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May 18, 2020

ECE Professor Emeritus Thomas Lipo passes away

Written By: Jason Daley

Thomas Lipo, the Grainger Professor of Power Electronics and Electrical Machines Emeritus in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, passed away on May 8, 2020.

 Thomas Lipo
Thomas Lipo

Lipo was born in Milwaukee in 1938. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Marquette University before completing his PhD at UW-Madison in 1968.

Afterward, Lipo spent 10 years working for GE’s research and development arm, helping to lay the groundwork for much of today’s solid-state power electronics and adjustable-speed motor drives. In 1979, he joined the faculty of Purdue University for two years before coming to UW-Madison.

His academic legacy is substantial. In 1981, Lipo co-founded the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium, WEMPEC, a highly successful university-industry partnership that has approximately 80 corporate sponsors. He served as co-director of WEMPEC for 28 years.

Lipo was considered a leading authority on high-performance machine drives, which combined his expertise in electric machines, power electronics and drive control algorithms. These drives are used in a variety of industrial, commercial and transportation applications. Over his career, Lipo supervised more than 120 graduate students, authored 700 technical papers and five books, and earned more than 50 patents.

Lipo also had a knack for international collaboration, forging early relationships with researchers in Japan in the 1970s and China in the 1980s. He was also a great ambassador for UW-Madison, serving as a Fulbright Fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and holding limited-term appointments at Cambridge University in Great Britain, Hanyang University in South Korea, as well as positions in Australia and China. For the last five years of his life, he was a research professor at Florida State University.

His academic achievements earned Lipo a long list of honors, including the IEEE Medal in Power Engineering, election to the National Academy of Engineering and the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Hilldale Award in Physical Sciences from UW-Madison, one of the university’s most prestigious honors for scientific research.

Tom is preceded in death by his first wife, Christine, who passed away on 2004 after 40 years of marriage. He is survived by his second wife, Sandra Eimen of Florida, as well as children Carl, Emily, Patrick and Anna and nine grandchildren.

Donations in Professor Lipo’s honor to support ECE faculty can be made via the University of Wisconsin Foundation.