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Tsen-Chung Cheng, Authority on Power Grids, 66

The Ming Hsieh Department's Lloyd F. Hunt Professor joined USC Engineering in 1974

July 19, 2011 —

Tsen-Chung Cheng, an internationally known authority on power systems who was part of the Viterbi School's "Smart Grid" research initiative, passed away in his sleep July 12 at his San Marino home. He is survived by his wife Doris and son Jason. A memorial in his honor will take place July 23.

Tsen-Chung Chen
Tsen-Chung Cheng: December 24, 1944-July 12, 2011

Born in Shanghai, China December 24, 1944, Cheng was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), receiving a B.S. degree in 1969, M.S. and E.E. degrees in 1970, and his Sc.D. degree in 1974.

In that year, "T.C." as he was widely known, joined the USC faculty as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1980 and to Professor in 1984. He became the Lloyd F. Hunt Professor in December of 1984. He was voted Outstanding Electrical Engineering Faculty Member at USC in 1976, and he received the School’s Faculty Service Award in 1981. In 1995-1996 he served on the USC Faculty Academic Senate and was elected to the position of Secretary-General. He also served on the University’s Presidential Search Committee in 1990 and the Dean’s Search Committee in 2000.

He was well known for his work on electric power systems and devices and authored over 130 peer-reviewed publications. In addition, he co-founded three companies and held numerous patents in power engineering. Some of his former students now hold faculty positions at prominent universities around the country and others are employed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Southern California Edison, and other power providers.

Cheng was a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an active member of several IEEE working groups and served as Chair of the IEEE Working Group on Clearances and Creepages in HVDC Converter Stations. He was the recipient of three IEEE Power Engineering Society awards for outstanding technical contributions.

Cheng was also an integral part of the Smart Grid project which USC and the Viterbi School are carrying out in conjunction with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He was a featured speaker at a January 2011 Smart Grid workshop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

John Choma, former chair of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering/Electrophysics, recalled he was a sought-after media source on the causes of failures in power grids. "He gave a clarion explanation of the plausible reasons underlying the grid failure. He was as comfortable talking to the cameras as he was in class, where students profoundly respected him."

Choma added that Cheng did not seek administrative positions, and preferred to work energetically to support the goals and activities of the Department and School "but insisted that he remain in the background."

"T.C. made important contributions to power systems for almost four decades, and he was beloved by members of the Viterbi community. We will all miss him very much." said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

Viterbi School Executive Vice Dean and department colleague John O'Brien announced Cheng's passing July 13, praising his contributions to his Department and School.

The service for Professor Cheng will take place Saturday, July 23rd at Cabot & Son's, 27 Chestnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91103. A viewing at 10 a.m. will be followed by a service at 11 a.m. There will be ample time during the service for anyone wishing to share memories.

In lieu of flowers, the T.C. Cheng Memorial Fund has been created at USC. This fund will enable future generations of immigrant students to achieve their dreams in America, just like T.C. did.

Donations may be addressed to:
University of Southern California
Viterbi School of Engineering
Attn: Jane Ong
3650 McClintock Avenue, OHE 500
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1452

Please make checks payable to “USC” and designate “T.C. Cheng Memorial Fund” in the memo line.