The Passing of our Dear Colleague and Friend, Paul Peercy

Memorial by Peter Kilpatrick (GEDC Chair) and Satish Udpa (GEDC Member)

The education community lost a beloved leader and scholar this week when Professor Paul Peercy passed away on October 20, 2016.

Dr. Peercy received a B.A. degree in Physics from Berea College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. His professional career started with a postdoctoral appointment at Bell Laboratories. He then went on to work for 27 years at Sandia National Laboratories where he rose to become the director of their microelectronics and photonics program. Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin as the Dean of the College of Engineering in September 1999, Paul served as the President of SEMI/Sematech, a consortium of U.S. semiconductor equipment suppliers, where he helped the U.S. semiconductor industry regain its competitiveness. A passionate believer in translating the benefits of research to the marketplace, he served on the Boards of several companies including Sonic Foundry, Bemis, and Venture Investors. A brilliant scientist and engineer throughout his career, his research interests included phase transitions in solids, ferroelectricity, Raman and Brillouin scattering studies of solids, ion-solid interactions, laser-induced phase transformations, microelectronics and photonics, and solid state devices. He authored or co-authored over 175 technical papers and held two patents.

Honors came in swift succession in recognition of his contributions to science. He was a Fellow of numerous professional societies including the APS, IEEE and ASEE.  He was named a Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2001.

As one of the longest-serving deans of engineering at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Paul was extraordinarily effective in advancing ways of connecting with and educating the next generation of scholars. The College achieved new heights on a number of important fronts. He championed the use of technology for educating students more effectively and in doing so improved retention. A thoughtful and humane leader, he placed the interests of his students and fellow faculty members and staff above everything else. He enriched the lives of so many over the years.

Paul was an educational innovator and was passionate about the use of technology to enhance classroom education, so-called hybrid online learning.   From 2004 to 2016, he served as Director of Sonic Foundry, Inc, an innovative multimedia company committed to placing video at the heart of every class, communication, and student learning experience.

Paul was also a gifted communicator and organizer, and totally committed to engineering education globally and locally.  He served as both Chairperson of the Engineering Deans Council of ASEE and in important leadership roles for the Global Engineering Deans Council.  Most recently, Paul served as the Program Chairperson for the GEDC Chicago 2013 event.

Most importantly, Paul was generous, compassionate, and dedicated to family, students, faculty, staff, colleagues, and friends.  Unique and authentic, Paul showed us the very human side of our profession.

Again, the world has lost a beloved leader and scholar.

“Our community is losing a great colleague: we shall keep him in our memory and follow his example.”

Claudio Borri

“Very sad news .… a great academic and a wonderful person… we ‘ll miss him…My prayers are for him and his family.”

David Alejandro Garza Salazar

“Very sad news.”

Yannis Yortsos

“I had just reached out to Paul last week.  Very sorry to hear of his death. May he rest in peace.”

Peter Kilpatrick

“So sorry to hear about this. A huge loss!”

Krishna Vedula

“Very sad to hear this. Please pass our condolences to his family.”

Shiyi Chen