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Naresh Chandra Mathur passed away on February 10, 2021. His last moments, as per his wishes, were spent peacefully at home surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife Madhur, daughter Chitra, son Sharad, daughter-in-law Sangeeta, and grandsons Dhruv and Nikhil.
Born in Gurgaon in 1935 in pre-independence India, Naresh spent his childhood in the small princely state of Dholpur. From there he went to Delhi for his high school and college education, followed by an Engineering degree from IISc Bangalore and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1958 he got his first job as a lecturer at University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee). Thus began an illustrious career in education which eventually spanned 53 years and three continents. A committed teacher and passionate researcher, Naresh found in education a vocation that, in his own words, allowed him to be paid for his ‘hobby’. This hobby led him to work at some of the top Institutes in the world – the University of Roorkee, IIT Kanpur, Max Plank Institute in Germany, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Harvard Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, University of Wisconsin (Madison), University of Illinois (Chicago), Indiana University/Purdue University (Fort Wayne), New Mexico Tech, University of Kansas, and UMKC. Among his many research contributions were the papers that formed the basis for the design of the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope project in New Mexico (prominently featured in the movie Contact). Naresh was also invited to fulfill various administrative positions in the field of education. As the Managing Director of Educational Consultants India Ltd (EdCIL), he helped set up institutes for higher learning in India and other Commonwealth countries. He went on to become the Vice-Chancellor of Roorkee University, and ended his remarkable innings in Indian education as the Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC). After his retirement, Naresh continued his involvement with education from the other side, becoming a student once again at the age of 77, and taking courses at the Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in various humanities and social sciences subjects every semester until the age of 84.
Though equally at home in India and the US, Naresh had a deep sense of commitment to his birth nation and therefore decided to spend his entire working life in India. He moved to the US post retirement, and eventually made this his country officially by taking US citizenship. While in India, he always conducted his life according to what he saw as the American work ethic. The openness to new experiences and ideas that he associated with this country defined not only his professional life, but also his personal one. This was most evident in the ways in which he always encouraged his children to pursue their own passions without ever attempting to shape their interests as a reflection of his own. It was with his support that his wife completed a second Masters after retirement in the US and continued her own illustrious teaching career at JCCC, where he then accompanied her as a student. And he was immensely proud of his grandchildren, of Dhruv who followed in his footsteps by choosing to pursue Electrical Engineering at UIUC, and of Nikhil, whose decision to become a pilot gave an exciting new direction to his grandfather’s fascination for the skies.
He left this world as he lived his life – content, fulfilled, and at peace. The values that guided his life ensured that he left his mark on everyone he came across and those personal relationships meant more to him than his professional accomplishments. Deeply loved and admired by his family, he will continue to live in their hearts and guide their lives through his example and the values he gave them.