Li had 58-year ‘impactful’ career at Swanson School

Professor Emeritus Ching-Chung Li, the longest-serving professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department at 58 years, died Sept. 3, 2022 at 90.

Department chair Alan George said Li “had a very impactful role for many years” in the school. He was hailed by his department for having “a tireless work ethic, deep principles and a fierce persistence that led him to excel at everything he pursued.”

Born on March 30, 1931, in Wuxi, China, Li grew up in Changshu, China, and earned his bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan University. At Northwestern University he received his M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

He joined the Pitt faculty in September 1959 as an assistant professor and moved up the ranks to professor by 1967. Between 1964 and 2012, he conducted research as a visiting professor or visiting scientist at numerous academic and research institutions, including the Department of Electrical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley (1964); Biodynamics Laboratory, Alza Corporation, Palo Alto, Cal. (1970); Coal Preparation Division, Department of Energy, Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center (1982, 1983, 1985, 1988); Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. (1988); and Robotics Institute (1999), Advanced Multimedia Processing Laboratory (2006), and Information and Communication Technologies Institute (2012), all at Carnegie Mellon University.

He mentored 28 students at the M.S. level, 37 students at the Ph.D. level, and two at the postdoctoral level. His more than half a century of research saw him involved as a member and committee chair of many professional organizations in his field, and as editor or a member of editorial boards for the Journal of Cybernetics and Information Science, Pattern Recognition, Computerized Medical Imaging and Graphics, Journal of Wavelet Theory and Applications and Current Development in Theory and Applications of Wavelets.

He published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers and numerous edited books. In honor of his scientific contributions, he was recognized as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Association for Advancement of Science and the International Association for Pattern Recognition.

Li also made significant contributions to the promotion of research worldwide, especially in developing countries. He hosted numerous international visiting professors, research fellows and trainees in his laboratory and organized many international research conferences and workshops. He also gave lectures and helped establish research centers, including at the Institute of Information Science at the Beijing Jiaotong University in the 1980s, and the Center for Artificial Intelligence at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan in recent years.

Li retired in August 2017.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Hanna (Wu); sons William (Shawna) Li and Vincent (Joy) Li; grandchildren Madeleine, Oliver and Noemi Li; and his sister Ching-Mi Sun.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Angiogenesis Foundation

— Marty Levine