Professor Erol Gelenbe receives the Honour of Commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium#

Professor Erol Gelenbe, member of the Informatics section of Academia Europaea since 2005 and the present chair of the Informatics section, received the Honour of Commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium from Professor Veronique Halloin, President of the European Science Foundation and Secretary General of the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique of Belgium "for his exceptional scentific accomplishments and his contributions to the Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters of Belgium". The event took place at the Delegation of Wallonia and Brussels in Paris, on 23rd January 2023.

This is Prof. Gelenbe's third Commander level honour in Europe, following the award of "Commendatore dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica (Italy)" in 2005, and "Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite (France)" in 2019.

Of Turkish origin, born in Istanbul, he has thus been honoured in three distinct European countries, on top of his award of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (France) in 2015. Erol's research covers the modelling and analysis of computing systems and networks, including neuronal networks and machine learning. In addition to Academia Europaea, he is also an elected Fellow of the Science Academies of Belgium, Hungary, Poland and Turkey and the French National Academy of Technologies. In 2022 he was also elected Honorary Fellow of the Islamic Academy of Sciences, which is based in Amman, Jordan.

Mr Paul Werwilghen, Delegate General of Wallonia-Brussels in Paris.

Professor Veronique Halloin, President of the European Science Foundation, and Secretary General of the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique of Belgium.

Speech by Professor Véronique Halloin #

President of the European Science Foundation and Secretary General of the National Fund for Scientific Research, Delivered on January 23, 2024, at the Hôtel de Wignancourt, the Headquarters of the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation in Paris

Mr. General Delegate of the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation in Paris, Professor Gelenbe, Dear Erol, Dear Mrs. Gelenbe, Dear everyone in your titles and qualities,

Firstly, I would like to thank the General Delegate of Wallonia-Brussels in Paris, Mr. Paul Verwilghen, for graciously hosting us for this decoration ceremony.

The Hôtel de Wignacourt is truly magnificent, ideally located, and, a historical nod. I read on your site that Adrien de Wignacourt, who acquired it in 1880, was the grandson of Count Félix de Mérode, one of the leaders of the Belgian revolution of 1830.

A perfect place, therefore, to confer a prestigious Belgian decoration upon Professor Erol Gelenbe, who resides in Paris, the City of Light, when he is not traveling the world to give lectures.

Dear Professor, you are no stranger to distinctions, a true serial collector: I counted no less than twenty prestigious distinctions, decorations, prizes, and medals, or memberships in learned societies, in France, Turkey, Italy, England, the United States, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Jordan.

I won't list them all. They are clearly signs of recognition for an exceptional academic career. However, I would like to mention the Grand Prix France Télécom from the Academy of Sciences in Paris, received in 1996, which I acknowledge here the former President, Professor Edouard Brézin.

A career generally begins with studies, which in your case involved a highly international education at a time when it was far from the norm: from a bachelor's degree in science from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara in 1966, to a master's degree and a doctorate at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in 1968 and 1970, respectively, thanks in part to a Fulbright scholarship, and then a doctorate in science from the Sorbonne, at the time University Paris VI Pierre and Marie Curie, in 1973, at the age of 28.

Then, the pinnacle: being appointed to a professorship. In your case, it didn't take long: assistant professor at the University of Ann Arbor in the United States at 25, immediately after completing the doctoral thesis at New York University.

Then a series of positions followed, University of Liège, and I will come back to this period, Inria, Paris-Saclay, Duke University in the United States, Central Florida University, Imperial College in London, and the Academy of Sciences in Poland. So, an early professional journey marked especially by its international dimension and scope.

Being a university professor obviously involves teaching, through lectures and seminars, but also contributing to talent development through research, meaning training doctoral students, the third cycle specific to universities. Talents that our societies greatly need. And evidently, you have excelled by supervising over 90 doctoral theses in science! A performance that places you in the top 10 globally among the most prolific researchers in doctoral training in mathematical sciences, as indicated by the Mathematical Genealogy Project of the American Mathematical Society.

This naturally leads us to the research dimension of an academic career.

Professor, you are globally known for your pioneering work on the performance evaluation of computer systems and networks. You invented the mathematical concept of the random network, also introducing the "random neural network," and you are one of the world's leading experts in stochastic methods applied to computing. With numerous practical applications in fields such as sensor networks, energy systems, and economic agents. You have also contributed to the problem of locating objects whose positions are known only imperfectly or even erroneously, which applies to wireless communication networks, robotics, and optimization.

Google Scholar indicated this weekend 29,194 citations… a very impressive bibliometric indicator.

In addition to numerous publications in international journals and conferences, some cited nearly 1,000 times each, you are the author of very important scientific works, especially "Analysis and Synthesis of Computer Systems" in 2010, cited 824 times, and "Introduction to Queuing Networks" in 1998, cited 666 times. These quickly became classics.

I won't even touch on the many research grants you have obtained…

Dear Erol, I wouldn't want to diminish your merits, but let's not forget that you descend from the Ottoman mathematician Gelenbevi Ismail Efendi, who worked with Baron de Tott in the first engineering school of the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century…. Like father, like son... And the family tradition continues, as your son Pamir, whom I greet, has pursued brilliant engineering studies.

Finally, to complete the different dimensions of an academic career, it is also necessary to mention what is called the third mission of universities, that of serving society. Beyond teaching and research missions. It involves putting expertise and resources at the service of the public. This can manifest in various ways: entrepreneurship, technology transfer, communications, local development projects, etc.

In your case, Professor Gelenbe, in addition to your high-level scientific activities and communication activities, you particularly engaged in French national public life in the 1980s by becoming an advisor to the Secretary of State for Universities. You notably contributed to the reform of the Écoles Normales Supérieures, among other things.

Now, let's specifically address the Belgian decoration that I will have the honor of presenting to you, and therefore also your Belgian connection (a term that resonates with me as a seasoned sailor that I pretend to be).

This decoration is that of Commander of the Order of the Crown, an order established in 1897 by King Leopold II. Today, it is awarded for services rendered to the Belgian state, for significant artistic, literary, or scientific merits, particularly in public service.

It is awarded by Royal Decree, signed on April 8 of each year, on the recommendation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in this case, Minister Hadja Lahbib, and this on the proposal of the FNRS, the Fund for Scientific Research of which I am the Secretary General. The research fund was created by patronage in 1928 following a visionary speech by King Albert I, the son of King Leopold II, the originator of this decoration.

Dear Erol, I know that all these historical details are important to you because I read in the speech given by Minister Frédérique Vidal on July 3, 2019, on the occasion of your award of the insignia of Commander of the French National Order of Merit, that you are fond of history.

As for the Legion of Honor, it was awarded to you in 2015 by Minister Fioraso.

Well, sign of the times, over the past decade, it is mostly women who have decorated you 😊 Which, presumably, is not displeasing to you.

You confided in a few friends from the Academy during lively discussions on gender and quotas that at INRIA, in Paris in the 1970s-80s, you had a director who subtly discouraged you from recruiting female researchers, who were still very few in computer science. And that you then found ways through the faculty or CNRS to recruit them anyway - This Belgian decoration is awarded to you for your exceptional general scientific career and, in particular, for the contributions and impacts you have had in French-speaking Belgium, both at the University of Liège and as an associate member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters of Belgium.

I mentioned at the beginning of the speech your time at the University of Liège. In fact, in late 1971, a year after your PhD in NY, you were recruited by the University of Liège through an international call for tenders to occupy the second computer science chair at the university and help develop the training and research activities initiated by Professor Danny Ribbens. The start was planned for late 1972, but your appointment encountered administrative difficulties related to your Turkish nationality and was delayed until the end of 1973.

In the meantime, you accepted an offer from IRIA (later INRIA) near Paris to work there for a year to give a series of lectures and launch new research activities, which were highly appreciated as you then obtained the leadership of a research team and the opportunity to teach at the University of Paris-Nord.

With administrative hassles resolved, in late 1973, you finally started teaching and new research activities at the University of Liège, research activities in the important field of "modeling the performance of computer systems."

This Walloon period continued until 1979 and was particularly fruitful in terms of research, resulting in about 45 publications in top computer science journals such as the Journal of the ACM, Acta Informatica, IEEE Transactions on Computers, on Software Engineering, IEEE on Communications, and Computer Networks. This Liège production in top journals represented at the time half of the Belgian scientific production in computer science, the other half being mainly from the Philips MBLE lab in Brussels; so we can indeed speak of pioneering work for the Belgian community!

Many international conferences as well, almost needless to say, but also the training of young researchers from Liège who co-authored several articles. Much of your work from that time, such as the approximations of queues by diffusion processes, is still cited today, as I could verify on Google Scholar.

One of your Liège students would succeed you in Liège, while another (Alain Kurinckx) would follow you later to France and become a high-ranking software engineering executive within the Thales group.

During this period, you truly helped structure the emerging field of computer science in France and Europe, notably by training several French, and even Polish, Italian, Greek, or Turkish researchers - some of whom are present here - and you initiated with your American and European colleagues, series of ACM, IEEE, and IFIP conferences held every year in the United States or Europe. Your monograph, with your friend Isi Mitrani, "Analysis and Synthesis of Computer Systems" in 1980, published in English, Japanese, and Korean, is also considered a product of this fruitful Liège period.

But having been unable to obtain permanent residency in Belgium, and I am sincerely sorry for this, in 1979, you accepted the offer from the University of Paris-Saclay, which you joined.

Nevertheless, you managed to keep Belgian friends, such as Professor Danny Ribbens, who unfortunately is no longer with us, and Professor Wolper, also a computer scientist and former rector of the University of Liège, who was supposed to join us tonight but was last-minute prevented due to family medical concerns.

The University of Liège has not forgotten your decisive contributions, as in 2006 it awarded you the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.

And then, a more recent aspect of your Belgian connection, in 2015, you were elected Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters of Belgium, within the Technology and Society Class. But you had already been elected to five other academies before.

In our Royal Academy, Erol deploys an energy and commitment that are extraordinary. He particularly led the team that prepared our report on the important theme of "open science," and ensured its dissemination by the academy, but also its publication in English in an American popular science journal, Ubiquity.

Open Science is indeed a major topic of interest. It is, in fact, an essential mechanism that conditions the rapid dissemination of scientific publications and knowledge, strongly influencing the development and applications of science and technology. But it also raises questions about the necessary quality of works and publications, the need for objective peer review, and also the needs for information technology and communication infrastructure to ensure the storage and dissemination of documents and publications.

Erol also led and directed the academic team that wrote our report on delays in technological innovation in Europe; this report was adopted and published by EuroCASE.

All of these actions have also highlighted high Belgian competencies internationally.

Erol has also actively joined our organizing committee for the International EuroCASE Symposium that we held in Brussels during the 200th anniversary of our Academy.

Also noteworthy are Erol's French and international reports on the important subject of the quantity of electrical energy consumed by computing.

Professor Gelenbe is a true driving force, and I can personally testify to this, having been a member of several of these working groups.

Dear Erol, it is difficult to keep up with your CV because you never stop undertaking new initiatives. Currently, you are the president of the computer science section of the Academia Europaea, a member of an advanced panel of the prestigious ERC European Research Council, and you are currently (or perhaps it's already finished) working on a report on the very important subject of Energy and Climate Transition within a CAETS committee (Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences), etc.

It is for all these reasons, for your internationally recognized scientific achievements, as well as for the intense and high-quality work you have done for the University of Liège at the beginning of your career and more recently within the Technology and Society Class of the Royal Academy of Belgium, that Luc Chefneux, the former Director of this Class, asked me to propose to H.M. the King that Erol be elevated to the rank of Commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium. Looking for an anecdote to lighten this speech, a common friend reminded me that after a few drinks, you occasionally express yourself in beautiful verses.

So let's attempt a few sonnets in your honor (translated from the French version):

On the roads of knowledge, enlightened and victorious guide,
Decorated, honored, in prestigious positions, he shapes computer science,
Audacious genius. from the shores of the Bosphorus to the streets of Paris, his reputation spreads much like a melody.
Distinguished professor, tireless researcher, he orchestrates progress in unalterable notes.
For this master of bytes, this virtuoso of data, let's salute his genius, in verses of woven praises.
Decorated a thousand times, his brilliance persists, at the summit of science, his star resists.

A little wink, this was suggested to me in 2 seconds by ChatGPT to whom I provided 2 or 3 lines of what I expected. Professor Gelenbe, Dear Erol, my speech was long but I plead not guilty, it is your early, long, and prolific career that is the cause.

For all the reasons I have summarized, I have the great honor and pleasure of presenting you with these insignia of Commander of the Order of the Crown! Congratulations!

Prof. Gelenbe receives the Honour of Commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium from Prof. Veronique Halloin

Prof. Gelenbe gives his acceptance speech.

The Academy congratulates Prof. Gelenbe to this distinction! #

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