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Ilesanmi Adesida

Electrical Engineer Ilesanmi Adesida was born in 1949 in Ifon, Ondo, Nigeria. Adesida enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley and earned his B.S. degree in 1974; his M.S. degree in 1975; and, his Ph.D. degree in 1979. Adesida was awarded an IBM postdoctoral fellowship from 1979 to 1981. His research interests include nanofabrication processes and ultra-high-speed optoelectronics.

Upon graduation, Adesida served as a research associate at the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility and School of Electrical Engineering at Cornell University from 1979 to 1984. He then returned to Africa and accepted a position as the head of the electrical engineering department at Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University in Bauchi, Nigeria. In 1987, Adesida returned to the United States and worked at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) as a professor of electrical and computer engineering. In 1994, he was appointed as a research professor for the Coordinated Science Laboratory and as a professor in the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. Adesida went on to serve in numerous academic and research capacities at UIUC. He served as the associate director for education for the NSF Engineering Research Center for Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics from 1990 to 1997. In 2000, Adesida became the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and was appointed as a professor of materials science and engineering. After serving as Dean of the College of Engineering from 2005 to 2012, Adesida was named provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. A mentor as well as a research manager, he guided the education of nineteen post-doctoral fellows, conferred thirty-four Ph.D. degrees upon his students, and supervised numerous undergraduate research projects.

Adesida has organized and chaired many international conferences, including the International Symposium on Electron, Ion, and Photon Beams and Nanofabrication; the TMS Electronic Materials Conference; and the Topical Workshop on Heterostructure Microelectronics. He also served as the President of the IEEE Electron Device Society and was named a Distinguished Lecturer from 1997 to 2002. In addition, Adesida was a co-founder of Xindium Technologies, and served as a member of the board of Fluor. He has been a member of the National Academies Board of Army Science and Technology since 2009 and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

For his many contributions and service, Adesida was awarded the IEEE EDS Distinguished Service Award in 2011. He was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Vacuum Society (AVS), the Optical Society of America, and the Materials Research Society. Adesida also received the Oakley Kunde Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and was elected as a University Scholar at UIUC. He was named as an Outstanding Alumnus of the EECS Department at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009.

Ilesanmi Adesida was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 7, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.093

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/7/2013

Last Name

Adesida

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

University of California, Berkeley

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ilesanmi

Birth City, State, Country

Ifon

HM ID

ADE01

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nigeria, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/15/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Urbana-Champaign

Country

Nigeria

Favorite Food

Plantains

Short Description

Electrical engineer Ilesanmi Adesida (1949 - ) , served as the Donald Biggar Willet Professor of Engineering and the Dean of the College of Engineering at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Employment

IBM

Cornell University

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

National Science Foundation (NSF)

IEEE

Favorite Color

Light Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ilesanmi Adesida's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ilesanmi Adesida lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about Christianity in Nigeria and the Yoruba religion

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about the ethnic groups of Nigeria

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about the pre-colonial government of the Yoruba

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his primary schools

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about the education of his generation

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about Nigerian Independence

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his secondary school education

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes Nigerian cultural life

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about Nigerian politics and the division between ethnic groups

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about the unification of Nigeria

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his secondary school interest in engineering

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his secondary school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes graduating from secondary school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about attendibg night school at the University of Ibadan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his time at the University of California at Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his experience at the University of California at Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his mentors at the University of California at Berkeley

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ilesanmi Adesida discusses his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his time as a research associate at Cornell University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his time as a professor at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his professorship at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his graduate students

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his research on gallium nitrite

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes his position at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes being vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes being vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes the African American programs at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes the importance of state colleges and universities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ilesanmi Adesida reflects on his life and career

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ilesanmi Adesida describes the relationship between Nigerians and African Americans

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ilesanmi Adesida reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ilesanmi Adesida talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATitle
Ilesanmi Adesida talks about the education of his generation
Ilesanmi Adesida describes his experience at the University of California at Berkeley
Transcript
You're in a special position, I suppose. You're part of this next generation that's being educated?$$Yeah, yeah, the generation that actually became educated, yeah, just--because previously, not too many had access to it, but there was a new government in the Western region, and the stuff was education, education, education. So they made, made it--not everybody went, but at least they made it bigger for, in terms of making sure that each town, each village had a school, yeah. So, so there's a rush, and there was the, the convincing people that, don't let the--I mean, you go to school during the week days and go help your parents during the weekend, go to farm. Okay, so that was, so they could at least live, parents could work out of field but on week days you, you went to school. Yeah, so that was something that was actually deliberately, let me see, canvassed all along because I remember waking up, people go like a town crier, you know, people go around four or five a.m. and try to wake people up and "Okay, your kids must go to go to school today."$$Oh, really--$$Yeah, instead of-- Because the kings will, when there are important things to do in town, you can a town crier go to the town and announce things at the top of their voice (unclear). So in those days, (they would?) saying "Okay, now, there's a new regime in town that you need to go to school," and all those things. So instead of huddling the kids, all the kids to farm, you try to preach to them to go to school.$$Were people excited about the chance to go to school?$$Oh, yeah, yeah, people were excited. Some people, their kids didn't go to school, but many parents told their kids, "You will go to school." And they made we went to school. If you don't go to school, you get, you get whooped, (laughter) gotta go, yeah--$$Okay--$$Because people saw it as a way to progress--$$Yeah.$$--okay, a way to move, to move away from what you are used to, but it will, bigger stuff.$$Now, did you think when you look back on it, did you think that that's why Islam and Christianity spread because they had a literacy associated?$$Well, they have literacy associated, especially Christianity, yeah, a lot of literacy associated with it, yeah.$$So, and the--(simultaneous)--$$And the--it depends on which country colonized people. If you look at the history of Africa. If you go to Congo, okay, the Belgians still want people to go to school, okay. So, where the British--$$The Belgians are probably the worse--$$The worst of them all, the Belgian's and the Portuguese.$$Slaughtering millions of people at a time, for rubber.$$Yeah, for rubber, yeah. But the British, the British sent some of their best people to be colonizers, okay, [University of] Cambridge [Cambridge, England, United Kingdom], [University of] Oxford [Oxford, England, United Kingdom]. So when they came, they came with what I call intellectual bent, that, "Okay, now, we've set this system up. Can we bring in the natives to train and take over some of these middle level jobs." Okay, so, so it was, so the British, I don't like colonialism, but they were more, what is it called? More egalitarian in terms of what they wanted to do in education. So you find that British colonizers around the world were reasonably educated, India, Hong Kong, all these places, Pakistan, reasonably well educated, yeah.$How, how were you treated [at the University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California] in '71 [1971]?$$Oh, see when you come from Nigeria where everybody's of the same skin color, and you've grown up to my age and you just go there, competition, that's all. You just--everybody may look different from you. You just want to compete and get your damn degree--excuse my language (laughter).$$So you weren't that concerned about social things--$$It didn't occur to me, really. It, I, not--it's only on reflection, going back and say, "Oh, this is what this guy meant. This is what this guy meant." Because I had a friend who came to me and said, "Oh, they said there's a black boy in the class that is getting 'As.'" I said, "Who is that?" "Oh, you." (laughter). It didn't occur to me. I was the only black face in the class (laughter), but it didn't, it didn't register in my brain. It did not register in my brain because you just come. I said, "Okay. I'm here for one thing, to get the damn,"--excuse my language, "Get the degree." (laughter). So you just, so you just see everybody as, okay, either as a collaborator or competitor, just compete. So that's the, that's--you come with the mindset, of whatever they put in your front, you're going to do it, and that's, that's what you see with people who come from foreign countries. I can see a difference between myself and my kids because they--$$Well, what did you think about Berkeley, California in 1971?$$In 1971, a little bit different 'cause there's, you see all the--I mean you came home--I've read about hippies and all those things in 'Time Magazine' and other things, but seeing them first time is a little bit different, yeah. So it was a, it was an interesting environment coming in the 19--around '71 [1971] because there was still--$$The Black Panthers were--(simultaneous)--$$The Black Panthers were there on campus, there was the Free Speech [Movement]. It was at a tail end, but it was still very active, Telegraph Street [sic, Avenue], Shy Talk and a whole lot of stuff. The, a couple of years later, there was the Patty [Patricia] Hearst, I've forgotten, Cinque, the--(simultaneous)--$$Right, right.$$Yeah, all those things, yeah.$$Symbionese Liberation Army--$$Symbionese Liberation Army, yeah, I was there at that time. Yeah, I was just down the street and watching it on tel--.$$I think D'Army Bailey was in City Council then, wasn't he?$$Who was he?$$D'Army Bailey. I think he was the first black City Council member?$$Yeah, yeah, the guy was a Congressman was, the tall guy.$$Ron [Ronald] Dellums.$$Ron Dellums, yeah, Ron Dellums, then he went to become mayor, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was a, yeah, what's the name, this is--$$Oh, Angela Davis?$$Angela Davis, yeah, there was a big and George Jackson, those were big, big things going on when I got to Berkeley.$$George Jackson, right.$$Jackson, yeah.$$Now, was there a significant Nigerian community in--$$Oh, yeah, there was. There were, and I met a lot of Nigerians there. There were people who had come earlier and went to Berkeley and got Ph.D. in nuclear physics, chemical engineering and so on. They went back to Nigeria. So there was, I met a chunk there, and then people young as myself also had started coming at that time. So there was (unclear) common in the Bay [California] area.$$Okay, so did you kind of bond with that community?$$Bond with them, and that's how I found my wife (laughter). My wife came also in 1972, and we met, we met in 1972, and--$$Now, was she a student?$$She was a student in Mills College [Oakland, California]. That was a University of California, Berkeley at Mills. In Oakland, there was a women's college, women's college, yeah.