Professor, Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Lester A. Gerhardt, MS ’64, PhD ’69, joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1970. He was promoted to full professor, and was selected as the first chairman of the newly merged electrical, computer, and systems engineering department following a nationwide search. At RPI, his research and academic specialty is Digital Signal Processing, emphasizing image processing, speech processing, and brain computer interfacing. Additionally he has served in the roles of Founding Director of the Center for Manufacturing Productivity; Director of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing Program; Director of the Center for Industrial Innovation; Associate Dean of Engineering for Research; an RPI VP of Research Administration and Finance; Dean of Engineering; and most recently as Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education.
He was the Inaugural Recipient of the National ASEE Research Administration Award. Internationally, he has served as a Delegate to NATO; consultant to the governments of Singapore, Portugal, Canada, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom; co-founder of the ongoing Global Engineering Education Exchange Program and served as its Chair of the Executive Committee for over a decade; originator of the Rensselaer Engineering Education Across Cultural Horizons (REACH) Program requiring an international experience of each undergraduate student in 2008; on the International Advisory Board of the ASEE; was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University of Denmark. Since 2009 he serves as the Sr. Advisor to the President of the Institute for International Education.
Before RPI, Lester was with Bell Aerospace Corporation, where he worked on the visual simulation of space flight including the Apollo Program’s moon landing, for which he received the Bell Outstanding Management Award.
In 1999, he organized Space Week at Rensselaer, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the moon landing. Buzz Aldrin and three other astronauts who walked on the moon attended this event. He is an active consultant to industry, government, and academe internationally, is a Fellow of the IEEE and ASEE; and holds several patents. In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Lamme Award and Medal by the ASEE, their highest honor, and is a recipient of the UB Distinguished Alumni Award. His graduate degrees are from UB in electrical engineering, earned while working at Bell.