Oswald G. Villard Jr., 87, Was Electrical Engineer

Oswald Garrison (Mike) Villard Jr. died quietly on Jan. 7 as the result of illness.

Mike, as he was known to friends since his college days at Yale, grew up in New York city and Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He received his bachelor's degree in English literature from Yale. He met his wife-to-be, Barbara (Bobbie) Slater Letts, at a Mills College dance where, for him, it was love at first sight. The newlyweds first lived in Palo Alto, Calif., where Mr. Villard pursued his lifelong interest in radios as a graduate student at Stanford University under the renowned electrical engineer Dr. Fred Terman, and moved to Harvard, Mass., while Mr. Villard worked with Terman at the Harvard Radio Research Lab in the early 1940s. The Villards then moved back to Palo Alto, where he continued his studies and research. He began as an associate professor at Stanford in 1938, contingent on the completion of his Ph.D., which he received in 1949. His graduation was, of course, delayed by the war.

In order to keep in touch with family in the East, Mr. Villard took his family each summer to Chappaquiddick, where his brother, Henry, owned a summer house. Mike and Bobbie began as renters around 1954 on Chappy and later became land owners. They developed many good friends there. While at the Vineyard, Mr. Villard kept up his workaholic ways by doing special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In 1960 Mike and Bobbie moved the family into the country in Woodside, Calif., where they lived until their late years. After first moving to Woodside, Mr. Villard and son Tom rescued a family of baby owls from a water tower about to be torn down, and the family became known in the area as the "owl people." They successfully rescued and raised a number of owls with the help of a veterinarian in Palo Alto.

Mr. Villard was graduated from Yale in 1938, an English literature major. At Yale he made Phi Beta Kappa and was voted into the Elizabethan Society. He won a $50 prize in an English contest, and, baffling everyone, went out and bought electrical engineering textbooks. He realized that in his heart he really wanted to be a radio engineer, having had this as a hobby from the time he received his first radio as a gift in 1928 and built one from a kit the following year. Even while an English major at Yale, he started a second radio club at the university. He finally decided to break family tradition and attend graduate school in electrical engineering at Stanford University.

Mr. Villard received a graduate assistantship at Stanford University and completed his Ph.D. He then began laboratory research and mathematical analysis leading to major advances in signal generation of the single sideband (SSB) radios. He and others at Stanford joined with a small group of business executives in 1946 to create Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), where much of his research was based until late in his life. He was a noted professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University as well as a graduate advisor for years. He was noted for his interest in ham radios and was a longtime trustee for the Stanford University Radio Club, W6XY.

His research and work led to major advances in preventing the jamming of radio signals. This simple antenna technique is still published in print media as well as on the Internet.

Mr. Villard, a leader in electromagnetic theory and experimental methods, pioneered the concept and development of a large program to design and build over-the-horizon radars for detecting bombers and high-altitude missiles, starting with SRI's Wide Aperture Research Facility. In addition, he conducted early experiments demonstrating feasibility of the stealth aircraft concept by using specially treated low-impedance surfaces and developed advanced techniques for canceling target return signals from radar and sonar that resulted in reducing aircraft and submarine detection. For this work he received the Department of Defense Medal of Honor - its highest civilian award - and was elected to the National Academies of Science and Engineering. He was also made a fellow at SRI, its highest employee honor.

Mr. Villard was honored with many distinguished awards of achievement and fellowships during his lifetime, including: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellowship, 1957; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellowship, 1960; American Geophysical Union Fellow, 1962; SRI Fellows, 1988; and many more. He was a frequently published and quoted author in his field. He led a rich, full life with his work and children, and was a caring, devoted husband.

He was preceded in death by his wife of more than 50 years, Barbara Letts Villard, and many family members including his sister, Dorothea Villard Hammond, brother Henry H. Villard, professor and noted economist, and cousin Harry Serrano Villard, author, ambassador and officer of the Dept. of Foreign Service. He is survived by his children, Thomas Houghton Villard of California, Barbara Suzanne Villard of Arizona, and John Sandford Villard of Massachusetts. He has three grandchildren, Marie, Dominique and Owen.

Service arrangements are private. Memorial gifts may be made to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.