Wallace “Wally” Anderson, a former University of Houston department chair, died Tuesday in Galveston as a result of complications following a fall. He was 87.
During his 39 years with UH, Anderson was instrumental in growing the UH Cullen College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. As the former chair, he not only helped increased the number of faculty, but also the amount of research being conducted within the department.
“At that time (Charles) Kirpatrick was dean and there were only 19 people in the department,” said Anderson, speaking of his start as chair in 1972, in an interview following his retirement from UH in 2008. “When I left we had 33 faculty; it kind of changed the face of the department. We started to become more competitive.”
He remained on as chair through 1977. He would serve again as interim chair from 1996 to 1998 as the college searched for a new dean. In these administrative roles, he recruited and hired many of the department’s senior faculty.
Among those was Jack Wolfe.
"Wally Anderson was chair of the electrical engineering department when I joined the university in 1976 as a visiting assistant professor," said Wolfe, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Wally's warm friendship and guidance were instrumental to me during this formative year. I have great admiration for Wally's accomplishments and particularly value his service as department chair during my years as interim dean."
Anderson, who joined UH in 1969 as a full professor, balanced these administrative duties with teaching. Up until his 2008 retirement, he taught classes on solid-state physics, electromagnetics, statistical estimation theory, communication theory, applied mathematics, quantum mechanics and stochastic processes—a course he developed that is still being taught today.
In the lab, he had a wide-range of research interests. These included coherent optics, signal processing, pattern recognition, acoustic wave propagation, X-ray backscattering and estimation theory. He explored these areas with funding from organizations that included the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. He published more than 90 papers on his findings in several well-known scholarly journals.
Many will find it hard to forget his contributions.
"Wally was always a fine gentleman and a real asset to our college," said Ray Flumerfelt, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and the college's former dean. "He served in many capacities in the university, and always put the university and his department above his own personal interests."
Anderson received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of North Dakota, his master’s in physics from Rice University and his Doctor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1948, 1957 and 1961, respectively.
Prior to his time at UH, he taught at both Trinity and New York universities and spent time as a researcher at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio as well as McCollum Exploration Company.
He was a member of the American Physical Society, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Optical Society of America. He was also a licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas.
He is survived by Claire, his wife of more than 35 years; his daughters, Julie Ross and Cristina Anderson Ross; stepdaughters, Sherry Butler and Gayle Mirkin; stepson, K.D. Young, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A veteran of World War II, Anderson's ashes will be buried privately.