (February, 2016) 

Todd Hinton - Spotlight (March, 2016)

Alan Uhler - Spotlight (April, 2016)

Kristi Murphy - Spotlight (May, 2016)

James Fell - Spotlight (June, 2016)

Michael J. Corson, Jr. - Spotlight (July, 2016)

David Reid - Spotlight (August, 2016)

John Horner - Spotlight (September, 2016)

John Hamels - Spotlight (October 2016)