Rensselaer Professor Lester Gerhardt Honored by ASEE

Longtime Faculty Member and Campus Leader Wins Highest Award Bestowed by American Society for Engineering Education

May 8, 2012


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Lester Gerhardt last month received the prestigious Benjamin Garver Lamme Award and Medal from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The ASEE applauded Gerhardt for his “combined contributions to the art of teaching, contributions to research and technical literature, and achievements that contribute to the advancement of the profession of engineering college administration.” Awarded since 1928, the Benjamin Garver Lamme Award is regarded as the highest honor bestowed by the ASEE.

“We congratulate Dr. Gerhardt for being selected to receive the ASEE Benjamin Garver Lamme Award. This is an enormously prestigious honor befitting of his distinguished career and his countless contributions to engineering education at Rensselaer and higher education more broadly,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “For more than 40 years, Les’ efforts and leadership have made a direct, positive impact on the lives of engineering students and faculty at Rensselaer. We applaud his accomplishments, and are honored to have him as a faculty member in the School of Engineering.”

Gerhardt, a professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) with a joint appointment in Computer Science at Rensselaer, will be honored at an awards ceremony during the 2012 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition on June 13 in San Antonio, Texas.

Gerhardt’s career started at Bell Aerospace Corporation, where he helped develop the visual simulation of the first moon landing of the Lunar Excursion Module, for which he garnered several patents and the Bell Outstanding Management Award. He joined Rensselaer in 1970, and has spent more than 40 years at the Institute combining teaching, sponsored research, and academic administration. His primary research thrust is digital signal processing with an emphasis on image and speech processing, along with brain-computer interfacing. He has published extensively on this research, and with his students has won several best paper awards. His teaching responsibilities include both undergraduate and graduate course development, teaching in virtually all modalities.

Gerhardt was the first chair of ECSE, and he led the newly formed department for more than a decade. The National Academy of Engineering cited it as one of the most improved departments in the country. Gerhardt was appointed by the university president as the founding director of the Center for Manufacturing Productivity. He was director of the award-winning Computer Integrated Manufacturing Program, and also served as associate dean of engineering for research and strategy, as well as director of the Center for Industrial Innovation. By special appointment of Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, Gerhardt served as interim associate vice president for research administration and finance, dean of engineering, and vice provost and dean of graduate education.

Internationally, Gerhardt is co-founder of the Global Engineering Education Exchange Program, and he continues to serve as chair of the executive board. He was a driving force behind the Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons (REACH) program, an initiative to provide all Institute undergraduate students with an international experience. Gerhardt served on the founding advisory board of the Hungarian Aquincum Institute of Technology, and is senior adviser to the president of the Institute of International Education.

Gerhardt is a life fellow of ASEE, and a life fellow of IEEE. He was the inaugural recipient of the ASEE Research Administration Award, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) presented by the queen. Additionally, Gerhardt served as the American delegate to the NATO Scientific Affairs Division, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Buffalo. He was designated an “agent of change” for globalizing engineering education in a National Science Foundation study, and he was highlighted in the 2011 book “What is Global Engineering Education For? The Making of International Educators.”

At Rensselaer, he received the Trustees Faculty Achievement Award in 2001-05, 2009, and 2011. This year, he was elected chair of the Rensselaer Faculty Senate.

Gerhardt received his bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Buffalo, all in electrical engineering, the latter two concurrent with full-time employment.

Past Rensselaer recipients of the Benjamin Garver Lamme Award, and their position when they won the award, include: Richard Folsom, 12th president of Rensselaer; Arthur Bergles, dean of engineering; James Meindl, provost; and G.P. “Bud” Peterson, provost.

Press Contact Michael Mullaney
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