Bourne, former department chair, dies at age 88

Bourne, former department chair, dies at age 88


Henry Bourne Jr., a former department chair who helped build one of the nation’s top electrical engineering research programs at Rice, died of natural causes March 25 at his home in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 88.


Bourne earned three degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, returning for his doctorate after three years of military service in World War II. He spent nine years on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining Rice in 1963, when then-Rice President Kenneth Pitzer, who was also from UC Berkeley, hired Bourne to chair the Electrical Engineering Department.

“Kenneth Pitzer brought in leaders to build departments, and Henry was one of those leaders,” said Sidney Burrus, the Maxfield and Oshman Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was one of the first faculty members hired by Bourne. “Henry started what has become one of the top educational and research departments in the country.

“The year I was hired, two associate professors, J. Boyd Pearson and Rui de Figueiredo, were hired from Purdue, and they helped put us on the map,” Burrus said.

Bourne chaired the department until 1974. He left Rice in 1979 to become deputy assistant director of engineering and applied science at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. In 1981 he was named vice president of academic affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology, a post he held until 1986. Bourne served one year as interim president of Georgia Tech and returned for one more year as vice president of academic affairs. He retired in 1993.

Bourne was a fellow and lifetime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaret Thomas Bourne, a sister, a brother, two sons, two daughters and 10 grandchildren. Funeral services were held March 29 in Tarboro, N.C.

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