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IEEE Gives Highest Robotics Honor to George Bekey

Viterbi School's Emeritus Extraordinaire is the First Academic in History to Receive Award

July 06, 2005 — George Bekey, who once remarked that he found robotics fascinating “because you learn so much about humans,” has earned the highest honor the IEEE bestows in the field. 
The IEEE Technical Field Award in Robotics and Automation has been given only three times in its history. Bekey is the very first academic to receive it.
For Bekey, a professor emeritus of the USC Viterbi School and the former holder of the Gordon Marshall Chair in Engineering, the award represents the latest entry in a long list of honors characterized by their exceptional quality and extraordinary breadth.
Yannis Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School, paid tribute to Bekey’s enormous impact as an academic administrator. He noted that George was the chair of electrical engineering/systems at USC when the department was first formed. Bekey also chaired the computer science department and was instrumental in founding the biomedical engineering department. He founded the robotics research and teaching program at USC, and later served as the Viterbi School’s associate dean for research. 

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, with a citation that notes his “pioneering work in computer sciences, biomedical engineering, man-machine systems and robotics.” He is also a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Bekey was one of the founders of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and the first editor of its Transactions. He served as president of the society from 1996 to 1998. 

Bekey has also won USC’s highest honor – the Presidential Medallion – and was named a University Professor in 1999, a distinction conferred on less than 20 faculty members in the University’s history. The title is awarded only to those whose multidisciplinary interests and major accomplishments in several disciplines qualify for an appointment that transcends any single field of study.

Ari Requicha, the current holder of the Marshall Chair, said that Bekey’s many contributions to robotics were “extraordinary and continuing,” and that his work had been instrumental in raising USC’s visibility in the field.