Sedat Serdengecti: Versatile Scholar Impacted Engineering, Physics and Computer Science

Harvey Mudd College engineering Professor Emeritus Sedat Serdengecti died Nov. 30, 2014, following a heart attack. He was 87.

Professor Serdengecti joined Harvey Mudd in 1961 as an assistant professor of physics then moved to the Department of Engineering in 1963 as one of its first faculty members.

“Sedat was the person responsible for the development of the systems sequence which provides the foundation for our general engineering program,” says John Molinder, the James Howard Kindelberger Professor of Engineering. “He once told me that he enjoyed designing the sequence because he was not only given the responsibility but also the freedom to innovate. Like all courses, the content has changed over time, but the philosophy and the framework remain the same.”

Liz Orwin ’95, engineering department chair, describes Professor Serdengecti as a visionary. “Not only was Sedat a highly respected teacher and researcher, he was well known for his high standards. His contributions to the department are invaluable.”

Professor of Engineering Emeritus James Monson, who also joined the engineering faculty in 1961, says Professor Serdengecti was a wonderful friend and colleague. “His academic rigor, integrity and concern for students exemplified the HMC engineering way.”

This care for others extended to the faculty as well. Professor of Physics and Dean Emeritus Thomas Helliwell recalls how, in 1963, Professor Serdengecti substituted in Helliwell’s Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics class so that Helliwell could concentrate on his PhD oral defense, scheduled the same day. “He gave an absolutely splendid lecture. It was very clear and he obviously knew the subject very well,” says Helliwell. “I was very impressed with his ability as a teacher and his knowledge of physics.”

Professor Serdengecti provided crucial academic support to the Department of Physics during the early 1960s as the College’s student body began to grow. He was instrumental in guiding the College’s evolving computer science program. During the late 1960s, with faculty colleagues Monson (engineering) and Alden Pixley (mathematics), he developed a set of three courses to give students a basic comprehension of computing theory and practice. Under President Joseph Platt (1956–1976), Professor Serdengecti chaired the College’s computer science group to help evaluate emerging technology needs. He was a major contributor to the success of the Mathematics and Engineering Clinics.

Professor Serdengecti served on the faculty until his retirement in 1998, and after that time, he remained a regular presence at the College as an emeritus faculty member.

Professor Serdengecti was born in Izmit, Turkey, in 1927. He graduated from Kütahya Lyceum in Turkey in 1944 and went on to receive an M.E. from Syracuse University, New York, in 1951 and an M.S. (mechanical engineering, 1952) and PhD (jet propulsion and engineering cybernetics, 1955) from Caltech. He came to Harvey Mudd with industrial experience from Chevron Oil Research Co. His research areas included control and stability of systems; communication and information theory; computer sciences and numerical methods of computation, and his work in these areas was published in many journals and reports. He was a consulting engineer at several companies, including General Motors and Bell and Howell Co.

Professor Serdengecti is survived by his wife, Sue; his daughter, Alysa, and her husband; his son, Kemal, and his wife; two grandchildren and extended family in Turkey.

See the rememberance website for Sedat to read memories from Harvey Mudd community members.