In memory of our friend and colleague, Professor Farhad Mavaddat, 1941–2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

We are saddened to announce that our colleague and friend Farhad Mavaddat, retired Professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science, passed away peacefully on November 3, 2021 at the age of 80. 

photo of Professor Farhad MavaddatProfessor Mavaddat was born on May 13, 1941 in Tehran. He received a BS in electrical engineering in 1963 from Tehran University, a Diploma of Graduate Studies in 1964 from Philips International Institute of Technological Studies in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and his DIC and PhD degrees in computing in 1968 from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. 

While at Philips Institute, he was a member of a group of researchers who designed and built a prototype computer using pre-fabricated electronic circuit modules produced by a pre-IC technology developed at Philips.

From 1968 to 1979, he was an Assistant then Associate Professor at Aryamehr University of Technology in Tehran (now Sharif University of Technology), where he also served as chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department from 1975 to 1977. As a graduate of computer and engineering programs from Tehran University and Imperial College, he was one of the pioneers studying and teaching computer science in Iran.

Professor Mavaddat loved Iran, its people, and its culture. He had beautiful Persian handwriting, and cherished Persian poetry and music. After his studies, he returned to Iran and worked briefly at IBM in Tehran, before joining the faculty of the then-just-established Aryamehr University of Technology. He was instrumental in promoting and establishing computer science as a bona fide field of science, rather than an area of specialization in mathematics or electrical engineering, at Aryamehr and in Iran. 

While in Iran, Professor Mavaddat was a mentor to many junior faculty members starting their careers. Friendships with former colleagues and students that began there continued long after he left Iran despite the geographical distance. Friends remember him as an intellectual in every sense and a great academic. He cultivated fresh, free thinking in his students beyond textbooks and syllabus. A member of the Baháʼí faith, he is remembered for gracefully overcoming hardships and for treatment of his students as equals that was rare and refreshing.

Recognizing the political uncertainty in Iran, he and his wife Sima left in 1979 to provide their children a better future. They spent some time in Spain and Italy before settling in Canada. He joined the University of Waterloo as an Associate Professor in 1979 in what was then the Department of Computer Science. He was a Professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science for more than three decades until his retirement in 2015.

Professor Mavaddat’s research interests spanned many areas of computer science from the design of large-scale information systems, software systems and hardware and software verification, to system specification and codesign. He also worked on component-based software design and software-reuse, and was particularly interested in models of software components and computation models used in software composition. Over his career he authored and co-authored more than 70 publications.

Professor Mavaddat mentored many students and colleagues in both Iran and Canada, some of whom have assumed research positions in industry and academic appointments in universities across the globe. He enjoyed long walks and was especially fond of coffee with his friends, students and colleagues.

Professor Mavaddat was predeceased by his beloved wife Sima Zand in 2011, his brother Farhang Mavaddat, and his sister Farideh Amirnejad. He is survived by his son Marc (Mehrdad), daughter Nicole (Mitra), and sister Furouz.

We extend our deepest sympathies to Professor Mavaddat’s family.

Recollections from colleagues

I met Farhad during my first year as a faculty member at Waterloo. I was in the process of putting together a grad course in my research area for the fall term, only to discover that Farhad was planning to create a grad course on the same topic! We were pretty sure that there was not enough demand for two courses on formal methods, so we joined forces and jointly taught CS746 System Specification, Verification, and Synthesis.

Farhad was the department’s expert in computer architecture, and he covered our second- and fourth-year courses on this topic. He and his students participated in the Waterloo Formal Methods (WatForm) group meetings and seminars. However, I think his association with hardware set him apart from others in the department and as a result he typically worked alone with his students.

He and I would often meet and talk in the hallways. He was always walking to or from the printer room. Farhad was a voracious reader — I’m pretty sure that he copied and printed more research papers than the rest of the WatForm group combined!  Farhad was a serious scholar who cared deeply about his students. I was very sad to hear of his passing — he will be sorely missed.

Joanne Atlee, Professor and Director of Women in Computer Science, Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo

Strong opinions often dominate at department meetings, but Farhad was always interested in what other people had to say on issues and he made an effort to listen to all sides of a discussion before offering his opinion. I will miss him and his genuine collegiality.

Kellogg Booth, Professor Emeritus, Department of Computer Science, University of British Columbia

Farhad and his family left Tehran for Waterloo in the late 1970s. Their arrival here led to happy times and new friendships. In the later years, he and his wife, Sima, had multiple health problems, with Sima passing a decade ago. But when I think of Farhad and his family, my mind goes back to those earlier, happier days here.

J. Ian Munro, University Professor, Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo

Farhad was one of my favourite people at Waterloo. He taught me much about overcoming obstacles and his smile always brightened my day. I will miss him.

— Wendy Lea Rush, Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo

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