Jeffrey Chuan Chu 朱傳榘


Jeffrey Chuan Chu

Chuan passed away at his home in Lincoln, MA on June 6, 2011. Interment is private at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, July 16, 11:00 AM, at the First Parish Church in Weston, MA.


Donations in memory of Jeffrey Chuan Chu may be made to the Wharton-Penn China Center Fund by contacting Jeffrey Sheehan.


Jeffrey Chuan Chu, computer pioneer and passionate crusader for U.S.-China cultural exchange, died at his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, on June 6, 2011, at the age of 91. While at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, Mr. Chu was a core member of the engineering team that designed the first electronic computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). This room-sized computer, hailed in the press as a “Giant Brain,” became operational in February 1946, ushering us into the computer age. ENIAC’s successors would improve upon vacuum tube technology, eventually introducing the use of the transistor and then the microchip, leading to computers so compact that individuals could use them in their own homes, and ultimately leading to the hand-held devices we use today. Mr. Chu’s long career paralleled these developments in the electronics industry. In 1982, the Governing Board of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) presented Mr. Chu with a medal to recognize his early work in electronic computer logic design, hailing him as a “computer pioneer and visionary” who had inspired countless computer professionals with his leadership.

Jeffrey Chuan Chu, known as Chuan to family and friends, was born into a family of scholars in Tianjin, near Beijing, on July 14, 1919. An eldest son, he received private tutoring at home until the age of 12. He was schooled in the Chinese classics and developed an enduring love for Chinese culture and the country of his birth. He later studied at the University of Shanghai (which became Fudan University). Because the war with Japan had reached Shanghai, he was sent to the U.S. to complete his studies in 1940. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the Moore School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Chuan worked as a research engineer, developing improved versions of large-scale computers for Reeves Instrument Company (REEVAC), Argonne National Laboratory (AVIDAC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORACLE—Oak Ridge Automatic Computer and Logic Engine), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (MANIAC). By 1955, private industry was entering the field of computer development, and Chuan, who had attained the position of Senior Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, was invited by his former colleague on the ENIAC team, Press Eckert (J. Presper Eckert), to return to Philadelphia and work in the Univac division of Remington Rand. Chuan became Chief Engineer for the LARC project (Livermore Automatic Research Computer), one of the earliest all-transistor computers. By the time Univac became Sperry-Rand Univac, Chuan had moved into senior management.

In 1962, Chuan began working at Honeywell in Boston, where he was Director of Engineering when Honeywell developed the H200 series of computers, and rose to become Vice President of Honeywell Information Systems. While working for Honeywell in the 1960s and early 1970s, Chuan made regular business trips to Honeywell’s customers in Japan, NEC (Nippon Electric Company) and Toshiba. Japan was developing its own burgeoning electronics industry at the time, and Chuan offered expertise and advice to his Japanese associates. He developed a great fondness for the Japanese people and culture, and his relationships with his Japanese business associates evolved into lifelong friendships. Long after he had stopped working for Honeywell, Chuan continued to visit his friends in Japan and to host their families for visits to the U.S. Their bonds of mutual affection and respect transcended the animosity wrought by their nations during the Japanese occupation of China.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Chuan continued to work in various capacities in the electronics industry. He became Senior Vice President for North American Marketing Operations at Wang Laboratories in Lowell, Massachusetts, and he served as Chairman and CEO of Sanders Technology (Santec) in Amherst, New Hampshire. He also served as Senior Advisor at SRI International (Stanford Research Institute), and at DRI (Data Resources, Inc.). Most recently, he held the position of Senior Advisor to the President and was a member of the Board at BTU International, a global supplier of advanced thermal processing equipment for the alternative energy and electronics industries in Billerica, Massachusetts.

In the midst of this flourishing career, a new chapter began in Chuan’s life when the U.S. reopened travel to China in the 1970s. He found the cause that would consume him for the rest of his life—active participation in the modernization of China. In October 1978, Chuan and his wife Loretta returned to the country of his birth for the first time in almost 40 years. As a successful Chinese-American he had reached the pinnacle of his career in the country that was leading the world in the computer industry, and he received a warm welcome in China. The Chinese were eager to modernize their technology and business practices, and open to hearing the advice of someone so prominent in his field. Chuan realized that, with his Chinese roots and his expertise in technology, he was in a unique position to benefit both the U.S. and China. In the early 1970s, Chuan had participated in the master planning of Taiwan’s Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, which is now a major center of the global semiconductor industry. This would prove to be good preparation for the task he would undertake on a larger scale in China.

In 1980, Chuan met with Chairman Deng Xiao Ping, who was leading China into an era of freer market practices. This meeting confirmed to Chuan that the Chinese leadership was committed to reform, and kindled the hope that he could personally make a difference in bringing China forward. Chuan became a passionate voice in the effort to modernize China, serving on various State boards and advising American companies who were interested in doing business in China. Over a period of 30 years, he and his wife Loretta returned to China numerous times in service to this cause. Chuan held honorary advisory positions at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, and the State Planning Commission, among others.

As a lifelong scholar himself, it was Chuan’s greatest pleasure to serve as visiting professor at major universities in China, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shandong University, Nankai University, Xinjiang University, and Qingdao University. He orchestrated the establishment of the School of Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and helped facilitate their partnership with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He also endowed a scholarship for Chinese students to study English at Jiao Tong University. Chuan had an abiding belief in the Confucian ideal of scholarship and its potential to benefit the individual and society.

Inspired by his years of living in the U.S., Chuan promoted the ideal of public service as being an essential ingredient of a successful modern society. Believing that technology and modern business practices can take a society only so far, he considered the moral ideal of public service to be an equally important export from the U.S. It became his self-appointed mission to inspire individuals to help those less fortunate, and to serve a cause beyond themselves. He advocated this ideal in his many public speeches in China, and he established a Campus Civility Award for the practice of public service at Jiao Tong University.

Chuan was a man of tremendous vigor and adventurous spirit. He and his wife Loretta traveled all over the world, to every continent except Antarctica, during their nearly 40-year marriage. He has a large, extended family, in the U.S. and beyond, and he particularly enjoyed the family reunions that were held every five years on his birthday. The last reunion was held in Concord, Massachusetts, to celebrate his 90th birthday. As the family patriarch, he considered it his role to promote harmony among his family members, in the Chinese tradition. He was a prolific letter writer and dispenser of fatherly advice. Although he spent much of his life in the public arena, he seemed happiest when he could find time for quiet contemplation, reading, and writing. He was both teacher and perennial student, invigorated by the world of ideas and eager to share his knowledge with others or to engage them in scholarly discussions.

More than 70 years ago, when his parents sent Chuan on his solitary journey to the U.S., they wrote poems to send with him. His father urged him to take a “far-sighted view” and not to be homesick. His mother wrote:

Tears trickle down my cheeks,
While preparing your clothes.
So many things I’d like to urge you.
In this troubled world I wish you to succeed,
And render your service to the country and the people.

Always forward-looking, Chuan could see that we were approaching a time when China and the U.S. would occupy the world stage together. His hope was that this would bring forth only the best in both cultures, and he did his utmost to encourage it. As his father had admonished, Chuan never looked back, but he did return, and he rendered a service to both his countries that will continue to inspire all who remember him.

Jeffrey Chuan Chu is survived by his wife Loretta Yung Chu of Lincoln, MA; his brother Zhu Chuan-yi of Beijing, China; his sister Zhu Chuan-yi of Tianjin, China; and his first wife Else Harlan of Sarasota, FL. He leaves his daughter Lynnet and her husband Noel McDermott of Santa Cruz, CA; daughter Bambi and husband Michael Rae of Naples, Italy; daughter Deirdre and husband Fanul (Bodhi) Kocica of Miami Beach, FL; stepson Van Tsai and wife Paula of Hanover, NH; 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by four sisters, Zhu Tao-le, Zhu Shang-rou, Zhu Chuan-xun, and Zhu Chuan-rong, and by his granddaughter Lauren Tsai.

Memories of Our Father

Parents are the backbones of our biographies. As I [Lynnet] was growing up, I knew that Father was one of the most important influences on my life. He seemed to me a tower of strength, whose careful hands shaped much of what I would become. .And I'm sure my sisters, Bambi and Dashi, would agree that along with those personal qualities that we each bring with us, the ones that your parents impress on you significantly determine who you are.

Father was a dedicated parent. Despite a strong commitment to his career in the exciting new field of computer technology (including teaching at night school, studying for his doctorate) he always insisted that the family do things together. He was committed to creating a sense of the family unity, promoting our special talents and abilities and giving us the best education.

I don't know if you are familiar with the book and TV series, Father Knows Best. That father was our father--a loving concerned parent who was compelled by his vision of what would be the best for his children. Although we were encouraged to respect each other's differences, our individual differences were admired. We never heard him say, "Why can't you be like your sister?" Rather, by encouraging and promoting our natural talents, he built up our self-confidence to pursue those specific interests. Embedded in his parenting, was a determination and unerring decisiveness, the ability to focus on a problem to find it's solution, a curiosity for the new and for the adventure

We were included in his own enthusiasms and hobbies. Father imagined himself an intrepid deer hunter. Equipped with bow and arrow, every year he would set off into the woods on the track of venison, but usually considered himself lucky even to catch a distant glimpse of a deer. His only moment of triumph was when he shot a large crow in our back yard. He proudly displayed it transfixed with his home made arrow thru its chest, for the admiration of family and neighbors.

Some other hobbies were fencing, rifle-shooting, tennis and camping. As soon as I was strong enough to shoulder his .22 rifle, I was taken to the shooting range and promised that rifle when I became old enough to own one. He became enamored with saber fencing and encouraged Bambi and me to pursue fencing at school.. Any sport we were interested in, whether it was field hockey, ice skating, lacrosse, tennis, he encouraged

All three of us were taught by Father to drive. The one thing, aside from learning how to use a stick shift, was not to be one of those helpless ladies standing by the side of the road with a flat. It was obligatory to know how to change a tire as well as change the oil. We enjoyed sharing with him his passion for sports cars. We were the envy of our friends tooling around in his alfa romeo or triumph. He liked the image of the independent, capable woman.

But of all the passions, the one he cherished for so many years until it was crushed by a heavy snow load from the roof, was his canoe. For Father was an incurable romantic and, like Calvin's father in Calvin and Hobbes, he conjured up images of wonderful camping trips in the wilderness of deep forests. But he was emphatically not a camper in practice. He liked his comforts. Yet, in order to enjoy being with us, he would gladly put up with a half warmed-up can of baked beans for supper and sleepless nights with frog belches for a lullaby and scampering mice as room mates. Dashi can recount some of their misadventures together.

Like many parents he was sentimental about his children. For years, an Indian pot Bambi made for him in grade school was kept on his desk. He would repeat stories about the daughter who stayed awake with him during the all night drives from Illinois to NY in the 50's, or who offered to make him a cup of tea. How many parents would choose to take a nap next to their daughter while she practiced her violin? Whenever in later life Bambi got out her instrument, her mother-in -law, who also loved her, would leave the music room, firmly closing the door behind her.

He treasured our achievements for what they were, not what they should or might have been. He was very protective of his daughters and certainly presented a formidable front to any suitor. We used to joke afterwards that each successful suitor had to perform one of the labors of Hercules before being admitted to the family circle. Like Penelope of Ulysses, I was required to finish a hooked rug project before I was married, which or course I never completed. However I never forgot that request and a few years later after evenings together of hooking, my husband and I were able to give him that rug as a Christmas gift.

But most of all he held scholarship sacred as the key to a successful and fulfilled life. There was never a question of "if" we would go to college. He effectively communicated that college was obligatory. We grew up with this concept and accepted it without question. And that conviction of the value of a higher education continued in his later years. I don't know how many students he helped to go to the university either here or in China through recommendations, sponsorships or helping them find scholarships.

As essential as he felt scholarship to be, we never felt that he expected more from us that we could give. He inspired us to have goals and to strive for them. The process was important, more so than the end result.

In short he gave us the security of a family. Of the values he taught us, the one we treasure above all is: that no matter what mistakes we might make, we would always be his beloved daughters. This firm foundation of Love is our inheritance from him and one that we have brought to our own families.

An outstanding quality Father had was his vision.. Although he could live fully in the moment, there was a sense of what the future could hold, of how he could affect it. Along with this was a wonderful curiosity about so many things, so that his mind was open to all possibilities.

And so we have said our farewells to a man who was not only a gentleman, a scholar and a friend, but a man who so influenced who we are, a man who was a devoted and loving father.

Remarks by Gordon Cheng (July 16, 2011)

On behalf of the fraternal brothers at Phi Lambda Fraternity (PL, 仁社), I am here to pay tribute to the glorious life accomplishments of our late Brother Jeffrey Chuan Chu.

Brother Chuan was initiated into PL in 1944 in Philadelphia. At the time, he was a 25-years old graduate student at University of Pennsylvania. That was 67 years ago.

3 years ago, I had the honor of writing a brief biography of a Golden Brother for publication in our PL Bulletin. A Golden Brother is someone who had been with the fraternity over 60 years. Chuan was my subject. I did some research on him from public domain information, and Chuan filled me in of his childhood.

Chuan was born in Tianjin, China on July 14, 1919, into a family of scholars. Starting at a tender age of 5, he was tutored on Chinese classics, English, mathematics and martial arts. He attended public school rather late at 12. But, with his strong home study background, he was always at the top of his class. After high school, he went to Shanghai to study physics at Fudan University. That was at a time when Japan invaded China, and most of the universities started to move to the interiors of China. To escape the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, Chuan was sent to America in 1940 to study at University of Minnesota.

Later, Chuan did his graduate study at the Moore School of electrical engineering, UPenn. At that time, the school was under a US Army contract (Project PX) to build the first electronic computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), for weapon development. Chuan was one of the design engineers in the project and responsible for developing the logics to do divisions and square-roots.

In the next 40 years, Chuan held senior technical and managerial positions in major computer companies, including Sperry Rand, Univac, Honeywell and Wang Laboratories. Chuan was chosen in 1981 by the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) as the first recipient of the Computer Pioneer Award.

In 1974, Chuan was invited by the Taiwan Government to participate in the master planning of Hsinchu Science Park. When they arrived in Taipei, Chuan and Loretta were both very emotional; since that was the first time in a very long time they had seen that many Chinese people. That project laid the ground work for the Taiwan semiconductor industry, which has now become the global center for design and manufacture of personal computers.

It would be fair to say that Chuan had his hands in every phase of the computer evolution: from the invention and early developments, to the commercialization of mainframe computers, and through the series of downsizings that has turned computer into a household item.

All of that was only his first career.

In 1978, when Chuan was 59, Loretta and Chuan returned to China for a visit. It was the first trip home since they left the country as youngsters. It was at a time when China stood in the devastation of the Cultural Revolution. It was also when Deng Xiaoping took command to reform and to open up China.

In 1980, Jeffrey met with Deng Xiaoping. During the meeting, Deng confessed to him that the Chinese Communist Party had committed serious policy errors, caused hardship on Chinese people, and it must repay this debt. Chuan was touched by this conversation and decided to contribute all he could to rebuild his homeland.

Chuan chose to focus his efforts in the areas of humanity and technology development policy.

As a self-prescribed missionary, Chuan offered his advises by having personal meetings and letter correspondences with government leadership, publishing papers in professional journals, and giving lectures in universities and other public forums.

Chuan, for the past 30 years, had devoted his entire intellectual capacity, with a passion, to the new China.

He asked for nothing in return, but a China he could be proud of.

67 years ago in Philadelphia, a young man made a pledge that he would labor for the public welfare of Chinese people. He made good of his pledge.

Remarks by Axel Kaufmann (July 16, 2011)

Chuan Chu entered our lives nearly 25 years ago, by way of Loretta and my wife Marion, who were members of a regular foursome at Longwood, first on the tennis court and later at the bridge table. He, too, enjoyed tennis, and he and I started to play, first occasionally and later more frequently, both at Longwood and, during the cold weather months, at the Wightman Tennis Center – where, because of his insistence, I probably stepped on the court more often than any other non-member. I don’t know how he managed to let me come weekly, but I suppose that it was an example of his persuasive abilities.

Looking back, our sessions were like music building to a crescendo. In the beginning they were routine, with both the on-court and off-court emphasis definitely on the tennis, but gradually our conversations became a regular additional component that increasingly added to my enjoyment. We would take a water break and sit down on a courtside bench, and sometimes the length of our discussion was such that we ended up breaking for tennis.

Chuan’s appetite for information was ravenous: he would deftly steer the talk to the subject that was on his mind, and seek my opinion even if it did not agree with his own. Of course I was the learner in our discussions, which always seemed to remain calm, and to which I would look forward with anticipation. Usually serious, he had a self-deprecating sense of humor that kept matters on an even keel and often brought a genuine smile to his face. He was masterful at logic, at exposing any weaknesses in my positions, and at getting to the crux of matters. In the process, I became informed about his Chinese interests, and about his views on world affairs, American politics (he felt he was not in sync with those of many of his Chinese-American friends), and a full range of then current issues. It is safe for me to say that he is responsible for most of the knowledge I have of China and its place in the world, past and present. What is remarkable in retrospect is that not once did Chuan bring up his own accomplishments in the realm of diplomacy or technology - which, after all these years, we discovered only by reading his obituary.

On the tennis court, Chuan was a tiger. When we did not keep score, he enjoyed winning our rallies, and he would mercilessly run me from side to side to establish his mastery. Years later, when he lost sight in one of his eyes, he was frustrated at first by his inability to accurately perceive depth on his backhand side, but over time he was able to keep rallies going - and me running - nearly as long as before.

Our tennis games came to an end when he was no longer physically able to play, but their memories have outlasted their absence, and the image of our sitting on the courtside bench engaged in extended conversation is a priceless integral part of those.

But Chuan’s and Loretta’s influence on our lives extend far beyond the tennis court.

They were gracious hosts at pool parties and afternoon teas, and we enjoyed many meals with them at the area’s finer restaurants. When the restaurant of choice was Chinese,

It was invariably selected by Chuan, and most often that included the menu as well. He was not at all fazed by my aversion to shell-fish, and instead had me try dishes that were unfailingly delectable. We also enjoyed invitations to musical events – usually impressive Chu-supported recitals by Chinese artists - and we attended theatre performances together as well.

In the last years, Chuan was the vigilant sender of interesting e-mails, often focused on Chinese cultural events - I particularly remember a stunning set of photographs of a festival that featured gigantic ice sculptures artfully lit.

As he was in his personal, technical, and business achievements, Chuan was a virtuoso in the realm of friendship, and we were privileged to be on the receiving end of his outreach, so generously given. We will always remember him as one of the people who have made our lives - and surely the lives of many of you - more interesting and worthwhile.

Rest in peace, dear friend - you have left behind a world that is better because of you, and you have our unending gratitude for and admiration of your accomplishments. We will always honor and treasure your memory.

Remarks by Paul van der Wansem (July 16, 2011)

Good morning, I am Paul van der Wansem, Chairman of BTU Int., and I am honored to be a friend of Chuan Chu.

Chuan was blessed with a long life and history full of accomplishments; I will attempt to contribute in a small way to celebrate with all of you, Loretta, family and friends.

I cannot speak about the pioneering life Chuan led from the days that his father sent him to the United States to study, the university of Pennsylvania, his role in the design of the first computer and many other endeavors, but one thing is clear, he was a force and accomplished many great things, most of us can only dream of.

I knew Chuan since 1986 in the later stage of his long and very productive life - early on as an advisor, and subsequently from 1991 until 2009, as a member of the board of directors of our company.

We were in frequent contact in the final years of his life, when his mind was strong, his smile ever ready, but his body starting to fail, with Loretta at his side day and night.

• • •

Chuan became an instrumental influence on our company as well as on my personal life.

The opportunity we perceived in the early days to develop our Chinese business was of key interest to both of us, and his dedication to our cause became stronger over time.

Chuan, after careful listening, had often a unique and very thoughtful point of view, both in setting strategy at our board level, and in his personal involvement with our employees.

His engineering background was of great value and his input was complimented with his world-wide and multi-cultural experience.

Many times he would come especially to engage with our young engineers and discuss important aspects of their work and how to best succeed.

He had a strong sense for long-term strategic direction and for what was right or wrong, no doubt gathered from many years of experience in life and business.

His insights and wisdom proved to be of immense value in the pursuit of our development and goals.

Over the many years we all learned from him, whether as directors, employees or friends.

Building the bridge between our two great nations was one of his great ambitions.

The vision to open up and develop China, in a new way, was near and dear to his heart.

His approach as a good listener and keen observer coupled with his enthusiasm was an inspiration to all of us. He took a great interest in the many facets of policy development in a growing Chinese economy with worldwide implications and the role of NGO’s. He engaged with many contacts and friends he had in government-, industry- and in educational- circles.

Chuan became our guide and inspiration in exploring our entry into China.

After several trips, we set up the first Joint Venture in Beijing in 1989 and deepened our experience.

We then hired our first direct employees in 1994 and started a wholly owned subsidiary and built our factory in Shanghai ten years later.

Chuan guided us, and our new Chinese employees, to develop a strong multi-cultural family, which allowed us to further expand our presence in China as well as Asia.

We succeeded, in large part, due to his insight, personal dedication and enthusiasm.

All of us at BTU will remember him for the important contributions he made. We are thankful for, and proud of, what we built and accomplished together.

He helped us set the course -- and we will continue to grow in his spirit and excel in our role towards building our presence in China and contributing towards a better world.