Thank you for informing us of the passing of your dad. Please convey our condolences to Vickie and Laura. It is sad to lose another of our MSU gang, make that the ;eader of the gang! Carolyn and I have been reminiscing about the many happy memories of events with your dad and mother, the Wollas and all our families: Camping at Myrtle Beach when we were all new to SC and braved the campsites next to the ocean – and a visiting alligator one year; dances at the Clemson House (which was demolished last year to make way for new buildings.) We Michigan transplants celebrated milestones in each other’s lives like family. Carolyn and I are especially grateful to Lyle for bringing us to Clemson. We could not have asked for a more perfect place to raise our family than the city of Clemson and Clemson University. It was a privilege to be part of Lyle’s team as he initiated important and lasting upgrades to Clemson University’s prestige.
Both Lyle and I had similar college backgrounds since I was also a graduate of Tri-State College (1958) and a graduate of Michigan State University with a MSEE (1959) and a PhD. in EE (1964). Prior to 1966, my only contact and interaction with Lyle was brief encounter in the Michigan State University EE coffee room. As a result, I was surprised to receive a letter in 1966 requesting me to interview for a Clemson University position. I was an assistant professor at Michigan State University, but I was seriously looking for a position in industry. I was attracted to Clemson because of the rural atmosphere.
Both Lyle and Maurice had Ford Foundation Forgivable Loan Fellowships that allowed them to study full time. As a result, I never encountered Lyle on campus. Without a loan, I worked directly under the department head, Dr. L. W. Von Tersch, with tasks he assigned me such as supervision of the senior laboratory program and advisor of the MSU Amateur Radio Club.
Within a few years, Albert Duke and Wayne Gilchrist with MSU PhDs were hired by Lyle. Lyle looked for people he could trust to implement his programs. Al and I were students together in a course at MSU. Wayne taught at Tri-State while I was enrolled but I never had him as a professor. The Wilcox’s and Gilchrist’s were apparently close friends at Tri-State. Wayne tried to hire me at Tri-State in 1964 but low pay and the absence of a graduate program were negatives.
It was my understanding that Lyle was a professor at Tri-State prior to enrolling at Michigan State. I saw a picture in the 1956 yearbook with Lyle in front of a chalk board. The alumni directory states that Lyle graduated in 1954 in Radio Technology. To have received the MS in 1958, he probably started Michigan State in 1956 with a family. Leland Axe, head of Radio Engineering at Tri-State, took a special interest in both of us and helped us along in our careers. Lyle wanted to invite professor Axe for a campus visit but Gilchrist opposed the invite.
Pat was an important part of his life and provided a family environment that contributed substantially to his success. She was enjoyable and energetic.
Maurice Wolla also arrived at Clemson in 1966. I had known Maurice since we lived in the same neighborhood in Lansing Township and we did some carpooling. Maurice and I both entered MSU in1958. Maurice was enrolled in the PhD degree program while I was enrolled in the MS degree program. Since Maurice and Lyle was office partners and great friends, I often heard about Lyle primarily on the topic of used car restorations.
In 1966, both the faculty and facilities at Clemson were at best second class. It was a severe shock to my system to see the poor state of the engineering programs after experiencing an outstanding program at MSU. Lyle’s primary task was to correct these many deficiencies within EE and engineering to make Clemson University a highly regarded national university. There was also the need to implement serious graduate and research programs and eliminate a few obsolete traditions of the military culture.
Saturday classes and the absence of afternoon classes was part of the military culture. Lyle quickly eliminated both. When the rest of the university saw his successes, the rest of the university soon followed suit at the expense of afternoon golf. Lyle also raised his performance expectations of the faculty. Qualified faculty were hired rather than following the tradition of providing faculty positions to retired military. Lyle had excellent support from President Edwards and Dean Linville Rich.
A 1975 Electrical and Computer Engineering publication listed 26 faculty members with PhDs while there were only 3 prior to 1966. The graduate program, research funding and research facilities had become significant. Prior to his arrival, the graduate and research programs were almost non-existent. Lyle’s leadership was clearly responsible for this success.
Lyle had purchased a DEC PDP-8 minicomputer which arrived in the fall of 1966. Maurice Wolla and I were the only faculty members with prior computer experience at Michigan State University. I had been a member of the Engineering Computer Laboratory at Michigan State with both software and hardware experience. The PDP-8 became our launching point into computer engineering. The PDP-8 was followed by a PDP-15/EAI-680 hybrid and a PDP-11,
Lyle and I visited NASA in Huntsville without any appointments. Lyle managed to get us past the guards at the gate and we managed to visit with one of the German rocket scientists. He gave us a trunk full of laboratory equipment without any paper work which we brought back to Clemson. If we had been searched at the gate on leaving, Lyle and I may have been arrested for theft. NASA also gave us a PDP-8 with a specialized interface along with a research contract.
After Lyle left Clemson, I essentially lost contact with him and I only saw him three or four times– once at a Maurice Wolla retirement party at the Isle of Palms, a drop-in for Lyle at Wollas in Clemson, Katherine’s wedding, and Maurice’s funeral.
Lyle had a motor boat and was enjoying watching us take spills when we water skied behind his boat. He would not make a fool of himself on skis.
Tom and Carolyn Drake
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