BY SOLOMON J. BUCHSBAUM
ERIC E. SUMNER, a retired vice-president of AT&T Bell Laboratories, died suddenly on January 19, 1993, while working at his computer terminal. He was sixty-eight. At the time of his death he was serving as the chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Strategic Planning Committee and vice-chairman of the IEEE Nominations and Appointments Committee. He served as president of the IEEE in 1991. Eric is survived by his wife, Anne-Marie, and four children. His son, Eric E., Jr., is a research engineer and is head of a software engineering research department at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Naperville, Illinois.
Eric Sumner was born in Vienna, Austria. He was brought to the United States at an early age and was educated here. He lived in and attended public schools in New York City. He received his B.M.E. degree from Cooper Union in 1948, and his M.S. (in physics) and Ph.D. (in electrical engineering) degrees in 1953 and in 1960, respectively; both graduate degrees were awarded by Columbia University.
His English was fluent, of course—not so his German—perhaps with a tinge of an accent, which made it a delight to listen to his oratory. There was a certain flair about Eric Sumner, a debonair demeanor that was unmistakable. For example, he always drank his tea and coffee from porcelain cups, properly served, never from paper or plastic cups.