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RIP Thomas Whitaker, Former ECE Department Chairman

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By: 

Toby Weber
Whitaker
Whitaker

Thomas Whitaker, former chairman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, died at his home on December 6. He was 92.

Whitaker earned his bachelor’s degree from Rice University (then Rice Institute) in 1942. After graduating he served in the Navy during World War II, where he conducted radar research and taught fellow sailors how to use the then-new technology. After the war, he earned a master’s from Rice in 1950 followed by his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1963.

Whitaker actually began teaching at the Cullen College in the 1950s, and eventually served as one of the first ECE department chairs. In this post, he led the department through a period of rapid growth, said Professor Stuart Long, who worked with Whitaker for several years.

As a professor, Whitaker focused primarily on teaching, Long said. In fact, after his retirement in the 1985, Whitaker taught classes for the ECE department for several years. “He was always a good teacher, always loved teaching and being with the students,” said Long. “It’s a trite phrase, but he was a real gentleman. Everyone liked him.”

Though his teaching activities ended several years ago, Whitaker was able to reconnect with UH last April through a lunch the college hosted in his honor. Among those in attendance were Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean and Professor Joseph W. Tedesco; Badrinath Roysam, current chairman of the ECE department; and two of Whitaker’s long-time faculty colleagues, Long and Professor Jack Wolfe.

“He was fond of the department, loyal to it,” said Long. “He was most pleased to have a chance to talk the chair and the dean and to come back see the department.”

A memorial service for Whitaker is scheduled for Saturday, December 28 at 10:20 a.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston.

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