Remembering N. Narayana Rao


Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

N Narayana Rao
N Narayana Rao

Former Illinois ECE Professor Emeritus N Narayana Rao passed away on July 13, 2020 at the age of 88. Rao was born in Kakumanau, Andhra Pradesh, India on March 2, 1932. He married his wife Sarojini Jonnalaadda in 1955.

Rao received his B.Sc. degree in physics from the University of Madras in 1952, attending the Presidency College, Madras, and earned his Diploma in Electronics from the Madras Institute of Technology, Chromepet, in 1955. 

Rao moved to the United States in 1958 and received his MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in 1960 and 1965, respectively. He joined the Illinois ECE faculty in 1965 and retired in  2007 as the Edward C. Jordan Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

His research focused on ionospheric propagation. Rao authored the undergraduate textbook Basic Electromagnetics with Applications (1972), and six editions of Elements of Engineering Electromagnetics (1977, 1987, 1991, 1994, 2000, and 2004), published by Prentice Hall. The fifth edition of Elements of Engineering Electromagnetics, dedicated to Professor Edward C. Jordan, was translated into two volumes in Bahasa Indonesia. The sixth edition is the lead volume for the new Illinois ECE Series.

A recipient of numerous awards, Rao is a Life Fellow of the IEEE and Life Member of the ASEE. Most notably, Rao received a plaque of appreciation from the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, for consultancy in 1985-1986; the College of Engineering Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence in 1987; the Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1989; the Halliburton Engineering Education Leadership Award in 1991; the IEEE Technical Field Award in Undergraduate Teaching in 1994; and awards from the Telugu Association of North America (TANA) in 1983 and 1999.

Rao also served as the associate head of the Department for Instructional and Graduate Affairs from 1987 to 2006. In 2011, the Professor N. Narayana Rao Scholarship Award was established in honor of Rao to honor a distinguished Illinois ECE junior or senior who distinguished themselves through meaningful service to the department and college community and academic excellence.

Read the obituary from The News-Gazette here.

Illinois ECE Remembers N. Narayana Rao

"Narayana was one of the most loyal servants of our department. His dedication was exemplary. He looked after and cared for all, students, faculty, staff."
Andreas Cangellaris , Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, M.E. Van Valkenburg Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, former Department Head of Illinois ECE

"Professor Rao was indeed a distinguished most dedicated educator and a true gentleman with unwavering high principles and love for the department. I will miss him much. My sincerest condolences to the family. "
Kyekyoon Kim, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

" Narayana was very proud to be a member of the ECE faculty and a very loyal ILLINI even though none of his degrees were granted by the UI.  As associate head of the department, he was diligent, hardworking, trustworthy, and always a gentleman.  While serving as associate head he managed to continue to teach, produce several revised revisions to his book on electromagnetics, and serve as course director for ECE 229 without neglecting any of his administrative duties.  I feel very fortunate to have his support during tenure as head of the department."
- Timothy N Trick, Professor Emeritus, former Department Head of Illinois ECE

"In addition to his distinguished career in EM, he was probably one of our longest-serving Associate Heads - and the father of the right way to prepare for an ABET visit.  I served on numerous ABET committees that he led - and he freely posted all of our results and processes on the ECE website for the world to use. He also managed all the teaching loads for years - before the load formula was created.  And, he did both undergrad and graduate level duties.  I have missed his involvement with ECE activities and was first sad when he retired.  He served several heads, helped many young faculty, and was the heart and soul of ECE for many years."
- Peter Sauer, Grainger Chair Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering

As course director, Professor Rao taught me how to teach ECE 329 when I started my career at Illinois in 2007. He explained electromagnetics in a way that made you want to deeply understand and appreciate the beauty in the underlying physics and math. I was sad to learn of his passing and wish to express my condolences.”
- Lynford L Goddard, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

"I have a vivid memory of Professor Rao when he was the ECE 229 course director that I had the privilege to teach under his guidance when I joined the Department in early 1980. At a time devoid of the internet, he was running the course efficiently and smoothly, with topical assignments followed by HW at every lecture. Asides from being a great teacher, he was a great organizer, always opened for discussion, which follows him when he became Associate Head. We’ll miss him greatly.  My deepest condolences to his family and friends."
- Jean-Pierre Leburton, Gregory Stillman Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

" It is indeed very sad to hear of Prof Rao’s passing.  I like many was the recipient of wonderful (always to the point and direct) advice from him.  I often ran into his students usually in the bay area and of course deeply valued his deep service and commitment to the department.  No matter at what age the passing of a great colleague and friend is tragic.  His memories are there and hope will continue to inspire us all.  I trust the department will send these emails to his family.  My deepest condolences."
- Ravishankar K Iyer, George and Ann Fisher Distinguished Professor of Engineering

"My condolences to all of us, Narayana loved ECE Illinois and helped to make it what it is over decades of service and teaching."
- Erhan Kudeki, Professor, Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs