Letter from the Dean to the Graduate School and Associates

Author: Shari Hill

Dear Colleagues,

It is with the deepest sadness that I must report to you that Terry Akai died suddenly and unexpectedly Saturday morning. He was at home and had either a massive cardiac arrest or stroke. Terry was 59 years old.

Terry received his degrees from the University of Washington (B.A. in Mathematics and B.S. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) and the University of Illinois (M.S. and PhD. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering with minors in Computer Science and Mathematics). He joined the faculty at Notre Dame directly from his doctoral program in 1976 as a research associate in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. He became an assistant professor in 1979. He entered administration in 1985 when he became Assistant Dean of Engineering, a post that he held for nine years (1985-94). During the same period he served a two year term as the Associate Chairperson of Computer Science and Engineering (1992-94). Terry joined the Graduate School as an Assistant Dean in 1994 and moved through the ranks up to Associate Dean (1997) and more recently to Senior Associate Dean.

Terry combined a passion for teaching with his administrative work. He was an exceptional pedagogue. He taught at least fifteen different courses throughout his career. He won the Aerospace and Mechanical teaching award in 1981, the College of Engineering’s outstanding teaching award (1984-85), the University’s Madden award for the instruction of first year students (1985-86), and the Computer Science and Engineering outstanding teaching award (1992-93). He was a concurrent faculty member in three different departments over his career: Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, and the Department of Mathematics. He wrote a standard textbook of which he was justly proud, Applied Numerical Methods for Engineers (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994). The text has been adopted at Berkeley, the University of Toronto, and McMaster University.

Terry was committed to students from under-represented groups. He won the Minority Engineering program’s outstanding faculty award twice (1991-92 and 1992-93). He served as a coordinator of the College of Engineering’s Summer Program for Women and Minorities, an instructor and mentor for the Balfour-Hesburgh program for entering students who intend to major in engineering and science, served as the University’s GEM representative, and ran the CANDEX-McNair program for the Graduate School.

Terry has served as a mainstay in the Graduate School since he joined it. He understood academic quality. His own research and teaching helped shape his judgment about all matters academic. He has done most jobs in the Graduate School at one time or another from handling admissions to program assessment. He had a broader knowledge of the Graduate School than any other person. If I may add a personal note, I feel that I have lost my right arm.

He was a genuinely good and caring human being. Terry was a father figure to some of the staff in the Graduate School and a superb mentor for many students. He was quick to laugh and maintained an even disposition in difficult circumstances. We will all miss not only his talent, but the warmth and the generosity of his humanity.

There will be a visitation Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. in the Palmer Funeral Home-River Park (2528 Mishawaka Ave.). The funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. The Graduate School will host a reception for the family, friends, and colleagues in McKenna Hall, Lower Level after the funeral, 12:30-2:00 p.m. You are welcome to come and extend your condolences to Becky and the family. In lieu of flowers, Becky asked that donations be made to the University of Notre Dame for a graduate student scholarship for under-represented groups. Please send donations to The University of Notre Dame/c/o Development/1100 Grace Hall/Notre Dame, IN 46556/Attn: Carol Hennion.


Greg Sterling

See also: Terrence Akai of ND Graduate School Dies