IEEE Robotics and Automation Society IEEE

In Memorium: Dick Volz - RAS Pioneer, Colleague and Friend

Richard A. Volz (10 July 1937 - 19 June 2013)


Richard A. (Dick) Volz died on 19 June 2013 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Dick was an IEEE Fellow and President of the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society from 2006-2007. He was known as an exceptional researcher on robotics and control and was an excellent mentor to students and other researchers in robotics.

Dick was former department head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. Prior to retirement from Texas A&M in 2004, Dr. Volz was the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professor of Engineering and served as department head from 1988 to 1997. In 2010 a festschrift entitled "Workshop on Intelligent Systems: A Festschrift for Richard Volz" was held at Texas A&M to honor and celebrate his career.

Before joining Texas A&M, Dr. Volz was the founding director of the Robotics Research Laboratory and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. While at the University of Michigan, he also served terms as associate department head, associate director of the Computer Center and director of the Computer and Image Processing Research Network (CIPRNet). In 1971, he spent the (Northern Hemisphere) summer at the University of Chile, as part of an Organization of American States program. During the summers of 1973 and 1974, he held a summer faculty position at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Northwestern University in 1960, 1961 and 1964 respectively.

He was the author or co-author of over 175 research papers and led over $15,000,000 in funded research projects. He served in numerous professional service positions, e.g., editor-in-chief of the "IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation," the leading journal in the field; associate editor of "IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems;" general chair of the "1990 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation;" vice-president for Publications for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS); member of the IEEE Publications, Services and Products Board; member of the IEEE Board of Directors; and numerous related committees. Early in his career, he served as secretary of the IEEE Automatic Control Group. As an undergraduate, he was editor of the "Northwestern Engineer."

In honor of his efforts, the "Dick Volz Best U.S. Ph.D. Thesis in Robotics and Automation" was established. This award recognizes outstanding researchers in the field of robotics and automation who have obtained their Ph.D. degree at any U.S. institution in any topic within robotics and automation.

Dr. Volz also served on five federal advisory boards: 1) the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, 2) the Ada Board, 3) The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, a Congressional oversight committee on NASA, 4) the NASA Space Station Advisory Panel, and 5) the NASA Center of Excellence in Information Technology Advisory Panel.

While he was best known for his work in robotics and automation, especially networked telerobotics and teleautonomous systems, he worked in a broad set of interconnecting areas. Early in his career, he led the development of two computer aided design methods for control systems that were used in a number of universities and companies around the world. He also worked on optimal control systems and computational methods of optimization. Later, he worked on real time systems and distributed languages, and led the development of a distributed Ada technology and graphical system for managing the distribution of modules among networked computers. He completed his technical career working on the use of artificial intelligence concepts for training a human workforce.

In addition to his IEEE Fellow award, he received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service from the U.S. Air Force, the Public Service Award from NASA, two Special Service Awards from NASA, an appreciation plaque from the NASA astronauts, and the Millennium Medal and Robotics & Automation Society Distinguished Service Award from IEEE. As an undergraduate, he received the Esbach Award, the highest award given to an undergraduate engineering student at Northwestern.

At the "IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation" held in Shanghai, China, Dr. Volz was named the recipient of the prestigious IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation for 2011. This award recognized Dr. Volz for his exceptional leadership throughout the Robotics Automation Society's history in publications, conference procedures, award procedures and financial analysis and planning for publications and conferences.

An endowed scholarship for a student at Texas A&M has been established in honor of Dr. Volz. Contributions can be sent to:
The Texas A&M Foundation
401 George Bush Drive
College Station, Texas 77480, USA

Be sure to designate the "Richard A. Volz Memorial Scholarship" in the memo line of the check.

You are invited to add your remembrances of Dr. Volz at http://parasol.tamu.edu/volzfest/remembrances.