Neudeck's Legacy: Mentor Extraordinaire

Gerold W. Neudeck, a pioneer in silicon device research, spent nearly 40 years at Purdue.

A great teacher, pioneering researcher and prolific author. An engineer who loved a problem’s challenge. A valued mentor who led by example. An unassuming man of accomplishment who listened well. A bread baker, tennis player, woodworker, volunteer and father. 

These only begin to tell the story of Gerold W. Neudeck, who came to Purdue University in 1964 as an instructor and research assistant, earned his PhD, and stayed to achieve international recognition as an electrical engineering professor. By his retirement in 2006, he’d developed 19 courses and overseen another 10, guided nearly 30 master’s and more than 30 doctoral candidates, and served three years as associate dean of engineering.

Neudeck passed away April 25, 2007, leaving a legacy of achievements: thousands who’d learned from him, nine books, hundreds of articles, 15 patents, as well as advancements in three-dimensional silicon device structures, physics and fabrication technologies.

“He loved being an engineer,” says his wife, Mariellen Neudeck. “He was proud of being an experimentalist. He thought solving real problems for real people was a very high-order challenge. He had quiet determination. He liked to find creative solutions to research problems. He was competent in every way.”

Former student Jon Birck’s (BSEE ’70) experience echoes many others’. “Dr. Neudeck was a great mentor, giving me freedom to explore my own solution, but providing guidance along the way,” he says.

Teaching was Neudeck’s hallmark, says former student John Denton (MS ’86, PhD ’95), now a Purdue associate professor of electrical and computer engineering technology. “Professor Neudeck believed firmly in teaching as the essential faculty role, whether in the classroom or through advanced research. He cared about student learning at all levels.”

In 1999, Neudeck was named to the Purdue University Book of Great Teachers. Other citations included the 2001 Aristotle Award from Semiconductor Research Corp., a 1995 Honeywell Teaching Award, and 1992 Nyquist Award. In 1990, he was named an IEEE Fellow.

Born in 1936 in Beach, North Dakota, Neudeck grew up during the Great Depression. He took his first job at age 10. In high school he went to work at 3 a.m. at a bakery, which he kept as a hobby, baking his family’s bread all his life.

He was the first in his family to go to college, earning a bachelor’s and master’s at the University of North Dakota. He met Mariellen on a blind date when they were both home for the summer from separate colleges.

“He loved kids and dogs,” his wife says. He enjoyed hiking, tennis, making wooden toys, and collecting Western Art. He also helped maintain protected land owned by the nonprofit, Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive (NICHES), and served on its board.

–Kathy Mayer