Dr. Turan Gonen, a leading expert and popular professor of electrical engineering at California State University, Sacramento, died Feb. 24 of a stroke, his family said. He was 72.
Dr. Gonen was widely respected in academia and industry for his scholarship in electrical and electronic engineering. Specializing in the area of electric power transmission, he authored numerous books and papers and traveled to many countries as a technical consultant to utilities, trade groups and government agencies.
He belonged to major professional and scientific organizations in the United States and his native Turkey. His 2013 textbook, “Electric Power Distribution System Engineering,” is taught in college classrooms worldwide.
“I was meeting with someone the other day from the electric power industry and shared the sad news about Turan, and asked if he knew him,” Tom Matthews, CSUS chair of electrical and electronic engineering. “He said, ‘Only by reputation.’ He was pretty well known.”
Besides his impressive research, Dr. Gonen earned a reputation as a caring teacher and mentor. He supervised more than 100 graduate students over the years and helped many find jobs in industry and teaching. He was recognized by CSUS with outstanding teacher awards in 1997 and 2009.
Raised in a home that stressed education, Dr. Gonen was born Sept. 2, 1941, in Bursa, Turkey, to a family that included professional engineers in various fields. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from Istanbul Technical University, he determined at 27 to leave home for new opportunities.
“He didn’t know any English, but he said, ‘I’m going to go to the United States and make something of my life,’ ” his daughter Sevil said. “He got on a plane with an English dictionary and studied it all the way to Florida. He got off the plane and could speak a few words, enough to get around.”
Dr. Gonen earned advanced degrees – including two doctorates in engineering – at Iowa State University and University of Oklahoma. He taught for three years at University of Missouri before joining CSUS in 1986.
Dr. Gonen had been active in the Sacramento chapter of the Turkish American Association of California. He lived in Sacramento and enjoyed gardening, visiting art museums and vacationing in Carmel.
“He was a serious person, but he loved to laugh and to make people laugh,” his daughter said.
In addition to his daughter, Dr. Gonen is survived by his fiancée, Diane Kelly-Abrams.
A memorial is set for 10 a.m. to noon March 22 in the Redwood Room at the CSUS University Union. Donations may be made to the University Foundation at Sacramento State. Specify “In memory of Turan Gonen” in the memo section.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.