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
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.