McCormick Prof. emeritus Gilbert Krulee, who spent more than 40 years at Northwestern and helped introduce a computer science department to the university, died Jan. 18 at age 92.
Krulee, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, came to Northwestern in 1960 as a member of the industrial engineering department, as a computer science department did not yet exist.
In 1971, when the computer science department was created, Krulee served as chair of the department — now known as EECS — and helped hire its first faculty. Krulee also taught Weinberg courses in linguistics and psychology.
He held a bachelor of science in chemical engineering and a doctorate in industrial engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a masters in psychology from Springfield College. Prior to attending MIT and Springfield College, Krulee served as a U.S. Navy engineering officer during World War II, from 1943 to 1946.
Krulee served as an active fellow at Lindgren Hall, the science and engineering residential college prior to the creation of Slivka Residential College in 2002. Prof. Alan Sahakian, current chair of the EECS department, was the master of the former science and engineering residential college and said Krulee was very involved there.
“He had many talents, and he really did interact with students and faculty,” Sahakian said.
Krulee hired Prof. Larry Henschen in 1971, once the computer science department was established. Until Krulee’s retirement in 2000, Henschen worked closely with him in the area of artificial intelligence. They co-authored several papers and served on each other’s doctoral student committees. Henschen described Krulee as, above all, “a gentleman and a scholar.”
As one of the earliest scholars in his field, Krulee attended the 1969 First International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Washington and wrote a book on computer science, “Computer Processing of Natural Language,” published in 1991.
For Sahakian, Krulee was a mentor. He said he helped him — and others in the department — in course development and guided Sahakian in his early years as a professor at Northwestern. Krulee also served as an effective mentor for his students, Sahakian said, many of whom went on to have successful careers in academia and industry.
One of Krulee’s students in the early ‘70s developed one of the first successful computer networks, Henschen said. This was evidence of Krulee’s skill and encouragement as a teacher, he said.
“He was interested in knowledge, and he was interested in encouraging the students and faculty in his department,” Henschen said. “He encouraged me a lot in the early years, before I became established, and that is very characteristic of him.”
In addition to his academic career, Krulee is remembered for his kindness and his passion for music.
Engineering sciences and applied math Prof. Alvin Bayliss, who joined Northwestern’s faculty in 1986, never worked professionally with Krulee but recalls seeking him out after hearing he played the trombone. Bayliss’s daughter was also interested in music at the time, and Bayliss said he discussed this with Krulee.
“I’m sure most people will find it boring just to hear a father bragging about his daughter, but Gil always listened patiently to me,” Bayliss said.
Krulee is survived by his wife of 46 years, Carolyn Krulee, his three daughters and four grandchildren.
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