Pioneer Alumni of IIT Madras Fund Prof. S. Sampath “Institute Chair”

Prof. S. Sampath

Prof. S. Sampath

CHENNAI: The Prof. S. Sampath Endowment Fund for an “Institute Chair” at IIT Madras, an alumni-driven initiative launched in 2011, was recently rejuvenated when Mallik Putcha, of the 1st graduating class of 1964, contributed $50,000 to the IIT Madras Foundation and $2,500 to the IIT Madras Alumni Association of North America in 2016. An event honoring Prof. Sampath is planned on his 92nd birthday, April 16, 2017.

Currently, the Fund has over Rs.50 lakhs ($77,000), the required Endowment for an Institute Chair at IIT Madras. This Chair is funded by students of Prof. Sampath to honor the “Gem of a Man” who molded them to become excellent engineers and citizens of the World. The first occupant of the Chair will be Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Padma Shri Awardee and faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

During his time at IITM from 1961-75, Sampath touched the lives of about 3,000 students first as a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, and later in various leadership roles such as Warden of Narmada Hostel, Chairman, Council of Wardens where he was involved in many student and extra-curricular organizations to encourage and mold students to become productive professionals and citizens of the world, and the first Deputy Director of IIT Madras. He lived by the principles of “Nishkama Karma” (selfless actions with no expectations) by helping students, faculty and professionals in BEL, UPSC, DRDO, IIT Kanpur, Sai Institute and other organizations and proved that “the good that men do lives after them”.

Sampath was an eloquent speaker who charmed his audiences by his command of English, the felicity of his delivery and his clarity of thought and presentation, as was evident from his popular lectures. He was a gifted speaker of exceptional calibre in the areas of education, technology, and spirituality. He will be remembered as a kind and gentle person, who gave his very best and contributed to the growth and development of the Institute in many ways. Professor Sampath held a special place among all students as someone who was especially accessible.

Mallik Putcha, the prime mover behind the “Institute Chair” has already other plans in mind to honor the Founding Professors – German and Indian – who served IIT Madras when it started on June 22, 1959, and to institutionalize the establishment of Chairs to honor Professors. “With the establishment of Prof. Sampath’s Chair, we are indeed honoring a “Nishkama Yogi” for his distinguished services to technology and education, as well as for molding and crafting his students as better human beings,” said Putcha.

In 1961 Sampath, the first Deputy Director, and Professor of Electrical Engineering (Light Current, Electronics) for fourteen years, played a crucial role in the establishment, development, academic, faculty, and student growth of IIT Madras. Working with the leadership team of the first Director, Prof. B. Sengupto; the Founding Indian and German Outstanding Professors; Sri. R. Natarajan, IAS, first Registrar, and Sri. Y. S. Ramaswami, first Superintendent Engineer, he transformed IIT Madras into the academic and research power house of today.

Born on April 16, 1925, at Mannargudi (Tamil Nadu), Prof. Sampath’s academic brilliance started at St. Joseph’s School (Thirupadiripuliyur); Loyola College and Madras University; the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore); and culminated with an M.S. from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1953.
Sampath started his professional career in 1948 as an Assistant Engineer, All India Radio, New Delhi. On his return from Stanford in 1953, he joined IISc in the Department of Electrical & Communication Engineering, serving as an Assistant Professor till 1961 and built up the Electron Tube Design activity and the Analog Computing facility, India’s first Electronic Differential Analyzer.

Sampath joined IIT Madras in December, 1961 and took a leading role in establishing curricula of studies and research laboratories of the Department where he taught B. Tech and M. Tech students. In February 1965, he was named Deputy Director to provide an impetus and thrust to the academic administration, faculty and student development.

In 1973, he was made the Head of the Computer Centre and established the Institute’s IBM 370/155 System, the first third-generation multi-programmable, time-sharing system to be installed in the country. He planned and set up the Institute’s Color Television Laboratory; established the Electronic Instruments Service Centre and headed the Centre for Systems and Devices, a project sponsored by the Defence R & D Organization (DRDO) to promote radar technology.

Sampath visited the United States in October 1963 to acquire two large Analog Computer Systems gifted to India by the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, through the American non–profit “Tools for Freedom”. Sampath also served at Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore as Head of R &D and Quality Assurance Divisions where he directed several hundred Engineers and staff in communications, radar, computer and micro-processor applications for the defence and civilian industries.

Sampath was appointed as a Member of the Union Public Service Commission in 1977 and established a full-fledged Electronic Vatu Processing Facility. The Government of India appointed him as Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in February 1981, perhaps the first person to have served two IITs in a leading role. In September 1986, IIT Kanpur took the forefront in Computer Sciences with a Computer Centre based on DEC 1090 system; a Centre for Computer-Aided Design in Mechanical and Civil engineering; and industrial consultancy.

Sampath served the DRDO as the first Chairman of the Recruitment and Assessment Centre (RAC) from 1986 to 1990 where he implemented basic rules and assessment policies and procedures. From 1991 to 1997, he was the Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Institute of Higher Learning of the Deemed University, Puttapurthi, Andhra Pradesh and also headed the Solar Energy Centre at Prasanthi Nilayam.

Prof. Sampath demonstrated his pioneering role in ushering in modern technology in post-independent India, working across academia, research and development laboratories, industry, and Government. His accomplishments fulfilled the vision of the British Nobel Laureate and the Secretary of the Royal Society, Prof. A. V. Hill, who conceived the IITs on August 14, 1944. He transformed every field – Computers, Digital technology, Electronics, Higher Technical Education, Television, etc. – that he touched and inspired and mentored countless generations of students.

Prof. Sampath, who passed away on December 2, 1998, was greatly supported by his devoted wife, Srimati Choodamani. They had two sons and three daughters.