uc davis professor emeritus fidelis eke mechanical aerospace engineering

In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Fidelis Eke

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and the College of Engineering mourn the passing of their friend and colleague, Professor Emeritus Fidelis Eke. Eke is remembered as a brilliant researcher, gifted educator and a kind, gentle and welcoming person who leaves lasting impact on the MAE department and UC Davis.

“He was a great teacher, a gentle soul and one of the kindest people I have come across,” said Professor Francis Assadian. “This is truly a big loss.”

Eke is remembered as one of the College of Engineering’s best teachers, consistently receiving glowing student evaluations for his undergraduate and graduate courses in dynamics and control, which he taught for more than 25 years. In research, he was a true expert in spacecraft and mechanical systems dynamics and control and he received NASA’s Group Achievement Award for research twice.

“Fidelis was a true scholar in the best sense of the word,” said Professor Rida Farouki. “His vast knowledge of dynamics and controls was unmarred by the slightest hint of vanity or artifice.”

Eke was born Nigeria and received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Lovanium University in Kinesha, Zaire—now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After three years in industry at Goodyear International, he came to the U.S. to earn his M.S. at Tuskegee University and his Ph.D. at Stanford University, both in mechanical engineering. He held jobs as a faculty member at Tuskegee University and as a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before joining UC Davis in 1990.

Though he retired in 2017, Eke maintained a close relationship with the department as a mentor and a member of the graduate program.

“Even though he retired one quarter after I started, I could still feel his kindness and benefit from his selfless help. He gave me teaching advice and shared his tutorials and course materials,” said Assistant Professor Xinfan Lin. “It is my honor to not only inherit the courses he was teaching, but also his office. There is a note still on the wood board outside the door from a student saying, ‘Eke is the best.’”

That sentiment rings true for the countless students and faculty members who worked with him and learned from him. Reminiscing about his life and legacy, many of his colleagues spoke of his warm nature and fondly remember the faculty lunches and hallway chats throughout the years with him.

He was particularly welcoming of new faculty, often stopping by their offices to see how they’re doing, offering reassurance during the tenure process and chatting with faculty candidates before their interviews to help ease their nerves. It all went to show that he deeply cared about the people, department and university he interacted with every day.

“He was a wonderful mentor to me when I first arrived in MAE,” said Professor Stephen Robinson. “His gentle wisdom, caring ways and sense of humor had a way of making the whole department a better place to be.”

“Fidelis was a very special man,” said Cristina Davis, MAE professor and chair. “He was an amazing colleague, teacher, mentor and friend and his legacy will continue to shape the department for years to come. He will be deeply missed.”

Eke’s memorial service will be live-streamed on Tuesday, December 29. Details can be found on his memorial page.

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