The Story of Kemal Demirciler

In 1985, Kemal Demirciler was a star high school athlete who had just won the Northern Cyprus championship in discus throwing and was part of the territory’s top high school basketball team.  He was also a gifted violinist and an honor student who had received a prestigious scholarship from the Cyprus American Scholarship Fund.  At the young age of 17, this talented scholar-athlete was admitted to the University of Southern California (USC).


Three weeks before Kemal was to leave for Los Angeles to begin his studies at USC, he was in a diving accident which caused a severe spinal cord injury.  But having no use of his legs and only limited use of his arms did not stop Kemal from living life and moving forward towards success. In fact, Kemal remained focused on getting to USC. 

Seven years later, thanks to his immense drive and positivity, Kemal was finally able to realize his dream of studying at USC.  Four years after that, Kemal graduated from USC with a degree in electrical engineering and a perfect 4.00 GPA. He was chosen to give the valedictory address at the 1996 commencement ceremony.   

“Kemal was an inspiration for me, for my PhD students and for many others on campus. Even though many tasks, such as programming or writing, were often more time-consuming for him than for other students, he kept up with all his research and none of us ever heard him complain."     
- Antonio Ortega (Kemal's Advisor)

Kemal stayed at USC to obtain his PhD.  His thesis focused on novel methods for vector quantization; an advanced tool for speech, image and video compression. This work led to several publications, which continue to be cited to this day. 

After graduating, he returned to Cyprus where he worked at Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) as an advisor to master/PhD students, while also actively helping his family’s company; doing everything from new business development and contracts to logo design, to yearly calendars and T-shirts. Kemal discovered that he had a real talent for mentoring others and he made a positive and lasting impact on many students' lives. One of his students, Mohammad Naser Sabet Jahromi, Imaging Scientist at Demant recalls:

“Kemal tremendously influenced the way I thought about research, discipline, hard work, and problem-solving. He challenged me to question every detail and always pushed me to be better. My last memory of him was his words to me after my thesis defense. He told me how much he enjoyed watching me grow and improve over two years of our research together. Well, Kamal, I have never forgotten those words! Wherever you are now, rest assured that you have left an incredible stamp on who I am. I celebrate your life and the differences you made in mine."


Kemal Demirciler's Legacy

Kemal never stopped living life and pursuing goals with passion and positivity. Sadly, on December 11, 2019, Kemal passed away at the age of 51.

Kemal was an inspiration to those whose lives he touched through his kindness, brilliance, hard work and determination.  He never let what life threw at him stop him from moving forward and pursuing his next goal.  That is why those who knew Kemal want his legacy to live on and be of help to others.  

By making a gift in support of the Dr. Kemal Demirciler Memorial Scholarship Fund, your gift will help to provide funding for research and/or other educational expenses to engineering students who have a physical disability.  


Thank you for your consideration in supporting the Dr. Kemal Demirciler Memorial Scholarship Fund.  To make your gift, please click here.

If you would like to make your gift via check 
(made payable to 
The University of Southern California), please send it to:

USC Viterbi School of Engineering
c/o:  University Advancement – Gift Services Office
1150 South Olive Street, Suite 2500
Los Angeles, CA  90015
United States

NOTE:  On the memo line of the check, please include:  Kemal Demirciler Memorial Scholarship Fund (KEMALFUND)

Published on July 28th, 2021

Last updated on December 8th, 2021