Obituary: Gagan Mirchandani, 1932-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Gagan Mirchandani, 1932-2023 

UVM professor emeritus made significant contributions to the newly burgeoning fields of digital signal processing, image processing and coding

Published November 6, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated November 6, 2023 at 10:37 a.m.

Gagan Mirchandani - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Gagan Mirchandani

Gagan Mirchandani passed away peacefully on October 31, 2023, surrounded by his family. He was 91 years old.

Born in Mussoorie, India, Gagan attended Doon School, located at the first Himalayan foothills in Dehradun. Fortunate to have been part of the culture there, he was forever inculcated with its values that espoused sports and the arts over other fields. From music and painting to boxing and wrestling and many sports in between, he was an avid participant. Those years he remembered as some of the fondest of his life.

After high school, he chose the U.S. over the other usual places for study abroad. He arrived here in the early 1950s and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering. Fortunate again, but this time in academia, he was inspired by internationally renowned faculty in developing an abiding love for the fields of circuit theory and system theory. It was those subjects, with their mathematical underpinning, that formed the springboard for his career in electrical engineering at UVM that lasted some 47 years and was appointed Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering in 2015.

From circuit and system theory, he went on to develop courses and labs—software and hardware—and helped push forward the tide of the newly burgeoning fields of digital signal processing, image processing and coding. Later, his class lectures in wavelets and compressed sensing — some of the more popular courses being offered yearly since the 1980s — became readily available on his web site. His research with 19 graduate students, which included eight Ph.D. students, led to 53 publications that included a couple of landmark papers, all available on Google Scholar. He did not eschew the basic need to serve undergraduate education, where he had a positive impact on literally thousands of students. He was awarded the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award for full professors in 2011 and the best paper award in the 1977 IEEE Transactions on Education. He spent several sabbaticals — each extending over fifteen months — at IBM Fishkill, GE-Research, Dartmouth College, École Polytechnic Fédérale de Lausanne and NASA-GSFC.

On a personal level, Gagan loved living in Vermont, which he chose to a fair degree because of the opportunity to ski and, not to a small degree, because of UVM’s two squash courts. He skied every year with family and friends until such time when the children got much faster, and his colleagues quit. Undeterred, he bought senior ski passes at Stowe each year, going alone until well into his 80s, picking sunny days and happily skiing half a day on the sun-swept gondola runs. In addition to skiing, Gagan started swimming again and joined a master's swim group in 1985. Swimming in a semi-competitive environment with mostly accomplished swimmers half his age or younger was an unforgettable experience for him. That, and the corresponding camaraderie with its Friday evening after-swim group dinners, went on for some nine years, and they too constituted some of the more memorable years of his life.

Gagan always felt that life with its ups and downs had been more than kind and sometimes seemingly unearned. He leaves behind his wife, Alice, who never was not there for everyone, to listen and to help. He was predeceased by his daughter, Rekha, who had not yet turned 50, who left behind two lovely granddaughters, Neena, the prolific writer with a heart-warming smile, and Kiran, who showed us how to face the challenges of life with a stoicism and grace that few of us could match, and a devoted husband, Albert, who brought up two beautiful young girls into adulthood. Completing the family were son, Ravi, his spouse, Rebecca, and their energetic young daughter, Leah, who all personified and showed us the values, history and traditions of the Jewish faith. While taking the road less traveled was second nature to Ravi, he was driven more to carving out his own path. During their extended summer and winter vacations in Vermont, the family enjoyed jogging together, swimming regularly at Red Rocks beach, cross country skiing in the park, downhill skiing at Stowe, racing laps in the local pool, flying kites in the spring and delightedly sailing their Dyer Dhow in protected coves, especially on blustery days. It was indeed the best of times.

Gagan was married to Alice for some 60 years. Although she had just barely turned 22, she journeyed halfway across the world to marry — and perhaps settle permanently in a foreign land. At a time when the world was far more timorous, many would have called the overseas journey courageous, but to Alice it was the natural thing to do. "Don’t ever let her go," warned Gagan’s sister in a letter to him many years ago. "They only make such people in the movies."

Gagan’s ashes will be interred at Lakeview Cemetery. His family will hold a private memorial in the near future.

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