Thomas Stockham Jr. remembered for achievements
- A pioneer in digital technology

By: Andrew Kirk
Published in Daily Utah Chronicle. Issue date: 1/12/04 Section: News

To the world he is known as the father of digital sound recording.

To the country he will be remain noted as an investigator in the Watergate scandal.

To the U he will be remembered as a beloved faculty member in the department of electrical engineering and to his family as a man of integrity and love.

As an engineer Thomas Stockham Jr. won an Emmy in 1998, the first ever technical Grammy in 1994 and a scientific/engineering Academy Award in 1999. Shortly after becoming an associate professor of electrical engineering at the U in 1969 he assisted David Evans in developing the department of computer science as a separate entity from the department of electrical engineering.

Before coming to the U he was a faculty member at MIT, his alma mater, for ten years.

According to long time colleague Larry DeVries, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, he was among the first scientist/engineers in the world to recognize the power of the computer to process images and sound signals as well as techniques for simulating visual and auditory processes.

In 1974 he was asked to join a panel of experts examining the infamous Watergate tapes in which 18 minutes of conversation incriminating president Nixon were erased.

In 1975 he took leave of the university to found Soundstream, Inc. It was the first commercial digital recording company. For this reason he is referred to by some as the father of compact disc technology.

With Stockham's staggering list of achievements it is hard for his wife Martha to remember them all.

"I did his laundry and loved him," she said. "He was on the ground floor of quite a lot [of developments] but the best part was he was a marvelous husband."

She said that of all the contributions he made the greatest in their lives was his incredible integrity.

His children said he was an extraordinary father whose greatest achievement may have been the family he created and headed.

He reminded his children that anything is possible and inspired them to realize that their only limits are the ones they create for themselves.

"He was very unassuming, very competent. He didn't blow his own horn," DeVries said of his colleague.

Stockham remained a faculty member at the U until his death Jan. 6 shortly after his 71 birthday. His status was changed to emeritus professor in 1995 after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Martha Stockham, a pain management nurse at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and her children hope to set up a memorial scholarship fund in honor of their husband and father.

"We hope to give money to wonderful creative young men and women studying arts and sciences at the U," she said. "We're strong supporters of the U, I graduated from this university, this is our university."

A memorial service for Thomas Stockham will be held Sunday the Jan. 18 at Libby Gardner Hall at noon. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the Thomas G. Stockham, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Endowment, in care of the U Health Sciences development office.