Anthony “Tony” N. Michel, former electrical engineering professor with Iowa State University‘s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE), passed away on Feb. 1, 2020, at the age of 84. Michel was a faculty member at Iowa State for 16 years, from 1968-84.
“I came here [to Iowa State] in 1968, and I found out to my great, pleasant surprise that I came to a community of scholars who were very welcoming and supportive. And I stayed then for 16 years,” Michel said in an October 2019 video interview. “And the 16 years that I stayed here were probably the most important years in my professional life and certainly determined what came later — the rest of my career.”
Before coming to ISU, Michel was working in the aerospace industry.
“I had been in industry before I decided to become an academic, for about 10 years, and doing fairly well,” he said. “In fact, my boss thought I was crazy for going, becoming a prof. But what really made this pay off was working with students, especially graduate students — see them go on in their successful careers. My Ph.D. students, you know.”
Michel was recently honored by becoming a member of the inaugural class of the ECpE Hall of Fame, which debuted in October 2019. He visited campus for the ceremony and was presented with a plaque by ECpE Professor and Palmer Department Chair Ashfaq Khokhar.
“Tony was an outstanding academician and towering figure in the electrical and computer engineering discipline,” Khokhar said. “He has left a large footprint in terms of his impact, particularly in the area of control systems, as well as academic administration. He spent a portion of his career at Iowa State University, and, in his own words, it defined the rest of his career. He will be dearly missed.”
When Michel came to Ames last October for the Hall of Fame ceremony, he reflected on his time at Iowa State.
“The thing that was so great about Iowa State, and it still seems that way today, is that you have a very large place, but it’s a small, caring community,” Michel said. “I’m not an alum. I left here about 35 years ago — that’s more than a generation. The fact that I was remembered by this place and singled out for this award is very telling. It tells me that this place today — there have been a lot of changes, tremendous changes. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, and that is this type of community. Otherwise, they never would have — how would they remember me?”
Michel left Iowa State in 1984 and went on to become chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, eventually becoming dean of their College of Engineering. Throughout his career, he authored 12 textbooks and monographs and was a visiting professor at several universities in Germany and Austria.
Michel was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and served as president of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. In 2014, at an ISU honorary symposium held for Distinguished Professor Emeritus Aziz Fouad, Michel shared this memory about working with Fouad:
“You may recall that one time I tried to convince you [referring to Fouad] to publish one of our papers in the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems, since the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society was getting interested at that time in certain aspects of power systems,” Michel shared. “You [Fouad] were skeptical, since, in your opinion, a paper on power systems would not be accepted by the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems. In fact, it took a bet for a drink to convince you to submit the paper. I will never forget the evening when you showed up at our house on Dover Drive, dressed as a waiter, and presented me with a cocktail, making good on the wager which you had lost.”
Other engineering honors Michel received include the IEEE Charles A. Desoer Technical Achievement Award, the IEEE Centennial Media, the IEEE Golden Jubilee Medal and the IEEE Third Millennium Medal. He was also named a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Engineering and was a Fulbright scholar.
“Dr. Michel certainly had a great impact on our profession through his work as a scholar while at ISU and later through his administrative positions at Notre Dame,” said James McCalley, ISU Anson Marston Distinguished Professor and Jack London Chair in Power Systems Engineering. “He will be missed.”
Michel is survived by many family members, quite a few of them alums of Iowa State.
“For my family, this [ISU] was a great fit, you know, for my wife, being able to go on to school here. She taught freshman English for a while,” Michel said back in October. “And four of my children got Iowa State degrees, my son-in-law got an Iowa State degree… So for me, it was just wonderful.”