The Dean's Award for Engineering Achievement is given this year to Mr. Erich Bloch (UB BS EE '52). Each year the School of Engineering gives this, its highest honor, to a person who has made an exceptional contribution to the practice of engineering or has had an exceptional professional career. Mr. Bloch has met these criteria in grand fashion. He has succeeded at a major U.S. corporation, IBM; in public service, leading the National Science Foundation; and as a principal at major U.S. policy institutes. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Mr. Bloch has a distinguished curriculum vita. Mr. Bloch received his education in electrical engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Zurich and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Buffalo in 1952. He pursued graduate studies in engineering at Syracuse University.
Mr. Bloch was employed by the IBM Corporation from 1952 to 1984. During this time he held various positions, including Engineering Manager of the STRETCH supercomputer system, head of the Solid Logic Technology Program, Vice President of the Data Systems Division, and General Manager of the East Fishkill development and manufacturing facility. He completed his career at IBM as Vice President for Technical Personnel Development, a position responsible for managing the four IBM technical institutes. He is the holder of eight patents in the computer field and was the recipient of the IBM Patent Award in 1961.
In 1984, he was appointed director of the National Science Foundation by President Ronald Reagan. From 1984-1990, Mr. Bloch oversaw the Foundation's $3 billion annual budget and the award of 12,000-14,000 research grants in natural and social sciences and engineering. As director, Mr. Bloch was responsible for the direction of the nation’s premier basic science and engineering agency and was the principal spokesperson for the White House on a wide range of policy matters concerned with research and education in science and engineering.
In 1990, Mr. Bloch joined the Council on Competitiveness, a non-partisan forum of chief executives from the business, university and labor communities working to sustain U.S. competitiveness. He is currently the Distinguished Fellow at the Council. Erich Bloch is also currently a principal with The Washington Advisory Group, LLC, which provides strategic counsel and management consulting to the leaders of companies, universities, governments, and not-for-profit organizations around the world.
Mr. Bloch has campaigned and published tirelessly to reform technical education and research partnerships, asking, for instance, if we are investing in the right areas. He addresses the problem of “the increasing dependence on universities for the nation’s basic research as industry diminishes its investment in this area.” He explains, “Industry’s share of academic research and development has doubled over the past 12 years and this will continue to increase. It will change both the relationship between the university and the non-university world and the nature of the university itself.” He has cautioned against the neglect of the educational mission of the universities in favor of research. “One of the functions,” he writes, “if not the main function of the university, is the education of its students. This mission has at times been in conflict with the research mission. Whenever a choice had to be made this conflict was resolved in favor of research.”
In 1985, Mr. Bloch was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Reagan for "developments that revolutionized the computer industry.” He has also received 11 honorary degrees from universities across the U.S., including an honorary Doctor of Science from the State University of New York Trustees in 1985. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a recipient of the IEEE Founders Medal. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the M. Eugene Merchant Manufacturing Medal of ASME International (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a member of the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and a foreign member of the Engineering Academy of Japan. He serves on several boards and a variety of non-profit advisory boards.
Mr. Bloch was the first chair of the UB Engineering Deans Council, serving from 1995 to 1997, and was conferred the title of Chair Emeritus upon leaving. He has been a generous benefactor of the School, giving generously to the Rachel Rosen Scholarships for UB Engineering students, and continues to serve the school when called upon.
Today, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is proud to recognize its alumnus Mr. Erich Bloch with this year's Dean's Award.