In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Harry Van Trees

Harry Van Trees, professor emeritus at Mason CEC, wears a dark-blue sweater and smiles next to a stack of IT books
Professor Emeritus Harry Van Trees

Harry Van Trees, a distinguished and award-winning researcher, textbook author, member of the National Academy of Engineering, and George Mason University Professor of Information Technology and Electrical and Systems Engineering passed away on December 29, 2022.  

Van Trees was born in Kansas City on June 27, 1930. He went on to graduate first in his class from West Point and earned an Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after a stint in the army. He joined the MIT Electrical Engineering Department, where he studied signal processing. He made significant contributions to detection and estimation theory, optimum array processing, and Bayesian estimation of random processes. He is regarded as a founder of the detection and estimation theory body of knowledge. His impressive CV may be found here

Later in his career, he would go on to be the founding director of Mason's Center of Excellence in Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I). George Mason University Professor Emeritus Alexander Levis noted, “His vision for such a center was inspired by his brief service as Air Force Chief Scientist and then as the first Assistant Secretary at DoD for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence. He recognized that rapidly evolving information technology would change fundamentally Command and Control and that both basic and applied research were very much needed. Indeed, thirty-five years later, Command and Control has now been recognized as a defining pillar of national security.”

Others on the Mason campus also paid tribute to his lasting legacy. “Harry Van Trees was a brilliant engineer, educator, mentor, and colleague who had a remarkable life and career in academia, government, and industry,” added Kristine Bell, Affiliate Associate Professor in the Mason Statistics Department. “His books on Detection and Estimation Theory and Array Processing have educated so many engineers and inspired so many important research findings in the last 45 years. There is no doubt that our world would look different without his contributions. I was so privileged to have worked with him. He was a wonderful man who cared deeply for his family, but also for his colleagues, and his community. I will miss him tremendously.” 

According to his official obituary, his passing was unexpected but fortunately, although in the hospital, he was able to spend his last week with Diane, his beloved wife of 69 years, and his six surviving children, Stephen, Mark, Katie, Tricia, Harry, and Julia.