In Memoriam: Steven Case

In Memoriam: Steven Case

Steven Case, former professor of electrical and computer engineering and founder of CyberOptics, was killed in a plane crash on June 16 in Crystal, Minn. He was 60.

Born in Milwaukee, Case received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1971. He earned a master's degree in physics in 1973, followed by a Ph.D. in physics and electrical engineering in 1976, both from the University of Michigan.

In 1978, Case joined the electrical engineering faculty at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor. In 1988, he was promoted to full professor and served in that role until 1993, when he resigned to devote full attention to CyberOptics, a company he founded.

It was during his years as a professor that Case developed a system of laser-based sensors used as a quality control tool by circuit board manufacturers. CyberOptics was spun out of the university into a private company in 1984. "It was a beautiful transition from university lab to what became a substantial company," said longtime colleague Jim Leger, University professor of electrical engineering.

Case continued an affiliation with the University's Institute of Technology, and served for many years as an adjunct professor. "Steve's classes were very popular. He'd come to class with a pocket full of what he called 'feelies' -- fiber optics, modulators, and detectors. He'd pass them around so the students could see and feel what he was talking about," Leger said.

"Steve was a highly respected researcher, a popular teacher and a wonderful colleague," said David Lilja, professor of electrical and computer engineering and department head. "He was a strong supporter of the university and served as a member of our Industrial Advisory Council. His contributions to research in optics and to Minnesota's entrepreneurial community will be greatly missed."

June 19, 2009