Endowed Professorship to Honor Longtime Michigan Tech Faculty Member

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Dennis Wiitanen, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering
Dennis Wiitanen, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University has announced the creation of the Dennis Wiitanen Professorship in Electric Power Systems.

The professorship, which is funded by a $1 million endowment, honors Professor Emeritus Dennis Wiitanen, who retired in August 2012.

Department chair Dan Fuhrmann characterized Wiitanen as “tremendously influential.” The 42-year veteran faculty member served 25 years as associate chair and was a tireless proponent of the department’s power systems program, he said. Thousands of students completed his classes in power system design and analysis.

Those students were Wiitanen’s inspiration. “You’re 22 forever when you deal with young people,” he said.

Donations from more than 100 industry and alumni contributors fund the Wiitanen Professorship. The Detroit Edison Foundation helped launch the campaign with a $100,000 donation in 1993, and the DTE Foundation later gave $50,000, for a total of  $150,000. ITC Holdings provided $110,000; Consumers Energy Foundation, $100,000; and Upper Peninsula Power Company, $75,000. Other industry donors include Wisconsin Public Service, Northern States Power, PLM Power Systems and Black and Veatch.

Major gifts were also provided by three department alumni and their spouses: David and Elsa Brule, Sr.; Kanwal and Ann Rekhi; and Jon and Lisa Jipping.

“The professorship will help Tech meet the demand for power systems engineers as well as expand our research capability,” Fuhrmann said. “It’s a tremendous asset to the department, and we owe everyone who contributed a debt of gratitude.”

A search is now under way for the first Wiitanen professor.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.