Tsen-Chung Cheng, an internationally known authority on power systems who was part of the smart grid research initiative at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, died on July 12 at his home in San Marino. He was 66.
Cheng, who was born in Shanghai, was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a Bachelor of Science in 1969, his Master of Science and electrical engineering degrees in 1970 and his Sc.D. in 1974.
In that year, Cheng, who was known as T. C., joined USC as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He was promoted to associate professor in 1980 and to professor in 1984. He was voted outstanding electrical engineering faculty member at USC in 1976, and he received the school’s Faculty Service Award in 1981. He became the Lloyd F. Hunt Professor in 1984.
In 1995-96, he served on the USC Academic Senate and was elected to the position of secretary-general. He also served on the university’s presidential search committee in 1990 and the dean’s search committee in 2000.
Cheng was known for his work on electric power systems and devices and authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications. In addition, he co-founded three companies and held numerous patents in power engineering. Some of his former students now hold faculty positions at prominent universities around the country and others are employed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Southern California Edison and other power providers.
Cheng was a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an active member of several IEEE working groups, and he served as chair of the IEEE working group on clearances and creepages in HVDC converter stations. He was the recipient of three IEEE Power Engineering Society awards for outstanding technical contributions.
Cheng also was an integral part of the Smart Grid project which USC and USC Viterbi are carrying out in conjunction with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He was a featured speaker at a Smart Grid workshop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in January.
John Choma, former chair of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering/Electrophysics, recalled that he was a sought-after media source on the causes of failures in power grids.
“He gave a clarion explanation of the plausible reasons underlying the grid failure,” Choma said. “He was as comfortable talking to the cameras as he was in class, where students profoundly respected him.”
Choma added that Cheng did not seek administrative positions and preferred to work energetically to support the goals and activities of the department and the school, “but insisted that he remain in the background.”
“T. C. made important contributions to power systems for almost four decades, and he was beloved by members of the USC Viterbi community. We will all miss him very much,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi.
Cheng is survived by his wife Doris and son Jason.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on July 23 at Cabot & Son’s, 27 Chestnut St., Pasadena. A viewing will precede the service at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the T. C. Cheng Memorial Fund has been created at USC. “This fund will enable future generations of immigrant students to achieve their dreams in America, just like T. C. did,” his family said.
Donations may be addressed to:
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Attn: Jane Ong
3650 McClintock Ave., OHE 500
Los Angeles, Calif. 90089-1452
Checks can be made payable to USC; designate the T. C. Cheng Memorial Fund in the memo line.
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