Dr. Chester “Chet” W. Anderson III, a tennis standout at Wichita State University in the 1960s who later helped develop computer speech recognition technology for AT&T Bell Laboratories, has died at age 75.
Anderson, of Tinton Falls, N.J., was born to Ruth and Chester W. Anderson II. They moved to Wichita in 1957, according to information posted by a family friend on Facebook.
He attended Wichita State University on a tennis scholarship and completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics.
During the 1964 tennis season, Anderson teamed for doubles play with fellow Shocker Ben Anzola, a recruit from Columbia who was the star of the team for several years and later inducted in the WSU Sports Hall of Fame.
At the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament that year, they won the doubles title and placed individually (Anderson 4th and Anzola 1st), pushing WSU to win the conference title over North Texas State University, 14-13, according to the MVC Records Book.
Anderson left WSU to obtain a PhD in geo-physics at the University of Alberta, Canada. He settled into a career at Bell Labs, for decades one of the leading tech developers in the world.
He rose to lead the company’s Advanced Products Group, and spearheaded development of the Bell Labs Automated Speech Recognition program, which became commercially available in the 1990s. The program was dubbed “Watson,” not to be confused with IBM’s supercomputer of the same name.
The speech recognition program – which turns spoken words into text on a computer screen – became the world’s leading speech system, according to industry publications. It forms the basis for software like Dragon.
Anderson became chief operating officer of Sound Advantage, president of the Wichita Group, and senior vice president of Technology Integration.
In 2014, he became the director of business development for Translate Your World, a company whose software can translate speech to subtitles for teleconferencing and also turn the subtitles into a synthesized voice in the target language.
Anderson was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Red Bank Men’s Club. He served on the Tinton Falls Board of Education and Borough Council. He was a founding member of the Monmouth County Urban League and the Program for Acceleration in Computer Science Careers (PAC), a free program sponsored by the School of Science at Monmouth University and the Asbury Park-Neptune Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. He was also a deacon at Emmanuel Baptist Church and taught at the Deacons’ Union Monmouth Bible Institute.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Janet; sons Chester IV, Michael, Christopher and David (Julie) Anderson; and grandchildren Christopher Jr., Karina, Natalya, Valentino and Lillian.