Ernest Kuh, former dean of UC Berkeley College of Engineering, dies at 86

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JULY 12, 2015

Ernest Kuh, professor emeritus and dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering from 1973-80, died June 27. He was 86.

During the time Kuh spent on campus as a professor and administrator, he made major contributions to the field of electronic circuit theory. After the invention of the computer chip in 1958 replaced the traditional electronic circuit with a smaller and faster version, Kuh became a pioneer in adapting circuit theory for application to computers.

Born in Beijing, Kuh became a faculty member of UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department in 1956. He then went on to serve as department chair from 1968-72 and, a year later, became the first Asian dean of the college of engineering.

As dean, Kuh spent several years raising funds for a project he conceived to integrate the old engineering library on campus into a larger, more accessible complex: what is now known as the Bechtel Engineering Center.

“He really made the library beautiful and much more workable,” said Edwin Lewis, professor emeritus of the EECS department. “For many years, it was a major source of teaching innovations.”

Kuh formally established a fund for the college of engineering and represented the campus in its efforts to develop industry and academic relationships with Chinese officials in the 1970s, when China was looking to restart Chinese-American relations.

Representing UC Berkeley as an institution “meant so much to him,” said his son Theodore Kuh. “The Berkeley campus and so many of its people became an extended family of incredibly close relationships for him.”

As a mentor, colleague and father, Ernest Kuh shared advice with and cared deeply about those close to him, according to his son Anthony Kuh.

Wayne Dai, who was mentored by Ernest Kuh as a doctoral student and went on to found the company VeriSilicon, praised his lifelong mentor for his “independent and innovative” classroom style.

Dai said Ernest Kuh trained his doctoral students to think about the “big picture” and never micromanaged their research.

“He was a person who had an innate ability to teach and get the most out of people in terms of reaching their potential,” Theodore Kuh said.

In his lifetime, Ernest Kuh received a number of academic awards, and he authored or co-authored several hundred research papers and six textbooks.

He completed his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a doctorate at Stanford University.

Ernest Kuh is survived by his sons, Anthony and Theodore Kuh; his wife, Bettine Kuh; and his grandsons, Evan, Matthew and Jason. Anthony Kuh is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Theodore Kuh is a lecturer at and alumnus of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Contact Rachel Lew at 


JULY 12, 2015