The sad news has reached us that on Thursday February 21, 2013 Professor Okko Bosgra passed away in his hometown Waddinxveen. Okko Bosgra was full professor of Systems and Control within the 3mE faculty at Delft University of Technology, and part-time professor at Mechanical Engineering of Eindhoven University of Technology. He was diagnosed with a serious illness last summer and his health gradually deteriorated over the last couple of months.
After his graduation in 1968 at Delft University of Technology, Professor Okko H. Bosgra started his career as an assistant and associate professor in the Measurement and Control group of the Mechanical Engineering Department. After a part-time professorship of four years at the Department of Physics at Wageningen University (1981-1985), he returned to Delft to take up a full professorship in Systems and Control in the same Mechanical Engineering Department.
Okko was strongly driven towards establishing a research group which covered the whole breadth of the field, ranging from modeling and identification to optimal and robust control, at the forefront of international developments. Although being located in an application oriented environment, he always had a high esteem of fundamental mathematically oriented research in control. During the period of extension of his research group (1986-1999), he very successfully created an environment in which his vision of high-quality research in control could flourish, namely to allow for a close bond between theoretical developments at the forefront of science and technological questions resulting from the confrontation with industrial practice.
Testimony of the achievements are the variety of the topics covered in the large number of PhD- and MSc-theses supervised by Okko, in addition to having earned the highest scores after research evaluations by an international committee of peers in the years 1994 and 2000. During this period and under his leadership the group issued the twelve volume journal “Selected Topics in Modeling, Identification and Control” in which some of the obtained results were collected in order to increase their dissemination and to boost visibility of the group’s output.
In the second half of the eighties Okko played an important role in the emerging national cooperation between the mathematical system theory groups and the control engineering groups. This strong collaborative initiative of which Okko was a firm supporter from the early beginning, is the backbone of the national institute DISC (Dutch Institute of Systems and Control), which has obtained international recognition through its established national PhD programme. First as member of the board and later as scientific director (2000-2005), Okko has played an important role in shaping and directing this national cooperation.
During this period Okko also created strong links to various Dutch industries which provided an early and steady stream of financial support. A particularly strong relationship was established with the mechatronic and motion control research department at Philips in Eindhoven for which he has been serving as a scientific advisor since 1987. Motivated by the needs of high-tech industries like ASML, the world-leading manufacturer of wafer scanners, Okko promoted a combination of the control and mechatronics activities in Delft to a new department which he headed in 2000-2004. During this period he was a driving force behind the preparation to merge three control groups in Delft spread over three faculties into the Delft Center for Systems and Control. Since 2005 Okko held a part-time professorship at Delft, in addition to part-time professorships in the Control Systems Technology Group of the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Electrical Engineering Department of Eindhoven University of Technology.
Education of students was a matter dear to Okko’s heart. For more than twenty years he has been teaching advanced control courses both at the MSc and PhD level. His excellent role of supervisor and mentor of students was recognized by Delft University of Technology in 1997 when he was awarded the University Award for Excellence in Teaching (“Leermeesterprijs”). In parallel to the creation of the Delft Center for Systems and Control, he was among the initiators for installing the first MSc program in Systems and Control in the Netherlands in 2003.
Much of Okko’s effort was devoted to servicing the university and the Dutch community in all aspects related to scientific developments and in various capacities. Among others he held positions in the Dutch Foundation for Post-Academic Technical Education, the Royal Institute of Engineers in the Netherlands, the Microned consortium, and the European Union Control Association in parallel to which he acted as an Editor at Large of the European Journal of Control (1994-1999). During his career more than 400 MSc students and 60 PhD students have graduated under his supervision, many of whom, clearly marked as his scholars, found their way in industry and academia.
At the occasion of his farewell address in September 2009, he was awarded A Royal Decoration as Companion (Officier) on the Order of Oranje-Nassau.
Okko’s professional attitude was characterized by inspiring and motivating leadership and guidance, where his coworkers and students were offered room and challenges for development and growth. A very cooperative and constructive person who with endless energy worked on the further development of his field of expertise. He developed also a strong strategic vision for desired developments in university, as well as national and international communities. With an attitude of natural modesty he committed himself to the interests of the people in his environment, and for the university community. The universities lose with him an inspiring scientist and teacher, a strategic thinker and a motivating coach, and we are very grateful for the role that he has played for our universities over so many years.
Our thoughts are with his wife Anna, their two sons Marko and Michiel, daughters-in-law Inge, Céline and their two grandchildren Lotte and Sam.