Robert (Bob) Fischl (1931-2018)
February 8, 2018
John Jarem Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Fischl, a faculty member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) for 30 years, died on Monday, February 5 due to complications from lymphoma.
Bob was born May 23, 1931 in Czechoslovakia, in the village of Kilcany, outside of Prague. The Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and the persecution of its Jewish citizens forced Bob's immediate family to leave the country for Palestine in January, 1940, when Bob was not yet 10 years old. Many members of his extended family, however, were not able to leave, and were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps.
Following the war, Bob's family returned briefly to Czechoslovakia in 1948. The country was now under communist (KGB) control, and Bob's family again sought to leave. After a short stay in Paris, France, Bob and his family emigrated to the United States, settling in New York City.
Bob obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the City College of New York in 1956, then obtained both his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Michigan in 1956 and 1966, respectively.
ECE Department Head John Jarem recruited Bob to come to the ECE department at Drexel as an assistant professor in 1966. Bob was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1973, and then to professor in 1978. He retired in 1996 after thirty years of service, as John Jarem Professor Emeritus.
Over his career, Professor Fischl had a profound impact on the ECE department, the College of Engineering, and Drexel as a whole. He was instrumental in helping to establish Drexel's Ph.D. program in 1968. He was a dedicated scholar, and was deeply committed to advising graduate students; by the time he retired, he had supervised the theses of 25 doctoral students. Bob's research successes eventually led him to found the Center for Electric Power and Energy (CEPE) in 1986. Under Bob's inspired leadership, CEPE came to be known as one of the strongest programs in power and energy in the country, a reputation it enjoys to this day. Bob was also instrumental in attracting several faculty in power and energy to join the ECE department, including Professors Chika Nwankpa, Dagmar Niebur, and Karen Miu. Near the end of his career, Bob demonstrated his commitment to Drexel students by creating the "Robert Fischl Endowed Fund in Electrical Power Engineering," which provides scholarships to power students in the ECE department.
Professor Fischl's research areas included power systems and power electronics, system analysis and design, and optimization, and he published over 200 technical articles in these areas. One of his most highly cited papers, "Local bifurcation in power systems: theory, computation, and application," appeared in the Proceedings of the IEEE in 1995. Professor Fischl's success in research and teaching was recognized by several awards over his career. He was an IEEE Life Fellow, elevated in 1994 with the citation "for contributions to the design and understanding of power systems." He was named the Edison Electric Institute's Power Engineering Educator in 1991, and was awarded the Drexel University Research Achievement Award in 1988.
Upon his retirement, Bob dedicated himself to public education and awareness about the Holocaust. To this end, he helped to create the foundation "Sonja's Legacy," named after his cousin, Sonja Fischerova, who was murdered at Auschwitz. Bob was also an accomplished athlete, and he received gold medals in swimming in the Senior Olympics. He also donated his time as a docent at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and the Franklin Institute.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We at Drexel keenly feel Bob's absence, but we celebrate his lasting contributions as a scholar, as an educator, and as a colleague.