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Dr. Ku | Dr. Makdisi | Dr. Ando | Memorial Service: Dr. Knight | Clarification: Fred Harper

Dr. Ku, Emeritus Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering

Dr. Yu-Hsiu Ku, emeritus professor of electrical and systems engineering, a renowned educator, scientist, author and poet, died on September 9 in Oklahoma City due to complications from pneumonia. He was 99.

Dr. Ku was born on December 24, 1902 in Wushi, Jiangsu Province, China. He entered the Tsing Hua School in Beijing, China at the age of thirteen. After graduating from Tsing Hua School, (later named National Tsinghua University) he received a special scholarship to study electrical engineering at MIT.

At MIT from 1923-28, he was awarded the Bachelor, Master and Doctor of Science degrees in electrical engineering. He completed all three degrees in three and on-half years, a record at the time, and also had the unique distinction of being the first Chinese to be awarded a doctoral of science degree (ScD) from MIT. Two of his advisors at Harvard were Nobel laureate P.W. Bridgmen and philosopher A.N. Whitehead.

Returning to China in 1928, he became professor and chair of the Department of Engineering, Zhejiang University (1929-30); dean, National Central University (1931-32); chair of Electrical Engineering and Founding Dean of Engineering of Tsinghua University (1932-37). He was also director of the Aeronautic Research Institute, China (1934-37) and director of the first Electronics Research Institute, China (1935-37). During the war against Japan, he was Principal Deputy Minister of Education (1938-44) and president of China's National Central University (1944-45).

Dr. Ku was the Education Commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Government (1945-47). During this period, he was an adjunct professor and taught electrical engineering courses at the National Jiaotong University in Shanghai. It was at that university that the current President of the People's Republic of China was one of his students and they started a unique life-long relationship which had a significant impact on US-China and China-Taiwan cross-strait relationships. From 1947-49, he was the president of National Chengchi University in Nanjing. Prior to his tenure, President Chiang Kaishek himself was the only one to occupy that position.

In 1950, he left China and was visiting professor of electrical engineering at MIT from 1950-52. In 1952 he joined the faculty of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was professor of electrical engineering until 1972 when he retired.

It was his unique relationships with top leaders of both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China over several decades that led to remarkable developments which directly impacted both US-China and China-Taiwan relationships. Examples include the US-China Hainan incident and direct and confidential contacts with President Jiang of PRC and President Chen of Taiwan.

He was an internationally recognized authority and made major technical contributions in the areas of electrical energy conversion, nonlinear systems and the theory of nonlinear control. In recognition of his scientific achievements, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE) awarded to him the prestigious IEEE Lamme Medal in 1972. In 2000 at the age of 98, he was awarded the IEEE Third Millennium Medal.

"Dr. Ku was on of the last polymaths. He made technical contributions in areas as diverse as electrical machinery, Liapunov methods and Volterra equations for nonlinear mechanics and nonlinear control, and boundary-layer heat transfer. Additionally, Dr. Ku....served as president of China's National Music Conservatory. ...We should be proud that he is a part of Penn Engineering's history,' said SEAS Dean Glandt.

He is also a renowned writer, playwright

and poet. Twelve volumes of his collected literary works were published in 1961, followed by eight volumes of poems. At his retirement from Penn 1972, he was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Literature and Humanities.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Wei-Zing Wang Ku, and his sons, Wei-Quing, Walter Wei-Hua, EE '57, John Wei-Chung, and his daughter, Anna Wei-Ming, CW '67MArch '69, a niece, Deborah Ku Farce, Wh '85, and 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Dr. Makdisi, Emeritus Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies

Dr. George M. Makdisi, emeritus professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies in the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern (formerly Oriental) Studies, died at his home in Media on September 6 at the age of 82.

Dr. Makdisi was born in Detroit in 1920. Following an early educational career in both the United States and Lebanon, Dr. Makdisi pursued graduate studies in France where he obtained the degree of Docteur es-Lettres at the Sorbonne in 1964. He taught at both the University of Michigan and Harvard before coming to Penn as professor of Arabic in 1973. He continued to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies until his retirement in 1990. During that period he served as chair of the department of Oriental Studies, and convened a series of conferences with his academic colleagues in Europe that were aimed at bringing together American and European research on the Arab-Islamic and Byzantine worlds during the medieval period.

Dr. Makdisi is generally acknowledged on a worldwide scale as one of the greatest Arabists and Islamicists of his generation. His greatest interest was in the study of Arabic texts from the great classical age of Islamic thought, and that was also the focus of his teaching. The large number of his distinguished students who hold academic positions in both the United States and Europe bear witness to the inspiration that his scholarly example provided to so many.

Dr. Makdisi's publications began by focusing on the intellectual environment within which theological controversies were discussed within the Muslim community and especially on the work of Ibn Aql, to whose work, Al-Wadih, Dr. Makdisi devoted much attention during the earlier stages of his career and to which he returned after retirement in order to prepare the text for publication (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 3 volumes).

To the broader realm of medieval studies, one where he played a crucial role in insisting on an increased awareness of the role of Arab-Islamic culture among his more Euro-centric colleagues, Dr. Makdisi contributed a number of crucially important works, prime among which were his two volumes, The Rise of Colleges (1981) and The Rise of Humanism (1990).

Dr. Makdisi is survived by his wife, Nicole; sons, John and Thomas; daughters, Catherine Viscusi, Theresa Walsh, Ann Mazur and Jeanne Makdisi; sister, Mary Fayad; ten grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial event for Dr. Makdisi will be held at Penn, on a date to be announced.

Dr. Albert Ando of SAS

It was learned at press time that Dr. Albert Ando, professor of economics in SAS and finance at Wharton, died on September 19, at the age of 72. His obituary will appear in the next issue of Almanac.

Memorial Service: Dr. Knight

The School of Veterinary Medicine will hold a Celebration of Life Memorial Service for Dr. David Knight on Thursday, September 26 at 3 p.m. in Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall. The University community is invited to attend.

Dr. Knight, professor emeritus of veterinary medicine, died at the age of 64, of a heart attack on July 15 (Almanac September 3, 2002).

Clarification: Fred Harper

The obituary in last week's Almanac, for Frederic H. Shaffmaster, former long-time director of Radio and TV should have noted that he had been known at Penn as Fred Harper, although he used Frederic Shaffmaster for his stage name.

To Report A Death

Almanac appreciates being informed of the deaths of current and former faculty and staff members, students, and other members of the University community. Please send information, e-mail, or call (215) 898-5274.

However, notices of alumni deaths should be directed to the Alumni Records Office at Room 545, Franklin Building, call (215) 898-8136 or

Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 5, September 24, 2002


September 24, 2002
Volume 49 Number 5

The Annenbergs enhance Penn's Annenberg School for Communication with a new $100 million endowment.
A Sesquicentennial Celebration--celebrating 150 years of Engineering at Penn, this week.
LGBT Center celebrates new home and 20th anniversary on Thursday.
A White House Town Hall Meeting on Securing Cyberspace will be held on campus next Thursday.
Alumna on Jeopardy! tonight.
Speaking Out: Compensation; Safe-guarding Labs, and Arms of University.
Pottruck Health and Fitness Center--a state-of-the-art facility--gives new meaning to recreation.