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Former professor was ‘one of those giants upon whose shoulders we stood’

Photo: Courtesy of Amiya Nayak.

“Many of us here today, who have faced rigorous educational challenges … know that in such situations there is usually very limited time to describe something much bigger, and deeper, and meaningful than what our modest presentation skills can actually convey.”

Rafael Falcon spoke eloquently of the late Ivan Stojmenovic to a crowd of friends and colleagues at his funeral on Nov. 9.

“In the same way, attempting to capture in a few minutes the life and ideals of a visionary and a man who rose above all the challenges of his time to leave a lasting legacy in the hearts of many is a quite difficult endeavour,” he said.

Stojmenovic, a former professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Ottawa, passed away on Nov. 3 when his vehicle slammed into an overpass on Highway 416. He was 57.

Born in Serbia in 1957, Stojmenovic grew up to study mathematics and earn a bachelor and master’s degrees in science from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia and a PhD from the University of Zagreb in Croatia. He taught at numerous universities around the world before settling down at the U of O in 1988.

He left behind a wife, Natassa, two children, Milos and Milica, and a granddaughter, Lana.

According to Milica Stojmenovic, her father’s biggest inspiration was Nikola Tesla, a man he often talked about to begin his presentations. Both scientists had “beautifully gifted yet humble minds,” she said.

Professor Amiya Nayak, who supervised graduate students with Stojmenovic, said they first met in 2003 and the two worked closely on numerous projects since then.

Stojmenovic strongly emphasized quality, said Nayak. “He had guidelines for all students (on) how to write good technical article(s). He was strict on our students, especially when they did not follow his guidelines,” he said.

But it wasn’t just for students; Stojmenovic enforced his own rules throughout his extensive research. He had a special interest in communication networks and algorithms, and published more than 160 articles over the course of his life.

In 2008, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers named him an IEEE Fellow for an “extraordinary record of accomplishments” in data communication and wireless sensor technology. He was also listed on the 2013 Thomson Reuters list of highly cited researchers with more than 15,000 citations. The U of O presented Stojmenovic with the Excellence in Research award in 2009.

But, according to his daughter, “his diplomas and certifications don’t do his devotion to research justice.”

The genuine affection that Stojmenovic showed his students “will also accompany us for the rest of our lives,” said Falcon, who concluded his eulogy with a reference to another prolific scientist, Sir Isaac Newton.

“Sir Newton said: ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.’ Ivan, you are one of those giants upon whose shoulders we, and countless others, stood.”