In Memoriam

Honorable Harold Berger

The Honorable Harold Berger (EE’48, L’51), a Penn Engineering alumnus and longtime member of the School’s Board of Advisors, passed away on August 26, 2023, at the age of 98.

Judge Berger graduated from Penn Engineering in 1948 with a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and from Penn Law in 1951. After his first two years in Penn Engineering, Judge Berger served in the U.S. Army during World War II, notably having tested V-2 rockets with Wernher von Braun (post surrender to the Allies) at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. After his service, he returned to complete his undergraduate degree. Penn Engineering’s Harold Berger Distinguished Lecture and Award, named in his honor, is awarded by the School to a technological innovator who has made a lasting contribution to the quality of our lives.

Judge Berger was Of Counsel and Executive Shareholder Emeritus of the Philadelphia-based law firm Berger and Montague, P.C. Previously, he served as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Federal Bar Association’s National Committee on the Federal and State Judiciary, and Chair of the Aerospace Law Committees of the American, Federal and Inter-American Bar Associations. In 2021, Judge Berger was awarded a Special Philadelphia City Council Resolution recognizing his many achievements in public service, academia and the national legal community.

Cynthia Buoni

Cynthia “Cindi” Buoni, a longtime member of the Penn Engineering staff, passed away on September 22, 2023, at the age of 67.

Buoni was an integral part of Penn Engineering for 40 years. She first joined Penn as a staff member in the Wharton School in 1974, after which she came to Penn Engineering in 1983. Her many roles during her time in the School include her most recent position as Registrar for Penn Engineering, which she held until her retirement in June.

Buoni’s contributions to Penn Engineering include the implementation of many of the systems and processes that are relied upon today for the success of students, faculty and staff in the School. Most recently, she was instrumental in the pivot to online instruction and subsequent hybrid environments during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she worked to ensure Penn Engineering was part of the development and launch of Pennant and many other academic affairs tools used by the entire campus community. In 2021, Buoni was selected as the recipient of the Penn Engineering Staff Recognition Award, the highest award presented to staff in the School.

Due to her many years at Penn, Buoni possessed unparalleled institutional knowledge and above all was a kind and compassionate advisor, providing a listening ear to thousands of students during her decades in the School.

Kenneth R. Laker

Kenneth R. Laker, Professor Emeritus in Electrical and Systems Engineering, passed away on August 2, 2023, at the age of 76.

Laker earned a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from Manhattan College in 1969, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from NYU in 1970 and 1973, respectively. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Air Force as First Lieutenant, working with the Air Force Cambridge Research Labs. Laker later worked at Bell Labs before joining the Penn Engineering faculty in 1984 as Professor and Chair of the then-named Electrical Engineering department. In 1990, Laker became the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Electrical Engineering, which he held until he retired and earned emeritus status in 2016.

Laker’s research was in mixed mode integrated circuit design and testing, with a focus on high-performance, low-power data acquisition and radio-frequency systems, which have many important applications and present challenging obstacles for design, implementation and testing. Laker was also very active with the IEEE, where he served as president and in 2018 was elected to the IEEE’s Technical Activities Board Hall of Honor.

Laker also served on the boards of AANetcom and DFT Microsystems, the latter of which he co-founded in 1997. He wrote four textbooks, authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, and filed six patents. Laker received numerous honors and awards, among those the 1994 AT&T Clinton Davisson Trophy for his patent in switched capacitor circuits, and the 1998 IEEE Circuits and Systems Darlington Award.

Charles J. McMahon

Charles J. McMahon (MtE’55), Professor Emeritus in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, passed away on December 10, 2022, at the age of 89.

McMahon attended the University of Pennsylvania on an NROTC scholarship, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1955. After completing his degree, McMahon served aboard the battleship USS New Jersey and later as a communications officer and cryptographer on the minesweeper USS Thuban. Following three years of active duty, he enrolled at MIT, where he earned an Sc.D. in Physical Metallurgy in 1963.

McMahon then returned to Philadelphia to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in the newly formed Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science (now the Department of Materials Science and Engineering) in Penn Engineering. A year later, he joined the faculty of that department, where he remained throughout his career, serving as Chair from 1987 until 1992.

McMahon was one of the world’s leading authorities on steel fracture, contributing directly to saving lives on bridges and in buildings, as well as on ships. McMahon was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1980. He was a pioneering educator who authored two textbooks aimed at introducing principles of materials science to undergraduates by examining the properties of familiar technology, mainly the structural components of the bicycle. He was an early adopter of interactive digital media, and his work as an educator was recognized by Penn Engineering’s S. Reid Warren, Jr. Award in 1992 and the University’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2001.

Alan Myers

Alan Myers, Professor Emeritus in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, died on September 12, 2022, at the age of 89.

Myers earned a bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1960 (which awarded him a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1977), and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1964. After graduating, he joined the Penn Engineering faculty as an Associate Professor in the then-named Chemical Engineering department, where he remained throughout his career. In 1972, he was promoted to full professor.

At Penn, Myers was named Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, now Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, in 1977. In 1983, he received Penn Engineering’s S. Reid Warren, Jr. Award in recognition of his work as an educator and mentor.

Myers conducted prestigious research on the thermodynamics of surfaces, the interactions of unlike molecules absorbed in a solid surface, gas storage by adsorption in micropores, and adsorptive separation of mixtures. He co-wrote three books and received the 1997 Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Myers co-founded the International Adsorption Society in 1983, a nonprofit professional association dedicated to serving people, firms and organizations who seek to advance the art, science and technology of adsorption and related subjects.

Jay Zemel

Jay Zemel, Professor Emeritus in Electrical and Systems Engineering, passed away on July 20, 2023, at the age of 95.

Zemel earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from Syracuse University in 1949, 1953 and 1956, respectively. While working toward his Ph.D., he took a part-time research position in the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, and after its completion he rose to become a supervisory research physicist and head of the Surface and Film Group. In 1966, Zemel joined the Penn Engineering faculty in the then-named Moore School of Electrical Engineering as the RCA Professor of Solid State Electronics. In 1994, he was named the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor of Sensor Technologies, which he held for two years until his retirement, when he earned emeritus status.

Zemel’s career at Penn spanned nearly 60 years and was dedicated to work in sensors, sensor systems and thin films. In 1969, Zemel was selected to direct the new Solid State Electronics Lab at The Moore School, later reorganized into the Center for Sensor Technologies. He served as Chair of Electrical Engineering (now Electrical and Systems Engineering) from 1972 to 1977.

Zemel was a fellow of IEEE, held 26 patents, authored more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and served as the editor-in-chief of the journal Thin Solid Films. Over his long career, he mentored a great number of students, particularly undergraduate students during their Senior Design projects, something he continued to prioritize long after becoming an emeritus professor.