Scott Wills, 51, Tech professor was devoted to his students

Scott Wills liked how cameras made the world safer, conveyed information better and kept families happier. It was no surprise that last month he watched one of his Georgia Tech students on Skype defend her dissertation proposal while he lay dying in his hospice bed.

The student, Dana Forsthoefel, will cherish that memory. She said Dr. Wills, whom she met as a sophomore and who became her adviser in the doctoral program,was an enthusiastic professor, mentor and trusted friend for students. He watched Ms. Forsthoefel’s dissertation committee meeting by video camera over the computer program.

“He was determined to support me,” Ms. Forsthoefel, 25, said of her adviser. “A more caring person you could not know. He cared more about his students than any professor I think I’ve ever had.”

Dr. Wills, 51, of Duluth, died from melanoma cancer on Friday. Funeral services will be held Monday at 3 p.m. at Duluth First United Methodist Church and Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Catholic Church of Saint Monica.

Linda Wills said her her husband easily interacted with students and young faculty at Georgia Tech, where he taught 2,880 students in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was a professor anointed as the school’s best teacher when his students voted him as recipient of the Richard M. Bass/Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Teacher Award in 2009.

“He was always trying to identify the potential in somebody -- who they were and what gifts they had -- and he could draw it out of them,” said his wife, also a Georgia Tech professor.

Hassan Kingravi, 29, saw the caring side of Dr. Wills before he knew anything about him as a professor. Mr. Kingravi was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease after becoming a graduate student at Georgia Tech and was hospitalized in 2008. Dr. Wills, who had been just diagnosed with stage four melanoma, learned during treatment of Mr. Kingravi’s plight.

The professor soon visited the despondent graduate student, who told Dr. Wills about a Tech professor whose research he admired. Dr. Wills called the professor who, with other faculty members, called Mr. Kingravi.

“A lof of people when they get sick, they don’t care about other people but he went out of his way to help,” Mr. Kingravi said. “It was a distraction I really needed. ... When I met him I was pretty down, and while every person who gives you hope is important, he had a much more serious diagnosis that basically had no cure, and he was still cheerful.”

Dr. Wills was born in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and he was graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1983. He returned to teach at the university in 1991 after earning a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he met his wife.

Linda Wills said they partnered in research on surveillance technology. Her husband was an amateur photographer who was enthralled with how cameras could be used to do everything from spot roadside bombs in Iraq to catch traffic violators in Duluth. An Eagle Scout, he enjoyed hiking and camping with his family.

Additional survivors are his daughter, Rosemary, 14; his son, Frank, 13; his parents, Donald and Virginia Wills of Ocala, Fla., and a sister Kathleen Wills Rittenburg of Winter Haven, Fla.