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Obituary for Prof. Tosiyasu Lawrence Kunii - member of our advisory board, friend and mentor

Obituary for Prof. Tosiyasu Lawrence Kunii - member of our advisory board, friend and mentor

Tosiyasu Lawrence Kunii, photo by Michael Cohen

    On November 3, 2020, Tosiyasu Lawrence Kunii, mentor to several editors associated with JVRB, passed away at the age of 82, after a long illness. He made many contributions to science and education.
    Born in 1938, he graduated from the Dept. of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Tokyo in 1962, and received a D.Sc. from the same school in 1967. Having joined the Faculty of Science of the University of Tokyo in 1969 as an Asst. Prof., he proposed establishment of the Dept. of Information Science. He was also on the faculty of the U. of Texas in Austin and Visiting Professor at the University of Bradford in England, which experience contributed to his vision of international education. He was later appointed Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo.
    With his vision and persistence, he founded the U. of Aizu “ex vacuo” (“from a vacuum,” i.e. out of nothing) in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture in Japan (which privilege of establishing a major university had been vindictively denied the region since the Aizu clan lost the Boshin Civil War in 1869), and served as its first President from 1993, and later Professor Emeritus. He was the founding chairman of CGS (International Computer Graphics Society), and founder and Editor-in-Chief of “The Visual Computer” (published by Springer-Verlag in Germany, 1984-1999) and the International Journal of Shape Modeling (World Scientific) (1994-1995), and was Associate Editor of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications (1982-2002). He was Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Visualization and Computer Animation (John Wiley & Sons) (1990-) and on the Editorial Board of Information Systems Journal (1976-2008). Late in his career, he was on the faculty of Kanazawa Institute of Technology and Chief Technical Advisor of Morpho Co., Ltd., which enjoyed a very successful IPO, as well as Technical Advisor to ABEJA.
    Prof. Kunii's scientific contributions, including insights in the study of Reeb Graphs and homology, were recognized by his being named a Fellow of the IPSJ (Information Processing Society of Japan), a Life Fellow of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and a Senior Research Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He published around 500 refereed papers in computer science, over 50 books, and had 5 patents. He was a VR pioneer, having organized the International Workshop on Synthetic Worlds in 1993, which explored the possibilities of immersive environments synthesized on the web as well as in computational spaces in general, which proceedings were published in a book entitled “Cyberworlds.” In 1998, he received the Taylor L. Booth Education Award, the highest award for computer education from the IEEE, and in 2014 he received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government.

    Prof. Kunii was a ski instructor and a meta-instructor (teaching ski instructors how to best share such knowledge). Inclined to tangential explanatory digressions, he was sometimes affectionately nicknamed “Dr. Hyperlink.” He had the wisdom and perhaps also the visage of Jedi Master Yoda. His breadth of view touched many lives and shaped the professional trajectories of many academic scientists, especially junior faculty whose careers he encouraged.

    He is survived by his wife Hideko and a son. May he rest in peace, and may we honor his memory by encouraging our students and colleagues and doing interesting research, contributing to society by advancing knowledge.

    Prof. Michael Cohen, University of Aizu