Published: April 22, 2010

Former engineering dean, founder of MSU Computer Lab, has died

Contact(s): Laura Seeley College of Engineering office: (517) 432-1303

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Lawrence Wayne Von Tersch, former dean of the Michigan State University College of Engineering and founder of the MSU Computer Laboratory, died April 19. He was 87.

Von Tersch, who served as dean from 1968 to 1989, did much to advance the stature of the college. He joined the MSU faculty in 1956 as professor of electrical engineering and founder and director of MSU’s Computer Laboratory, a position he held until 1983. He also served as chairperson of MSU's Department of Electrical Engineering from 1957 to 1965, and as associate dean for academic programs from 1965 to 1967.

In addition to being an outstanding scholar and administrator, Von Tersch was instrumental in designing and building MSU's first computer, MISTIC (Michigan State Integral Computer), which became operational in October 1957. The vacuum tube–based computer was considered state of the art and did much to put the College of Engineering and MSU on the map.

“Wayne’s leadership in academic computing moved Michigan State University rapidly and effectively into a new era,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The MSU community is forever grateful for this major contribution to the history of this university; he is the epitome of a true pioneer. We extend our sympathy to his family for their loss.”

“We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wayne for all that he did for the college,” said Satish Udpa, dean of the College of Engineering. “We wouldn't be where we are today without his energy, dedication and drive to make the college a better place. He will be greatly missed.”

Von Tersch was born in Waverly, Iowa, on March 17, 1923. He received his bachelor of science, master of science and doctoral degrees from Iowa State University, where he taught for 10 years prior to joining the MSU faculty. At Iowa State, he also served with the Institute of Atomic Research.


From the archives