Jordan J. Baruch, Commerce official who helped strengthen China ties, dies at 88

Jordan J. Baruch, 88, an electrical engineer and acoustics expert who as an assistant secretary of commerce during the Carter administration helped strengthen business ties with China, died of respiratory failure Oct. 26 at his home in Chevy Chase.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Roberta Baruch.

Dr. Baruch (pronounced Bah-ROOSH) was considered one of the foremost authorities in the field of acoustics. He held several patents for sound-dampening technology and loudspeaker systems.

At various times in his career, he was a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Dartmouth College. In Boston, he helped start a television station and was co-founder of an investment firm.

Dr. Baruch’s entry into government came through his work in acoustics.

Jordan J. Baruch, 88, an electrical engineer and acoustics expert who, as an assistant secretary of Commerce during the Carter administration, helped strengthen business ties with China, died Oct. 26. (Family photo/FAMILY PHOTO)

One of his acquaintances in the field was Sidney Harman, the Washington industrialist and high-fidelity stereo inventor who died in April.

After President Jimmy Carter appointed Harman undersecretary of commerce in 1977, Harman soon asked his friend to join the administration.

At the Commerce Department, Dr. Baruch was part of an American delegation sent to China to help establish business relationships with executives and managers and to discuss emerging technology. In 1980, he helped start a federal program to train Chinese government officials and industry leaders in American management skills.

At Carter’s request, Dr. Baruch led an inquiry to determine ways to empower American companies and spur innovation. At the time, foreign companies were emerging as leaders in the technology markets, especially with videotape recording equipment.

“The rest of the world is moving more rapidly because our country has broken the path for them,” Dr. Baruch told Newsweek magazine in 1979. “But they are steadily closing the gap.”

After leaving the Commerce Department in 1981, Dr. Baruch ran a consulting firm in Washington until retiring in the early 2000s.

Jordan Jay Baruch was born Aug. 21, 1923, in New York City. While attending Brooklyn College, he enlisted in the Army during World War II. The military offered him the choice of joining a specialty program for electrical engineering or training to be a paratrooper.

A self-described “orthodox coward,” he opted for the Army Signal Corps and served in the Pacific and Europe, where he witnessed the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.

As part of his Army training, Dr. Baruch attended MIT. After the war, he returned and studied engineering. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in 1948 and received his doctorate two years later.

He served on the faculty as an assistant professor of electrical engineering before starting a consulting firm that specialized in acoustics. Besides designing concert halls, the firm specialized in quieting engines for boats and jets.

Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Rhoda Wasserman Baruch of Chevy Chase; three children, Roberta Baruch of North Bethesda, Marjory Baruch of Fayetteville, N.Y., and Lawrence Baruch of Morris Plains, N.J.; and nine grandchildren.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
Continue reading 10 minutes left
Most Read Local