Remembering George Karady, a power electronics leader
George Karady, a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and an expert in power electronics, high-voltage engineering and power systems, has passed away.
Throughout the course of his career, Karady helped lead research on microgrids, specifically re-engineering infrastructure to effectively generate, transmit and distribute power from renewable energy sources to cities, towns and neighborhoods. In addition to exploring technical solutions for efficient microgrid systems, he sought out ways to make them economically feasible and to ensure their reliability and security.
Among his many contributions to the field, Karady invented a specialized type of instrumentation device — known to colleagues as a “Karady Cage” — used to measure minuscule electrical discharges even in the presence of up to a million volts.
A respected engineer, educator and researcher
After around 30 years of working in industry, Karady joined the Arizona State University faculty in 1986 as the Power Systems Chair. In this role, he changed the way engineering students were being educated and prepared for the workforce. With experience in industry and academia, Karady helped shape engineering education at ASU to reflect industry needs so graduates would be better able to find jobs. Karady included his students as co-authors on his published research to provide them with opportunities to present papers at international conferences and gain recognition in their field before graduating.
He also architected ASU’s EEE 360 course, which introduces the subject of electric power engineering to undergraduates.
No one fell asleep in his classes, recalls Gerald Thomas Heydt, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering and distinguished sustainability scientist. Heydt says Karady loved to call out at top volume, “Ladies and gentlemen, look at this …” and he would hold up some object from the electric power business.
Stephen Phillips, director of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, notes, “George was always happy to meet with students and often had a crowd in his office during office hours. His long-standing contributions to senior design project mentoring and graduate student supervision will be missed by many.”
Karady was also dedicated to improving online and computer-based education. In 2011, Karady worked with Keith Holbert, associate professor of electrical engineering, to explore ways to get students more actively engaged in their education through a “computer-based classroom” model, which drew attention and recognition from their peers. Karady and Holbert’s ideas are detailed in “Strategies, Challenges and Prospects for Active Learning in the Computer-Based Classroom,” which won them the 2010 Transactions on Education Best Paper Award from the Education Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest professional engineering organization.
Karady was highly involved in IEEE and rose to become an IEEE Fellow, the highest distinction bestowed to members of the prestigious professional organization. Throughout the course of his membership, Karady earned numerous IEEE awards, including the Power Engineering Society Distinguished Individual Service Award for his many years of leadership and dedicated service to the Substations Committee, which develops standards to improve the performance and reliability of high-voltage power electronics technology worldwide. He also served as chair of the IEEE Power Engineering Society Power Electronics Subcommittee.
Karady was an active member of the International Council on Large Electric Systems, or CIGRE, for many years. The international non-profit association based in Paris, France, promotes collaboration with experts to share knowledge and improve electric power systems.
In his more than 30 years teaching at ASU, Karady was well respected by his students and colleagues.
“George was a genuine university citizen who deeply understood and appreciated the important impacts that faculty can have in generating ideas and knowledge, transmitting that knowledge to students and advancing his discipline both through his research and in the students who benefited from his instruction,” says Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “He will indeed be sorely missed.”
In fall 2016, Karady collaborated with Abdul Kashif Janjua, an exchange scholar from the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, to find an equilibrium between affordable electricity bills for customers and profits for utility companies using solar energy storage.
“[Karady] was [the] most supportive, helpful and encouraging professor,” Kashif says. “[Karady’s] knowledge and experience with electrical systems can be rarely found even in the best universities of the world and he was not reluctant to share each of his experiences related to our field.”
Karady cherished his relationships with students, thriving on their energy and enthusiasm for life. Because he emigrated from Hungary, many of his international students relied on him for advice and confided in him on a personal level. He often visited his international students in their home countries after they graduated and returned abroad.
During his time at ASU, Karady advised 23 doctoral and 57 master’s students. He published several book chapters, 136 journal papers and 226 conference papers. He is also co-author of the book “Electrical Energy Conversion and Transport: An Interactive Computer-Based Approach” with his longtime collaborator Keith Holbert.
Stephen Goodnick, professor of electrical engineering in the Fulton Schools and the deputy director of ASU Lightworks in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, remembers Karady was part of the search committee that hired him for the electrical engineering department chair position at ASU in 1996.
“His contributions to ASU and its power engineering program over the last 30 years are enormous in all respects, teaching, research and service,” Goodnick says.
Globetrotting engineer, teacher and Renaissance man
Karady was born in Hungary and earned his BSEE and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Budapest. He later received an honorary doctorate from that university in 1996.
After teaching at the University of Budapest, Karady’s academic and industry experience took him to many places — teaching in Baghdad, Iraq, and Manchester, England, and then working at Hydro Quebec in Montreal, Canada.
Karady served as chief consulting electrical engineer, manager of electrical systems and chief engineer of computer technology with Ebasco Services, an energy infrastructure design company, which had its offices at the World Trade Center. As part of the Ebasco team, he worked as electrical task supervisor for the Tokomak Fusion Test Reactor project. After that project, Karady returned to the World Trade Center where his office was on the 96th floor.
Karady had an adventurous side and enjoyed participating in sports, such as swimming, sailing and black diamond skiing. He even tried skateboarding once when a student brought a skateboard to class, which sent a chuckle through the room.
“He was also a very good friend and a person of culture who appreciated good music, art and food,” Goodnick says. “We enjoyed many evenings together with George and [his wife] Iris attending the Phoenix Opera over the years. His presence will be greatly missed.”
He also enjoyed gourmet cooking, listening to classical music, attending theater events and the opera in Phoenix and at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Traveling was also a passion for the revered professor. Together Karady and his wife Iris Feldman visited more than 30 countries on six continents over his lifetime.
Karady was fluent in German and French in addition to English and Hungarian.
Gerald Heydt remembers a case at a technical meeting in Berlin where Karady gave a presentation in German, accepted questions in French and English and recognized an attendee in the audience from Budapest whom he greeted in Hungarian.
Karady was truly a Renaissance man and will be sorely missed by colleagues, students, friends and family.
On June 10, 2018, surrounded by his loved ones, Karady died of heart failure at age 87 while traveling in London.
George Karady is survived by his wife, Iris Feldman; son Gyuri Karady; grandchildren Mathias and Lara Karady; step-children Steven Feldman and his wife, Mary Feldman, Stacey Anderson and her husband, Dave Anderson; and step-grandchildren Zachary Anderson, Kelly Anderson, Lucy Feldman, Maxwell Feldman and Tiki Feldman, to whom he is affectionately known as “Muki” George. He also leaves two brothers, Sandor Karady and Victor Karady.
In lieu of flowers, Karady’s family requests that contributions be made to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital When In Need Grandmas Serve program, known as WINGS. Contributions should include the note “In memory of George Karady” and be sent to pchwings.org or PCH Foundation, 2929 E. Camelback Road Suite 122, Phoenix, AZ 85016.