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Alvin H. Howell

The pioneer

He was a pioneer nobody heard of.

Alvin Howell was a Tufts engineering professor who led the first team to send an unmanned balloon around the world. Yet when the 400-foot-tall balloon made its round-the-world flight in 1957, no one could say anything publicly: the flight, funded by the Air Force to gather intelligence on the Soviet Union, was strictly hush-hush. "I had a top-secret clearance, and you keep your trap shut," Howell, who died six years ago at the age of 96, told a newspaper in 2002.

Tufts' School of Engineering today notes with pride the remarkable achievements of the man who chaired the electrical engineering department from 1941 to 1970, and in whose memory the Alvin H. Howell Endowed Professorship in Electrical Engineering has been established.

About the gift

The professorship was established with support from a charitable gift by the late Frank Doble, E1911, founder of Doble Engineering. Professor Howell helped foster a longstanding relationship between the university and Doble Engineering, which he served for many years as a director and chairman of the board. Doble's estate plan yielded $136 million to Tufts, the largest individual gift in university history. Recently named the inaugural Howell Professor in Electrical Engineering is Aleksandar Stankovic, whose research on electric energy processing has applications for power systems. He recently received an award from the National Science Foundation to improve the containment of complex system-wide events such as blackouts.

Stankovic, formerly Distinguished Professor at Northeastern, is the author of more than 200 refereed journals and conference papers, and holds seven patents. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT after earning his master's and bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Belgrade in Yugoslavia.

"Professor Stankovic's reputation and leadership will be a tremendous asset to the school's strategic focus on energy and environmental sustainability," says Linda M. Abriola, dean of the School of Engineering. "Creating sustainable solutions to global problems, such as the world's energy crisis, requires leaders who can develop collaborative research programs that cross traditional boundaries."

Why Tufts

"I was particularly attracted to Tufts engineering because of the many interdisciplinary research and education opportunities afforded by the school's close connection with the School of Arts and Sciences and the Fletcher School," says Stankovic. "I'm eager to begin research programs with my colleagues in sustainability and to develop new courses that will educate the next generation of energy-conscious engineers."