In memoriam: John J. Uhran Jr., professor emeritus and founding member of Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Author: Karla Cruise

John Uhran Hero 1

John J. Uhran Jr., senior associate dean emeritus and professor emeritus of computer science and engineering and electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, died Oct. 2 (Monday). He was 87. 

Born and raised in New York City, Uhran earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and a doctorate from Purdue University. He joined Notre Dame’s Department of Electrical Engineering in 1966.

Uhran’s teaching and research focused on communication theory and systems, signal processing, and simulation techniques, as well as artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering education.

In 1990, Uhran and longtime colleague and collaborator Gene Henry, now professor emeritus of computer science, helped establish the Department of Computer Science and Engineering within the College of Engineering.

“We worked together on analog, digital and hybrid computers,” said Henry, who collaborated with Uhran on numerous grants to equip student labs with the latest computer technology.

“John was wonderful to work with — a great researcher, teacher, administrator and friend.”

In the early days of the new department, Uhran developed autonomously moving robots that made use of neural network techniques. He also co-developed NDTran, a software package used to simulate large systems.

John Uhran with autonomous robot

Uhran taught more than 20 different courses, and his teaching was recognized with multiple awards, including the Tau Beta Pi Most Valuable Instructor award and the ASEE Fluke Corporation Award for Outstanding Laboratory Instruction (1998). He became a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education in 2014.

His passion for engineering education and commitment to students made him uniquely suited for the role of senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, a position he occupied from 1991 to 2008.

“A special characteristic of John’s service was that he was devoted to all students, especially those who were struggling academically or personally, and he would do whatever he could to assist them,” said Frank Incropera, dean emeritus of the College of Engineering.

Uhran was a compassionate mentor to graduate students. “He was more than my graduate adviser; he was a friend,” said Ramzi Bualuan, teaching professor of computer science and engineering and Uhran’s former graduate student. “His support and belief in me had a lasting impact on my life and career.”

Uhran is survived by his wife, Sue, as well as three children and eight grandchildren. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Monday (Oct. 9) at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.