Azriel Rosenfeld, 73, Jewish scholar, head of automation center

February 28, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Azriel Rosenfeld, former director of the Center of Automation Research at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Jewish scholar, died of lung and brain cancer Feb. 22 at Gilchrest Center Hospice in Baltimore. He was 73.

Mr. Rosenfeld was born in New York City and attended Yeshiva University, where he received his rabbinical ordination in 1952 and his doctorate in Hebrew literature three years later. He also received a doctorate in mathematics from Columbia University in 1957.

He was a teacher in New York for several years and met his wife, the former Eve Hertzberg, at a wedding. The couple moved to Silver Spring, and he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1964.

Mr. Rosenfeld specialized in computer technology and researched digital image analysis, a technology that helped computers form pictures of objects. The technology was used in remote sensing systems and biomedical image systems. He wrote nearly 30 books about the subject, in addition to about 600 academic articles.

When he started working at the university, there were 25 computer professors, and Rosenfeld helped attract more academics and students, said William E. Kirwan, the university system chancellor. The department now has nearly 150 such professors, Kirwan said.

"He was one of the key people in putting the University of Maryland on the computer science map," Kirwan said.

Mr. Rosenfeld was able to be so productive because he was seemingly incapable of idleness, friends and family said.

"Azriel, more than anyone I have ever known, regarded every minute of his time as a resource not to be wasted," Larry Davis, a chairman of the computer science department at the University of Maryland, College Park wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

He was so driven he was always the first person in the office, often arriving before 7 a.m. said Janice Perrone, his assistant for almost 15 years. Rosenfeld would always make the first pot of coffee every morning, dumping a packet and a half of Folger's grounds into the pot instead of the usual one. "He liked it strong," Ms. Perrone said.

Mr. Rosenfeld was more involved in research than in teaching but took the time to mentor as many as 15 students at a time. He would stay in his office late to talk to students and would edit any drafts or papers as quickly as possible, returning them to students the next working day.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Rosenfeld went to a conference in Amsterdam Instead of taking a day or two to tour the city, he arrived in the morning, gave his speech, then returned home that afternoon.

"Of course, Azriel worked throughout both flights, writing a paper on the outbound and editing a bunch of student papers on his return," Mr. Davis wrote.

Besides his academic work, Mr. Rosenfeld was an avid reader, especially of science fiction. He donated his science fiction books to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and continued reading several novels a month.

During the last several months of his life, Mr. Rosenfeld had trouble reading because the cancer had affected his sight. "That was difficult for him. He was a man who tried to utilize all of his time," said his son Elie Rosenfeld of Highland Park, N.J.

After his retirement in 2001, Mr. Rosenfeld remained involved with the Jewish community. He read the Torah for his synagogue and was an adviser to torah.org, run by his son-in-law, Yaakov Menken.

Rosenfeld answered questions e-mailed to "Ask the Rabbi," and "he would either know the answer or he could find out the answer to anything," Mr. Menken said.

In the weeks before his death, he had a 5-inch stack of questions he was researching or preparing to answer, Mr. Menken said. "He kept on teaching," Mr. Menken said.

Funeral services have been held.

Besides his wife of almost 45 years and his son, Mr. Rosenfeld is survived by his father, Abraham H. Rosenfeld of Baltimore; another son, David Rosenfeld of Beit Shemesh, Israel; a daughter, Tova Menken of Northwest Baltimore; and 13 grandchildren.

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