Professor Mario Gerla MS ’70, PhD ’73, a pioneer in computer networks who had supervised more than 100 Ph.D. graduates during his long career, died on February 9 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old.
Gerla was born in Arona, Italy, in 1943 and grew up in Milan. He received an engineering degree from the Politecnico di Milano in 1966 and completed service in the Italian Navy following graduation. In 1969 he moved to the United States to join the UCLA research team, led by his advisor Leonard Kleinrock, that was developing the ARPANET, the predecessor to today’s internet.
After earning his doctorate, Gerla became a manager at the Network Analysis Corporation in Glen Cove, N.Y., where he was involved in several computer network design projects for both government and industry.
Gerla returned to UCLA in 1977 to join the computer science faculty, where he would remain until his passing. He was the director of the Center for Autonomous Intelligent Networks, and of the Network Research Lab. He led research focused on the design, performance evaluation, and control of distributed computer communication systems and networks. His early work focused on optimizing what would eventually evolve into the internet.
His later work in the field of mobile ad hoc networks was recognized with his election to Fellow of IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery, and with the SIGMOBILE Outstanding Contribution Award. Two major international communications conferences, INFOCOM and MILCOM, honored Gerla with lifetime achievement awards.
From 2015 to 2018, Gerla was the chair of the Computer Science Department. In 2015 Gerla was appointed to hold UCLA’s Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Networking, an honor reserved for scholars who have made significant contributions to internet research.
Although he left Italy nearly 50 years ago, he always maintained a close connection with his family and research colleagues in his homeland. He helped to found the Italian Scientists and Scholars of North America Foundation (ISSNAF) and was honored with the Officer of the Italian Republic Order of Merit.
Gerla was a marathoner, triathlete and member of the UCLA Masters Swim Club. He was also an ardent traveler who was proud to have visited all seven continents and swum in six of seven seas during his lifetime.
He is survived by his wife, Maggi, his daughters, Marisa and Cristina, and his siblings Emma, Silvia, and Franco.
On behalf of Mario’s family, we would like to thank you for the outpouring of support following his passing on February 9th. We have been so touched by the kind messages and beautiful memories of him as a teacher, scholar, colleague, and friend that you have shared. A celebration of Mario’s life will be held on Saturday, March 23rd at 11:00 AM at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering (Mong Learning Center, Engineering VI – First Floor, 404 Westwood Plaza), followed by a reception. All are welcome to join. If you do plan to attend, we kindly ask that you add your name here so that we can plan appropriately and provide additional details as they become available.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to support the Mario Gerla Scholarship in Computer Science at UCLA to enhance the diversity of students and scholars in the field of computer science. (Initial donations made to the Computer Science Department in memory of Dr. Mario Gerla will be transferred to the scholarship fund once it is formally established.)