Walling R. Cyre of Fredericksburg, Virginia, passed away on Feb. 19. He was 80 years old.

Cyre was an associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) from 1989-2005. Upon his retirement from Virginia Tech in 2005, he was conferred the title of associate professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering.

Cyre was born in New Jersey and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He earned his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and eventually his Ph.D. from the University of Florida.

Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Cyre was a consultant for Control Data Corporation, a mainframe and supercomputer firm. Based in Minneapolis, Control Data Corporation was a major developer of computer systems. Cyre’s experience in industry allowed him to bring important practical insights into the classroom and into his research. He also served as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, early on in his career. 

In the late 1980s, Cyre was part of the initial ECE faculty group at Virginia Tech that implemented and taught the department’s new computer engineering degree. Prior to that time, the department was known as the Harry Lynde Bradley Department of Electrical Engineering.

Group of men in computer engineering stand in front of building with Hokie Stone
Walling Cyre (third from right) stands with computer engineering faculty members at Virginia Tech in the spring of 1990. Photo courtesy of Lynn Abbott (third from left).

Cyre was a pioneer in the broad research field of electronic design automation and authored nearly 50 scholarly publications during his time at Virginia Tech. He was also one of the co-inventors on the department’s cognitive engine patent alongside Christian Rieser, Tom Rondeau, and Charles Bostian.

He also served on several professional societies and committees, including IEEE and the Technical Committee on Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems for the International Association of Science and Technology for Development. Additionally, he counseled numerous master’s and doctoral students, helping them achieve their career goals in the electrical and computer engineering profession.

Graduate students were not Cyre’s only mentees. Professor Lynn Abbott described Cyre as a “friend and informal mentor” when Abbott joined the department in the '90s. 

“I was a new assistant professor with no prior teaching experience, and Walling generously helped me with such things as figuring out the logistics of teaching a large section,” said Abbott. “In those days, it was common to have 140-plus students in a single section of an entry-level computer engineering course. On several occasions, I was able to turn to Walling when I needed help with one of those large sections.”

Scott Midkiff, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Virginia Tech, served as a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department alongside Cyre and also has fond memories of his impact. 

“Walling brought industry experience and deep knowledge of hardware description languages and design automation to the ECE department,” said Midkiff. “Thanks to Walling, Jim Armstrong, Gail Gray, and others, Virginia Tech had one of the strongest research and education programs in the world when the hardware description language field was just emerging. More importantly, Walling was a gentleman and always ready to lend a helping hand.”

Outside the classroom, Cyre enjoyed gardening, landscaping, and capturing nature's beauty in his watercolor paintings. He also taught himself woodworking, which he used to handcraft detailed, one-of-a-kind boxes for each of his grandchildren's eighth birthdays. He was a railroad enthusiast and was involved with the Fredericksburg Railroad Museum.

Cyre is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Susan; beloved sons and daughters-in-law, James and Julie and Jeff and Kristin; five amazing grandchildren; brother-in-law, George and wife, Ellie; and a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Cyre was predeceased by his brothers, Kenneth and Ronald.

The original notice can be found here.


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