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crumb trail: Home >> Whistle Online >> Archives >> Dec. 5, 2005

Thomas Stelson, emeritus vice president of research, dies

Former administrator Thomas E. Stelson, who helped charter the course toward greater research funding is being remembered by colleagues for his contributions to Georgia Tech.

Stelson, 77, died Nov. 13 of complications from brain surgery. As vice president for research from 1974-1988, he has been credited with transforming the school from a teaching institution to one of the country’s leading research universities. During Stelson’s tenure, annual research spending grew from $8 million to $120 million.

College of Engineering Dean Don Giddens called Stelson “one of the giants of Georgia Tech.”

“Tom was a real visionary,” he said. “He saw the importance of interdisciplinary research long before it became popular and, more importantly, he invested resources in promoting this. He was the principal driver, under President Joe Pettit, in aligning resource allocation and organizational structures at Tech so as to promote research at a time when the Institute was just beginning to emerge as a research-intensive place.

“My own career was impacted through Tom’s vision and willingness to take a risk. He re-created the Bioengineering Center and agreed to my proposal to start the Emory-Georgia Tech Biomedical Technology Research Center that became the foundation upon which much of our current bioengineering efforts have been based.”

His efforts enjoyed wide faculty support. In a local newspaper article, Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Art Koblasz called him “the perfect guy to set the course for research at Georgia Tech. He could motivate, steer and keep order.”

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan. 7 at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church.



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Last Modified: December 5, 2005