Berkeley Engineering

Spring 2003


From the Dean

In the News


Student Spotlight

Alumni Update


Google's Schmidt takes center stage at tech event


Four engineering alumni honored for exemplary careers


Alumnus Jurafsky wins coveted MacArthur Fellowship


An engineering approach to preventing HIV in women

Class Notes

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Four engineering alumni honored for exemplary careers

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George Leitmann (third from left) is known for his sense of humor, athleticism, love of the arts, and devotion to family. Also shown are his wife Nancy and former student Majdedin Dean Mirmirani, now chair of mechanical engineering at Cal State LA, and his wife. Between the Leitmanns in the background is their grandson Joseph.

Four illustrious engineering alumni and one young up-and-comer were honored for their achievements with the 2002 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Awards (DEAA) from the Engineering Alumni Society (EAS). Awardees included:

  • George Leitmann, Ph.D. ’56 ME;
  • Robert S. Pepper, B.S.’57, M.S. ’58, Ph.D. ’61 EE;
  • Theodore W. Van Zelst, B.S. ’44 CE;
  • Valerie E. Taylor, Ph.D. ’91 EECS.

Nearly 200 fellow alumni, faculty, family members, and other guests celebrated the award winners at a dinner last November at Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel, where multimedia presentations told the stories behind these remarkable engineers and their careers.

In its 28th year, the awards program recognizes lifelong career achievement in engineering, as well as service to the University and engineering community. New this year was the Outstanding Young Leader Award, designed to honor and inspire young engineering alumni just establishing their careers. The awards committee, comprised of Dean Richard Newton, EAS officers, chair of the engineering faculty, a past award recipient, and other alumni, is now accepting nominations for 2003 awardees.

George Leitmann: new millennium Renaissance man
Known worldwide as the father of modern geometric optimal control and game theory, George Leitmann has served the College for more than four decades as faculty member, educator, and administrator. Although he officially retired in 1991, he remains active in research, administration, and public service.

A native of Austria, Leitmann completed his B.S. and M.A. degrees in physics at Columbia University. He earned his Ph.D. in engineering science at Berkeley and joined the faculty in 1957, becoming a full professor of engineering science in 1963.

Among his many credits are serving as the first ombudsman of any UC campus, a title he held at Berkeley during the troubled Vietnam-era years 1968-1970. Other administrative posts included vice chair of mechanical engineering, associate dean for graduate study and research, and chair of the faculty of the College of Engineering. He is currently professor of the Graduate School and director of International Programs for Engineering at Berkeley.

In 1991 Leitmann received the Berkeley Citation, one of the University’s highest honors, and was named Professor Emeritus. His international stature is reflected in his six foreign memberships in science or engineering academies, his three honorary degrees from European universities, and his membership in the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. A highly respected teacher, he has mentored more than 100 postdocs who hold important positions worldwide in academia, industry, and government.

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Bob Pepper left academics in 1964 to begin a brilliant entrepreneurial career that culminated at Intel.

Robert Pepper: from cyberspace to outer space
Bob Pepper’s innovations and achievements in the integrated circuit industry have garnered him worldwide acclaim and made his name synonymous with the term semiconductor.

Pepper entered Berkeley’s electrical engineering department fresh out of high school, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees with honors and, before even completing his Ph.D. in 1961, was invited to join the faculty. In that capacity, he was instrumental in establishing the integrated circuits laboratory, forerunner of today's state-of-the-art Microlab.

In 1964 he joined Sprague Electric as engineer and manager. There he assumed a major role in developing the rocket motor ignition trigger on the Apollo 11 lunar excursion module, as well as the famed moon wafer, the 1.5-inch silicon wafer that preserved 74 messages from world leaders and was left behind as a historical marker of the mission.

In 1986 he founded Level One, a pioneering developer of high-performance Internet products that was eventually acquired by Intel. Here Pepper developed his vision for the Fabless Semiconductor Association, a worldwide organization for subcontracting chip manufacturing to outside suppliers. He retired from Intel in 2000.

Pepper competed in motorcycle road racing for 14 years, once winning 21 races in a row. He now shares his wheels with wife Star, whether it’s their Yamaha FJR 1300R, their powerboat, or motor home. He continues to support Berkeley through the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Chair and the Engineering Advisory Board.

Ted Van Zelst imge
Ted Van Zelst (right) was instrumental in donating land for Alaskan national parks in the 1980s and has labored to improve science education in the U.S. At left is Professor Emeritus Karl Pister, who nominated him for the DEAA.

Theodore Van Zelst: forging real-world solutions
A visionary and leader in materials testing, Theodore Van Zelst has left a legacy of civil engineering inventions and designs still in widespread use today, from the Alaska pipeline to the Aswan Dam, down highways, across the globe, and on the moon.

Van Zelst earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in 1944 from Berkeley, then returned to his native Chicago to get his B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering from Northwestern University.

In 1948 he co-founded Soiltest Inc., which became the world’s largest provider of materials testing equipment for soil, rock, concrete, and asphalt. His impressive list of accomplishments includes devising the swing-wing design that enabled supersonic aircraft to penetrate the sound barrier, developing the first mobile baggage inspection unit, and planning lunar construction and soil testing years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

He was named Chicago Engineer of the Year in 1988 by the American Society of Civil Engineers and in 1989 received the Alumni Medal, Northwestern’s highest award. He keeps active in both his Alma Maters and has been an outspoken advocate for education, the environment and public policy. Van Zelst is nationally revered as the "father of chronic fatigue syndrome advocacy" for his and his wife Louann’s efforts on behalf of the disease that struck a family member.

Valerie Taylor: bridging the digital divide
Valerie Taylor is the College’s first recipient of the Outstanding Young Leader Award. Formerly professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern University, Taylor moved to Texas A&M in January to become head of computer science.

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Through her many outreach activities in the community, Valerie Taylor (center) hopes to inspire young people the way her engineer father inspired her. Also pictured are fellow alumna Barbara Simmons (left) and EECS Academic Coordinator Sheila Humphreys (right).

In computing circles, she is respected for her research in techniques to analyze and improve performance in parallel and distributed computing applications. While this work has uses in cosmology, molecular dynamics, and high-energy physics, Taylor’s vision includes using high-performance computing to improve education in the African American community.

As a child in Chicago, Taylor was encouraged to pursue science by her engineer father. She excelled as a student, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in EECS from Berkeley. Now a mother of two, Taylor hopes to inspire young people through outreach efforts, like teaching math and science in a downtown Chicago housing project.

Taylor is a founding member of the Institute of African American E-Culture, supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and chair of the Coalition to Diversify Computing. Her awards include the NSF’s prestigious National Young Investigator Award, the Computing Research Association’s A. Nico Habermann Award, and the Hewlett Packard Harriet B. Rigas Award.

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