Wednesday afternoon, the Boilermaker family lost a major asset to the community: someone who shaped the community more than anyone probably knows.
Felix Haas, a former professor, provost, friend and father passed away after 92 short years. After a tearful announcement, the news about Haas made waves. Many faculty members felt that the University had lost a great man.
Many may find his name familiar; Haas’ contributions to Purdue were honored by the University in 2006, when a building that formerly housed Computer Science before it received it’s own building, Richard & Patricia Lawson Computer Science Building, was dedicated to Haas. Haas was “very grateful and very humbled” by the dedication, said Tim Korb, assistant department head for Computer Science, and colleague of Haas.
“We thought it was a very fitting tribute to name that building after him given his role in establishing the computer science department at Purdue,” Korb said.
Haas was instrumental at Purdue as he pushed to create the computer science department, the first in the United States in 1962, as well as bringing in Sam Conte, after whom one of the fastest on-campus supercomputers in the nation is named after.
Jeffrey Roberts, dean of the College of Science, highlighted many of the great aspects that Haas brought to Purdue.
“His influence at Purdue was enormous. He served the university as a professor, as head of the Division of Mathematical Sciences, as first dean of the School of Science, and as provost,” Roberts said. “Even after his retirement in 1991, he continued to teach classes without pay, because of the joy he found in educating students.”
Haas was also widely known for his love of teaching. Starting as a professor in mathematics, Haas never stopped teaching throughout his career and even after his retirement.
“After he stepped down as provost he returned to the department full time, voluntarily teaching an overload in order to provide release time from teaching for (female) faculty members,” Leonard Lipshitz, a professor of mathematics said. “He continued to teach for the department after he retired. Students loved him and he loved teaching.”
In Haas’s 40 years at Purdue, a common theme found throughout his life was a constant strive towards excellence. That can be seen through his vision of a new and necessary department at Purdue, educating students and acquiring the best possible faculty.
“As dean and provost, Phil continued to understand that the most important and enduring activities at Purdue are the faculty research and teaching,” Lipshitz said. “He always seemed proudest of the excellent faculty hires he had facilitated and the emerging areas the he had spotted before most others.”
Haas legacy will be remembered with a memorial service at Purdue later this fall.