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Professor remembered for passion for education, computer graphics

John Staudhammer, a former professor of engineering and computer graphics at UCLA who immigrated to the United States during World War II, died Feb. 28. (Courtesy of Fred Staudhammer)

John Staudhammer, a former professor of engineering and computer graphics at UCLA who immigrated to the United States during World War II, died Feb. 28. (Courtesy of Fred Staudhammer)

John Staudhammer, a UCLA professor emeritus and renowned computer graphics educator, died of heart failure Feb. 28. He was 84.

Throughout the course of Staudhammer’s 50-year career, he taught electrical engineering at UCLA, North Carolina State University and the University of Florida.

Staudhammer’s daughter, Anne Nickerson, said Staudhammer’s passion for education developed at UCLA, where he obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in engineering in 1954, 1956 and 1963, respectively.

Nickerson said her father’s love of teaching was central to his personality.

“He took really complex problems and boiled them down to something very simple,” Nickerson said. “He was good at breaking down concepts and thinking about his audience.”

His younger brother Fred Staudhammer, who also attended UCLA, credits the university with teaching John Staudhammer the value of an education.

“He was always ready to help someone who expressed interest in learning, because we basically had a free education and he recognized the value of that,” Fred Staudhammer said.

Staudhammer was born in 1932 in Budapest, Hungary, but immigrated to Los Angeles after World War II in 1949.

His sister, Josephine Laue, said the family’s experience fleeing Hungary and struggling to make ends meet during their first few years in the U.S. made the bonds between the siblings strong.

“He taught me to be patient, loving and responsible,” Laue said. “In some ways he was more or less like a parent to his siblings.”

Staudhammer also worked for the National Science Foundation, first as program director of design automation and then as program director of graphics, symbolic and geometric computations. In the late 1970s, Staudhammer worked on updating the Pentagon’s technology and computing methods in Washington, D.C.

Laue said the numerous trips their father took to China to assist the country in incorporating computer technology into Chinese companies also defined Staudhammer’s career.

Nickerson said Staudhammer had a problem-solving nature. When an airline flying Staudhammer to China told him they didn’t have cushions for the long flight, he decided to use his shoe as a headrest.

“He walked off the plane with a big shoelace imprint on his cheek,” she said. “He was very practical in that way.”

Nickerson and Laue said Staudhammer also loved to talk about his experiences serving as an expert witness in many technology-focused court cases. In one case, he was able to give testimony on an architectural design software and locate the error in the technology’s code, Nickerson said.

Despite Staudhammer’s varied career, Laue said she thinks his greatest achievement was the impact he made on the lives of his students.

“His biggest challenge was probably making sure that his students learned,” Laue said. “Making sure that he got students who really excelled and got their degrees and went on to big things.”

Staudhammer is survived by his children, Anne and Paul, his grandchildren, Jacob and Sara, and his siblings, Josephine, Karl and Fred.

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