I. Norman Katz, longtime professor of electrical & systems engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, died Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 in New Jersey. He was 86.
Katz joined Washington University in St. Louis in 1967 as an associate professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. He was chair of the Department of Systems Science and Mathematics from 1987-2002 and was co-director of the B.S. program in Systems Science and Mathematics. Over the decades, he taught thousands of Engineering students to develop their reasoning and creative abilities and to think independently through dozens of courses, many of which he developed himself. He also published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals.
In 1983, he received a Distinguished Faculty Award from the university in recognition of his dedication to providing personal contact to students and creating a welcoming atmosphere while stimulating students to think. He also served as chair of the Affirmative Action Committee and of the Faculty Advisory Board and was Engineering School representative on the Senate Council.
Katz retired in 2015 after 48 years at Washington University and became senior professor. He was honored in 2015 with several other faculty who had served many decades in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering.
Prior to joining Washington University, Katz was at the AVCO Research and Advanced Development in Wilmington, Mass., starting in 1959 as a senior scientist, a section chief, and as manager of the mathematics department. He also served as a consultant to McDonnell Aircraft Co. from 1980-1990.
"For years, Dr. Katz would ride his bike to campus from west University City — it was a wondrous sight to see him biking back and forth, even as an older gentleman," said Rabbi Hershey Novack, co-director of the Chabad on Campus at Washington University. "He also chanted Torah with the precision of a scientist and the intonation of an artist. He must have done it for more than 70 years, and he was very talented."
Novack said Katz would often eat lunch with students in the sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot and remind them that he was a scholar of both the sciences and of Jewish law and literature.
Katz's research focused on the numerical solution of ordinary and partial differential equations, reliable algorithms, parallel computation and finite element analysis. He helped to develop the p-version of the finite element method, which is now widely accepted as a reliable computational tool in the finite element analysis of elastic structures, heat transfer and related fields, and is implemented in many commercial computer codes.
"The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University has a distinguished reputation in system science and analysis," said Aaron Bobick, James M. McKelvey Professor and Dean. "Professor Katz was critically important in developing that reputation and contributing to the rise of the School as both a research and education organization."
A New York native, Katz earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Yeshiva University in 1952 and 1954, respectively, and a doctorate in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959. He is survived by his wife, Judith; son Avi Katz; a brother and sister; three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held for Katz Jan. 16 in Hackensack, NJ. He was buried Jan. 17 in Jerusalem, Israel.