Remembering Al Drake, 1935-2005

Alvin W. Drake, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science, best known and respected as an engaging teacher and fellow faculty member and an innovative thinker and researcher, died Oct. 30, 2005.

Professor Alvin W. Drake, 1935-2005

Professor Alvin W. Drake, 1935-2005

Ethernet inventor Robert Metcalfe ’68, who was a student of Drake’s, called him the “epitome of the MIT professor.” “As an MIT undergraduate, I was fortunate to take my first course in probability from Professor Al Drake circa 1966. His enthusiasm for the subject and his ways of teaching got me hooked.” Metcalfe was one of many who wrote about memories of associations with Al Drake.

Professor Robert Gallager, a member of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at MIT, said about his LIDS colleague, “Al Drake was in many ways the soul of [LIDS]. In a laboratory noted for brilliance, even within MIT, Al was a voice for wisdom, humanity, and not taking ourselves too seriously… inside and outside LIDS, he was a friend and mentor to legions of both strong and less strong graduate students. He helped them leave here with wisdom and confidence… He kept teaching those of us on the faculty that our impact on students is more important than the new papers we are publishing.”

Professors Al Drake (left) and Richard C. Larson (right) discuss the probabilistic allocation of urban emergency vehicles at a lecture in 1996.

A celebration of Al Drake’s life was held at the MIT Chapel on December 3, 2005. Drake is survived by his wife Julie Atwood, his brother Jerome, stepson Todd C. Wheeldon and Todd’s wife Babette, and his grandsons Drake and Fenix.

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