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Ralph Deutsch – Back in Ann Arbor

According to the IEEE biography, Ralph Deutsch spent the period from 1948 through 1952 serving on the Electrical Engineering faculty of the University of Michigan and leading a research group in Noise and Information Theory at UM’s Willow Run Laboratories.

My father took up the “ham radio” hobby around this time. He continued building his own radios for a while but gave it up later in life because it became easy to simply buy them from catalogs. The part of the hobby he enjoyed was evidently building the equipment – not using it.

My father was a “lecturer” at UM since he did not have a Ph.D. and could not be a professor. He was working towards a Ph.D. in mathematics while both teaching and running the research group. He taught a course in “motors and generators”. It was a required course for physics majors.

My father met my future mother, Charlotte Halman, at a Hillel graduate mixer in October of 1951. My mother does not even remember him from that event. She decided to go at the last minute with a female friend. My father was evidently picking out songs at a piano – not very proficiently. This is about all my mother remembers of him from that night. He actually began dating my mother’s friend. My mother ran into the two them in December 1951 at a concert of the Messiah at UM’s Hill Auditorium. After this, he asked this friend my mother’s name – but she refused to tell him. Armed only with his memory that my mother’s first name was Charlotte and the fact that she worked in the University Library, he searched the Campus Faculty Directory and found her telephone number. Luckily, her last name only started with an “H”. He proposed two months later and they were married at the Hillel on June of 1952. My father told her he wanted a small wedding – no more than 20 people. If 21 people showed up, he said he would walk out.

The wedding was small and therefore he didn’t walk out. They left for California right after the ceremony. My father never completed his Ph.D. Instead, he took a job in Los Angeles so he could support a family.

The two of them drove from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles. They had planned to drive southward through the desert – but it was too hot. Hence they took a northern route. They ended up visiting practically every national park on the way. The parks included Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite. In Yosemite, my father tried to get my mother to stay in a tent cabin. She refused and they ended up staying in San Francisco instead.

Ralph and Charlotte Deutsch at Yosemite in 1952