In memoriam: Gary Balas

Gary Balas, a professor in the University of Minnesota in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics and international leader in the field of experimental and theoretical control systems, passed away on Nov. 12, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. He was 54.

A faculty member at the University of Minnesota since 1990, Balas was a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and served as the Department Head for eight years. He also served as Director of Graduate Studies and Co-Director of the Control Science and Dynamical Systems Program.

Balas is an international leader in the field of experimental and theoretical control systems. His research focused on the application of software-enabled control to uninhabited aerospace vehicles and on the development of robust, state-of-the-art algorithms and tools for control engineering. He was a visiting scholar and lecturer at institutions around the world and was a consultant to government and industry. Balas authored or co-authored more than 70 journal publications, more than 160 refereed conference papers and invited papers, and 10 book chapters. Balas taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, and was the thesis adviser for 36 master's students and 21 Ph.D. students.

Balas was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), an IEEE Control System Society Fellow, and a Fellow of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Academic Leadership Program. He was the Chair of the Aerospace Department Chairs Association (ADCA) and an Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Engineering. He was associate editor of the International Federation of Automatic Control's Control Engineering Practice Journal, associate editor of the AIAA Journal of Guidance, Dynamics, and Control, and served as a reviewer for many other international journals. Balas' honors included the Outstanding Young Investigator Award, the College of Science and Engineering George Taylor Distinguished Research Award, the IEEE Control Systems Society Technology Award, the O. Hugo Schuck Best Paper Award, and the Prize for Development of the Hungarian Aeronautical Science, among others.

Balas was a truly outstanding teacher, mentor, researcher, and leader. His leadership of the department was instrumental in bringing talented people to Minnesota and renovating our home in Akerman Hall.

Balas also served the University of Minnesota in many capacities, including as chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee of the University Senate.

A memorial gathering in his honor is scheduled at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 3:30-6 p.m., Coffman Memorial Union, Fourth Floor Campus Club, West Wing, 300 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Questions on the gathering can be sent to Parking and directions can be found at:

In addition, colleagues and friends have established a Gary Balas Memorial Fund to support deserving AEM students. Checks should be made payable to the University of Minnesota and mailed to the Gary Balas Memorial Fund c/o Kathy Peters-Martell, University of Minnesota, College of Science and Engineering, 105 Walter Library, 117 Pleasant St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.