Professor Emeritus Nick Holonyak Jr. honored at commencement


Meg Dickinson, ECE ILLINOIS

Professor Emeritus Nick Holonyak Jr. (BSEE ’50, MS ’51, PhD ’54) was honored with the University of Illinois’ Alumni Achievement Award at commencement this year.

The award is the association’s highest honor for distinguished alumni.

Alumni Association President Loren Taylor recognized Holonyak at a March reception in Urbana, where he told Holonyak the recognition is in honor of “pioneering and world-renowned achievements in optoelectronics that facilitate conversion between electricity and light.”

Holonyak is the inventor of the first visible LED and later invented the first transistor laser with Professor Milton Feng, who is also an ECE alumnus.

“How fortunate the university has been to be a part of such an amazing, impactful career,” Taylor said

At the reception, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said she’s especially proud that Holonyak earned three degrees at Illinois, and she sees Holonyak as a role model.

“You can see the impact Nick has had as an alumnus,” Wise said, “not just with the LED but also the inventions he’s created since.”

Holonyak said part of his success was the fact that he learned from two-time Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen while studying at Illinois.

“It was obvious his abilities were special,” Holonyak said. “That was a huge break. Little did I know, a revolution was in his hands.”

Bardeen was one of the first to see his LED prototype, and Holonyak is still proud to see the work of Illinois alumni on the LED.

“When you see red, orange, or yellow, you’re seeing what was done by the U of I, by Illinois people,” Holonyak said.

And Illinois students and faculty still have much potential, he said.

“Get busy, get to work,” he said. “The world needs you.”