Keith Uncapher Remembered at USC

November 14, 2002

Led by USC President Steven B. Sample, a glittering group of friends, family and colleagues assembled on the USC University Park campus November 13 to pay tribute to ISI's founder.

Speakers remembered Keith W. Uncapher for his dry wit, his unfailing physical energy, his deep institutional loyalty, his administrative vision and other qualities in the 90-minute memorial held in the USC Engineering Quadrangle on a brilliant, Santa-Ana-warmed afternoon.

The speeches concluded with the presentation of an oil portrait of Uncapher, a key figure in the development of the Internet, to his wife of more than 50 years.

USC President Sample paid tribute to Uncapher's role in building ISI, and by extension, the university of which it is a part: "This institution is stronger," he said.

Turing prizewinner Edward Feigenbaum, a longtime Uncapher collaborator who is now Kumagai Professor of Computer Science and Co-director of the Knowledge Systems Laboratory at Stanford, addressed Uncapher directly in his remarks: "Not only were you a visionary," he said, "But every day you took action to make things better — and you were effective."

Robert Kahn, president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, where Uncapher made his professional home after stepping down as director of ISI, cited his friend's loyalty and skills as an ambassador for the interests and institutions he identified with.

Kahn also memorialized Uncapher's great personal style, and uncanny skill at appearing unruffled and perfectly dressed even in the most stressful situations far from home — and while traveling light.

Dr. Richard Tanaka, president of the International Technology Resources Company and past president of the IEEE and other professional engineering organizations, praised the exceptional contributions Uncapher had made as a volunteer, helping to bring organizations like the IEEE to their present levels of effectiveness and service. "His work led to results," Tanaka said, "not just public relations."

ISI Executive Director Herbert Schorr, who now leads the organization Uncapher founded, summed up his predecessor's qualities: "vision, perseverance, charm, salesmanship," and thanked him for the continuing mentorshop and help for ISI Uncapher continued to offer after leaving the institute.

Sons William and Jeffrey recalled his qualities as a father, and in particular, his remarkable physical energy, which manifested itself not just in his professional life, but at home.

Jeffrey recorded a sample of his father's wit. When he asked his parents for the secret that had made their marriage endure, his father had looked at him and drily told him the agreement regarding any breakup: "Whoever leaves first gets custody of you."

The Uncaphers thanked ISI staff, including Lisa Moses, Claire Jansa, and Susan Lapin, for their help in the days following "KU"'s death October 10.

Dean Max Nikias closed the ceremony, paying tribute to Uncapher's "warmth, deceny and integrity," during years of dealing with him. And: "If you were talking to Keith Uncapher, and you were smart," said the dean, "you listened, and learned."

(from left: )ISI director Herber Schorr; Jeffrey K. Uncapher, Mrs. & Mr. William Uncapher, President Sample, Mrs. Doris Uncapher, Dean Max Nikias.