William D. Becher: In Memoriam (1929-2024)

Dr. William “Bill” Becher was an alum of the Department, former ECE Chair at U-M Dearborn, and devoted steward of the former EECS Alumni Society and U-M Amateur Radio Club.
Bill Becher
Photo by Laura Rudich, Michigan Engineering

William “Bill” Becher (MSE PhD EE ‘61, ‘68), devoted alum, higher-ed administrator, entrepreneur, and passionate radio engineer, passed away on April 7, 2024 at the age of 94.

Bill Becher received his undergraduate degree in radio engineering from Trine University in 1950, and his passion for radios continued throughout his life. After working as an engineer at several companies (including two years as an electronics instructor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering), he began his graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

While still a doctoral student,  he joined the faculty at U-M Dearborn in 1964 as a lecturer in their Electrical Engineering Department (now the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering). His distinguished career there culminated in his role as Department Chair between 1971-1976. As Chair, he led the creation of a new master’s program and undergraduate program in computer engineering. His own teaching included circuit theory, digital logic design, microprocessor system design and programing, and computer-aided algorithm design.

Becher’s next administrative appointment was as Dean of the College of Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (1979-1981). He returned to Michigan in 1981 as Associate Director of the Infrared & Optics Division at ERIM (Environmental Research Institute of Michigan). In 1983, he co-founded the company Michigan Computers & Instrumentation, Inc., which he sold in 1987. He also took time to serve as temporary Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering at California State University, Fresno in 1988. He retired from ERIM in 1990.

book cover image - water and sky

In 1995, Becher was called into service as an adjunct professor at U-M Ann Arbor. He called this time teaching beginning engineering students as “one of the happiest experiences of his entire life.” 

A few years later, he established Barton Publishers, and in 2000, published his first book of historical fiction, An Ocean Between. The story chronicles the journey of English children evacuated to the U.S. during WWII, and their return to England five years later. He had dreams of finishing a second novel about revolutionary war soldiers stationed at Ft. Laurens, Ohio from 1778-79.

In 2002, Becher was again called into service – this time as the inaugural President of the EECS Alumni Society. He received a special gift and acknowledgment from the Department in 2009 for his extraordinary commitment to the Society and to the Department. As the structure of the Department changed, so did the EECS Alumni Society, which gradually morphed into the current ECE Council and CSE National Advisory Board. 

One of Becher’s true loves was Amateur Radio. And now that he was back on campus on a regular basis, he stepped into the role of supporter extraordinaire of the U-M Amateur Radio Club (UMARC), call sign W8UM. Beginning in 2002, he helped revive the activities of UMARC along with former student and club President, Dr. Chris Galbraith (call sign W1XG). 

“Bill was a force of nature,” said Galbraith, “a natural leader and executive, and so knew how to get things done in bureaucratic environments like a big university.  Within the year, we had a shack for W8UM in the EECS building.”

Galbraith called Bill, “the driving and guiding force, always full of enthusiasm and ideas,” and added, “One of the great moments of modern club history was the raising of the tower on the EECS building, along with the 4-element SteppIR antenna. At the time, both well into their seventies, Bill and Helen [Becher, Bill’s wife] (KG8TQ) were on the EECS roof every day until the SteppIR was assembled and tested–and they were always the first to arrive and the last to leave for the antenna parties!”

Becher’s own last and final call sign was AA8RW. Here are his own words on why you should become an Amateur Radio Operator: “It’s an exciting hobby! It’s lots of fun! Talk with radio operators from all over the world, send messages via the moon and via amateur satellites, talk with the Astronauts, participate in contests, help our emergency and public service groups during disasters and special events, link computers to radios, send television pictures, build special equipment, and MUCH, MUCH MORE.” [read more]

The Department pays tribute to Dr. Bill Becher, and thanks him for his past service as U-M Dearborn Department Chair, and his unwavering support of the Department, its alumni, and to the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club.

Obituary: William D. Becher

Hills (by Bill Becher)

The hills are there for man to scale,
Though paths are oft’ times steep.
For those who dare and then succeed,
What gems they finally reap.