In Memory: T. Govindaraj

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Thiruvenkatasamy Govindaraj "Govind,* associate professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, died the morning of December 7, 2007. He was 58 years old.

"I and all of Govind's colleagues at Georgia Tech are deeply saddened by this news,* said Chelsea C. White III, ISyE School chair. "Govind was a respected colleague who was devoted to his students and research. He will be missed by all*

"Govind was a true humanist -- he had a strong interest in and concern for human welfare, values, and dignity; more importantly, he 'walked the talk'; he practiced what he believed -- whether it was caring for the environment or the underprivileged in any part of the world -- a remote village in India or the oppressed in Myanmar (Burma),* said Sundaresan Jayaraman, Professor of Textile Engineering at the Georgia Tech and a close friend and colleague of Govind's. "He was always ahead of his time -- he was into 'Green' and 'Sustainability' long before 'CSR' or Corporate Social Responsibility became a 'label' that everyone today wants to 'wear' whether they believe in it or not. He was a man of integrity and simplicity who was uncompromising when it came to principles of fairness and doing the right thing. Above all, he was a dedicated and loving husband and a caring and doting dad. Indeed, he was unique -- he was Govind.*

Govind believed in doing serious work, but not taking himself too seriously. His work philosophy was to "always do research that was worth doing, and also to do it well.* And that he did. He was also a gentle man of great integrity.

"For Govind, matters of honor and decency were not casually assigned traits,* said Gary Parker, ISyE associate chair of graduate studies. "He set a very high bar for his own professional ethics, knowing full well that unwavering adherence to those measures did not always facilitate the most rapid route for career advancement. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues and by his students."

Dr. Govindaraj's primary research interests were in understanding and characterizing the role of humans in technologically complex environments, with scope ranging from well-defined engineered systems to globally distributed systems in which cultural, environmental, political, and social factors were significant. In the past, the focus of his research was on cognitive systems engineering issues. More recently, he worked to enlarge the scope to include ecological, economic, and social considerations in human systems. In addition to studying human-system/computer interaction, mainly to develop computer-based systems to assist human operators in complex, real-life, engineered environments, he was investigating the design of systems and environments that are not only "just* usable by human operators, but are also pleasant to use while contributing to sustainable development over the long run.

"Professor Govind was my mentor, a great person, a fabulous professor, and foremost my friend," said Luis Herrera. "He was my PhD thesis adviser. He guided me throughout my research, and gave me his unconditional support. Thanks to him I was able to complete my research. He was going to hood me during commencement. I am terribly shocked and saddened by his loss.*

On the instructional side, Govind believed that "young minds are more likely to invent innovative solutions to the complex problems of sustainable systems.* Therefore, he taught an Honors Program course on Engineering Sustainable Systems. In this course, students were designing a sustainable city as an example for other cities around the world.

Stephanie Lu, one of the students in this class, included comments on Professor Govindaraj's class in the December issue of the Honors Program newsletter.

"Dr. Govindaraj taught us more than we ever expected about sustainability * what it is, different ways of looking at it, what issues it presents, how to solve those issues in more ways than the obvious ones, how to solve those issues in our own fields of study, how to look more holistically at issues and at how solutions are intertwined and can overlap. Last, but certainly not least, this seminar is fun. We don't merely work in class; we spend time with each other, as friends rather than classmates, something unachievable in a regular, lecture-based class.*

For all his students, Govind was considered a guide in the process of learning instead of the traditional professor.

"Professor Govindaraj was one of the best and most accessible teachers I have had here at Georgia Tech,* said Alex Kennedy. "His teaching style was unique in the fact that he treated his students as equals. He was always eager to exchange ideas with us and expand our knowledge of the world around us through guided discussions. I have learned a good deal from him this semester and I truly feel for his family, I know what a devoted father and husband he was.*

T. Govindaraj was a dedicated professor, a loving husband, father, and friend. He is survived by his wife, Renuka, and their daughter, Thendral, his mother, two sisters and two brothers. His Memorial Service was held on Sunday, December 9, 2007.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in his name to the Friends School of Atlanta, 121 Sams St., Dectaur, GA, 30030 or to the Association for India's Development, Atlanta:


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