Memorial honors late engineering professor

Will Caverly

On Friday, Sept. 17, the University celebrated the life and achievements of Dr. Sathyanarayan Surabhi Rao, the former chairman of the electrical and computer engineering department. Rao died of a heart attack in his home on April 22, 2004. He is survived by his two sons, Shon and Dana, his wife Sara and two granddaughters.

Rao served as the chairman of the department from 1983 until the time of his death. He was an influential part of the overall expansion of the department, which corresponded with the fast-growing technology of our time.

The ceremony was a unique mix of Hindu tradition and the University’s Augustinian tradition.

Administrators, family members, former students and co-workers nearly filled the St. Thomas Chapel to hear testimonials of his life given by his friends and colleagues.

Dr. Pritpal Singh of the ECE led the ceremony. Afterwards, he said, “I felt that the blend of Hindu tradition with University tradition … shows the respect the University has for cultural differences [among employees].”

Former student Daniel Chandran read sections of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture and handpicked Hindi music was put together for the beginning and end of the program.

Ed Dougherty, also of the ECE department, read sections from the Old Testament, creating a unique religious ceremony that encompassed many faiths.

Testimonials of the life of Rao followed the readings, with speeches delivered by Moeness Amin, Ahmed Hoorfar, both of the ECE department and many other faculty members and students. Impromptu testimonials were given by his son Shon and University president Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A.

Ed Char of engineering, in his speech at the ceremony, said Rao “really shaped our department.”

Comments on Rao’s importance to the department were numerous, with people speaking on his humor, friendliness and his teaching ability and vast knowledge, including his love for political discourse.

Former student Pavan Surabhi said that Rao received “all the respect he deserves.”

Closing prayers were led by Rev. Shawn Tracy and a dedication service was held in CEER 312, where the new Distance Learning and Education Center is located. A plaque inside illustrates the facility’s dedication in memory of Rao.