Tribute for Sidney Burrus, longtime member of Rice faculty

Dear colleagues and students,

We are writing to share the sad news that Charles Sidney Burrus, a pioneer in digital signal processing, the Maxfield and Oshman Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, former dean of engineering and a member of the Rice University faculty for 56 years, died April 3 at 86.

Sidney, known as “Sid” to almost everyone, was a long-standing figure at Rice. He enrolled in the university in 1953 and earned three degrees in electrical engineering. Twelve years later, Sidney came back to Rice as a faculty member after serving in the Navy, teaching electrical engineering at the Naval Nuclear Power School in New London, Connecticut, and earning his Ph.D. at Stanford.

During his time at Rice, Sidney became one of the most admired professors at the university. Don Johnson, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said one of the main reasons he came to Rice was Sidney, who during his interview was warm and welcoming and who was a true trailblazer in his field, having recently written a seminal paper in the field of digital signal processing (DSP) with Tom Parks. Others who knew and worked with Sidney called him a reader and a thinker who genuinely loved and cared for others.

Sidney helped establish Rice as a leader in DSP, and in two books written with Parks in the 1980s he helped develop a unified theory of FFTs (fast Fourier transforms) and efficient ways to program them. In 2007, Burrus was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and two years later received the Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his contributions to “Fast Fourier transform algorithms, digital filter design and signal processing education."

Sidney served as chair of Rice’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department from 1984 to 1992, director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute at Rice from 1992 to 1998, dean of engineering from 1998 to 2005 and interim dean in 2010-11. Last November, the Sidney Burrus Chair was established in electrical and computer engineering.

Among the many honors Sidney amassed while on Rice’s faculty, he won the annual George R. Brown Teaching Award six times. In 2007 he and his late wife Mary Lee received the Association of Rice Alumni’s highest honor, the Gold Medal.

Sidney is truly one of the university’s legends and will be missed and remembered by all. He is survived by a daughter, Virginia Burrus of Syracuse, N.Y.; a son, Charles Hendrix Burrus of Houston; and four grandchildren. A virtual memorial service has been scheduled for 4 p.m. April 25. Details will be posted here.

Read more about Sidney and his accomplishments at the university in Rice News and on the George R. Brown School of Engineering's website.

Kind regards,

Reginald DesRoches, Provost David Leebron, President