Jakob van Zyl, 1957-2020
Jakob van Zyl, an engineer who held crucial positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was involved in numerous space exploration missions over decades, has died. He was 63.
"JPL and NASA are richer for his many technical and managerial contributions, and for his unwavering dedication and engaging personality," JPL Director Michael Watkins said in a statement.
Van Zyl's roles included director for astronomy and physics, director for solar system exploration and associate director on a project to formulate a vision for JPL's future. At JPL he contributed to the design and development of many synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems, including SIR-C, SRTM, AIRSAR, TOPSAR, and GeoSAR.
In 1997, he received the Fred Nathanson Memorial Radar Award for advancement of radar polarimetry, radar interferometry, and synthetic aperture radar from the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE). In 1998, Dr van Zyl was elected Fellow of the IEEE GRSS. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society of the IEEE for his contributions to polarimatric SAR remote sensing.
Van Zyl was involved in missions that sent the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, Dawn to the asteroid belt, Cassini to Saturn, and the InSight Mars lander and its tying accompanying CubeSat spacecraft. He was also involved in the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission currently en route to the red planet, as well as development of future missions.
A native of Namibia, van Zyl received a degree in electronics engineering from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and earned his master's and doctorate in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.JPL said van Zyl was passionate about encouraging young people in Namibia and South Africa to pursue science.
Caltech has established the Jakob vanZyl Memorial Fund to support research and/or scholarship for students in the EE department where Jakob studied, graduated, conducted research for most of his career and taught for more than 20 years. You may make tax deductible contributions online at https://caltech.imodules.com/vanzylmemorial or checks may be mailed to the Jakob vanZyl Memorial Fund c/o Caltech, MC 5-32, Pasadena, CA 91125.
Jim Howard passed away Sunday, April 5, 2020. Jim was a tireless volunteer for IEEE and AESS. Jim served on the AESS Board of Governors 2007-2009, 2010-2012, and 2014-2016. Over the years, he served as VP Member Services and VP Finance. More than that, Jim was a pleasure to work with and a friend to all. He will be sorely missed.
Robert O'Donnell, 1941-2015
Newmarket – Dr. Robert “Bob” M. O’Donnell, 74, of Stonewall Way died peacefully November 20, 2015 at Exeter Hospital surrounded by family.
Born August 31, 1941 in Lynn, MA, he was the son of Michael and Katherine (Niland) O’Donnell. He was raised in Lynn and attended St. Mary’s High School. He received his SB in Physics from MIT in 1963, and MS and PhD degrees in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964 and 1970.
He was a member of the senior staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for many years as a Radar Engineer. In 2003 he was elected to IEEE Fellow “for contributions to advanced surveillance and tracking radar systems”. He retired in 2008 and in his retirement continued teaching Radar with two series of free online courses. He was actively involved in the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society. Diagnosed with dementia in 2013, he attacked the disease like the scientist he was. He devoted much of his energy and focus in the last years of his life documenting the disease’s progression to honestly and directly show the many challenges of this (as he called it) “awful disease”.
His hobbies included classical music, amateur radio, and sailing.
Bob was a very spiritual man, he was a member of the Lee Church Congregational and a communicant of St. Mary Church in Newmarket.
He was predeceased by his brother, Thomas O’Donnell who died in 2008.
Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Janice Nickerson O’Donnell of Newmarket; four children, Michael O’Donnell and his wife Virginia Wang of Carrboro, NC, Meaghan Hulsey and her husband David of Buckeye, AZ, Brian O’Donnell and his wife Kayley of Atlanta, GA; and Andrew O’Donnell and his wife Julia of Waltham, MA; and 2 grandchildren, Sam Hulsey and Delaney Wang.
Bob Lynch, 1960-2015
I bring some sad news for the AESS community: On August 14th at about 2:30AM we lost our friend, Bob Lynch.
For those who don’t know, Bob was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Bob’s positive attitude, his enthusiasm, his good humor and optimism: these were how he was a great researcher, mentor, teacher and coach. And these were also how he approached his disease; he let all of us believe that each piece of news about his health was a positive one. So even for those of us who did know of Bob’s battle with that horrible disease, his passing was a true shock. I admire him ever more as I learn more about his fight.
Bob was a mighty contributor to our Fusion society: session chair, ISIF Fusion 2009 General Co-Chair (Seattle, with Chee-Yee Chong), ISIF Webmaster, ISIF VP of Communications, ISIF Board Member, Managing Editor of ISIF’s JAIF. Bob played a key role in ISIF’s flourishing. For example: Bob single-handedly pushed – and pushed hard enough – with Elsevier to get JAIF “indexed” on Scopus, meaning that JAIF now is recognized in the academic tenure process. JAIF is growing, and Bob is part of the reason that is happening.
Bob loved to contribute. He loved to teach. He was delighted to encourage students and junior co-workers – and the athletic teams he coached.
He leaves behind his wife Cheryl and two sons Bobby Jr. and Ryan. And he leaves behind many of us who miss him very much.
Frank Reyes, 1937-2015
It is with great sadness and sorrow that we inform you of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Mr. Frank Reyes. Frank was a long-time supporter of the AESS and selflessly gave his time and expertise by being a wonderful and effective volunteer serving as vice president for finance, secretary and an BoG member. Please stay tuned for an upcoming “in Memoriam” article in the Magazine and this web site about Frank, his life and his contributions to the AESS and his profession. We all will miss Frank terribly.
James V. "Jim" Leonard
January 25, 1936 - May 11, 2015
Leonard, James V. "Jim", of Saint Charles, MO, died on Monday, May 11, 2015, at the age of 79. Loving husband of Barbara Johnston; beloved son of the late Howard and Fannie Leonard; devoted father of Geoffrey (Sharon) Leonard and the late Lauren Marie Barrett; cherished grandfather of Keith Barrett, Robert Barrett, and Melanie Zimmermann; dear brother of Carolyn (Charles) Oldham; also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends.
Jim worked as a Sr. Technical Fellow/Electrical Engineer at McDonnell Douglas/Boeing for 51 years. He was a participating member of IEEE for 50 years and was USA IEEE President in 2003. He was in the Air Force Reserve. He attended Akron University, Washington University, and University of Science and Technology at Rolla. He was a member of the Golden Shillelagh Scholarship. He also was a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society of England.