Oral-History:Daniel Toland

Daniel Toland

Daniel Toland attended Rutgers University-New Brunswick, earning a bachelor's degree in Communications. Following graduation, he started work with the IEEE in 1989 in Field Service, what is now the contact center. In 1991 he began supporting the Regional Activities Board, and later the Life Members Committee, until 1996. From April 1996 to November 1997 he was involved with IEEE Technical Activities before moving back to the Regional Activities. In 1999 he became the primary staff support person for the Life Members Committee, a position he held until 2011. Currently Toland holds a position as Program Director for the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus Initiative.

In this interview, Toland discusses his over twenty-five years of involvement with IEEE. He examines the evolution of the Life Members Committee's focus, structure, and financing methods over the years. Noting the Committee's movement towards embracing Foundation protocol and a more Regional Activities-focus, Toland highlights the successes of the Committee's projects and contributions. Additionally, he reflects on the future of the Committee and on the activities of the Affinity Groups chapters.

About the Interview

DANIEL TOLAND: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Butrica, IEEE History Center, 20 November 2014.

Interview #698 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Daniel Toland, an oral history conducted in 2014 by Andrew Butrica, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Daniel Toland
INTERVIEWER: Andrew Butrica
DATE: 20 November 2014
PLACE: Hyatt Regency Hotel, New Brunswick, NJ

Start at IEEE

BUTRICA:

Okay, this is an oral history interview with Daniel Toland, November 20, 2014, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. How long have you been with the IEEE?

TOLAND:

I’ve been with IEEE for over 25 years. I started in 1989.

BUTRICA:

In 1989.

TOLAND:

Yes, I just celebrated my 25th anniversary on October 16th to be precise.

BUTRICA:

Did you come in as an engineer?

TOLAND:

No. Actually, I went to Rutgers University, and it was my first job out of college. I started working in the Field Services area, which is the contact center, in IEEE terms, today. I started working there. I had one position, working as part of the senior member application process, and then I moved over to another position in 1991, which got me involved in working with the Regional Activities Board, and also the Life Members Committee.

BUTRICA:

What was your degree in?

TOLAND:

I had a degree in communications.

BUTRICA:

Communications?

TOLAND:

Yes, a bachelor of arts in communications.

BUTRICA:

That's right. They had that program here at Rutgers—New Brunswick.

TOLAND:

Yes.

BUTRICA:

How did you come to be with the Regional Activities Board?

TOLAND:

I moved over, like I said, from one role within Field Services, which now became Regional Activities, to working for Mary Ann Hoffman, who was the manager at the time, who then reported to the managing director of Field Services, which is now Regional Activities, or MGA [Member and Geographic Activities], depending on what time you’re talking about. I assumed the role there, working for the Regional Activities Board, doing administrative support for the board itself, and some of the committees, and that also included the Life Members Committee, or at the time the Life Member Fund Committee, which is what it was when I first started.

BUTRICA:

Right. I think it changed toward the end of 1992.

TOLAND:

Yes, 1992 is when they switched it over to the Life Members Committee, so I think 1993 is when it really started being referred to as that.

BUTRICA:

When did you start with them?

TOLAND:

I started in 1991, supporting the RA [Regional Activities] Board, and then also the Life Members Committee at that time, as well.

BUTRICA:

Was it Mary Ann Hoffman who got you involved with the Life Member Fund Committee?

TOLAND:

Yes. She was providing staff support for it as well, and then I was working for her, ended up reporting to her, and then also doing a lot of the stuff for the committees, as well.

BUTRICA:

Did she give you a reason why she was bringing you over to the LMFC?

TOLAND:

It was just part of the job, or the responsibilities of the position that I took and moved over to, so it was part of the things that I would be responsible for.

BUTRICA:

Were you replacing somebody who had previously been giving support services to the committee?

TOLAND:

Yes, Cathy Downer, who was an IEEE employee at the time. She moved over to another position within IEEE. She had an opportunity for another position within the organization, so I then moved over to work for Mary Ann.

Life Members Fund Committee Conflicts

BUTRICA:

Right. Now that I know that you started that early, I’m wondering if you recall when the committee had financial problems in 1992, and they had to cut a lot of their projects, the medals, prizes, and different activities that they were funding. Do you remember that?

TOLAND:

I honestly don’t remember too much specifically at that point. My role in supporting the committee kind of changed over time, matured over time, as I also, I suppose, matured and got used to it. I supported the committee from 1991 to 1996. I was in that same role, working for Mary Ann. At that time, it was more administrative. I wasn’t necessarily involved in some of the decisions or having the discussions at the time. But then when I moved back—I was in IEEE Technical Activities from April of 1996 to November of 1997—then in November of 1997 I moved back to Regional Activities. At that time, Mary Ann was still there. Mary Ann supported the committee in 1997 and 1998, but then in 1999 Mary Ann took on different responsibilities, so I started working with the Life Members Committee again in 1999. I worked with the Life Members Committee until I switched to another position in IEEE in October of 2011. For those 12 years or so, I was the primary staff working with Cecilia Jankowski in supporting the committee. During that time, my role did change. I kind of got more involved in the decision, the strategy, and helping provide some direction to the committee, as well.

BUTRICA:

Okay. In that first period, up to 1996, how active was the LMFC in terms of dealing with the Regional Activities Board?

TOLAND:

At that time, there really wasn’t as much interaction with, say, the Life Members Committee and the Regional Activities Board. They were almost separate organizations. The Life Members Committee was autonomous from the Regional Activities Board, but it was an IEEE Board of Directors committee, and also a committee of the IEEE Foundation. At that time it had more of a closer relationship with the Board of Directors than it did with actually the Regional Activities Board. It was just a matter of maybe coincidence, the fact that I worked with the Regional Activities Board and I also supported the Life Members Committee. I actually asked somebody the other day who’d been at IEEE longer than I, Peggy Kovacs, if she had an explanation as to why the Life Members Committee reported to Field Services at the time, how did that come about providing administrative support to the committee. She didn’t have a specific answer, like “It was because of A,” but I think in talking to her, our best suggestion is that at the time—and it still is today—the Regional Activities was responsible for the elevation of members to life member status. I think there was a connection: since this group supports the Life Members, and elevates them to life member status, it was reasonable that this group would also be the staff that works with the volunteers in supporting the committee itself. I think that is how it came about to being supported by Regional Activities outside of the Corporate Activities Group, even though it was a board or committee.

BUTRICA:

Earlier—before your time—there were definite conflicts between the committee and the Board of Directors, which at one point actually led to the termination of one of their activities, their main activity at the time. In that first period up to 1996, did you see conflict with the Board of Directors or with the Foundation?

TOLAND:

I never saw any direct conflict. I think at the time, during those years, the main issue—I guess conflict, if you want to consider it—was really more the question of the qualification of Life Members, and actually how many people were going to become Life Members, and the impact that might have within IEEE. We spent a lot of time looking at the formula that determines Life Members, and doing calculations years in advance, saying how many people do they expect to be Life Members. It really resulted in the formula being changed at times. I believe it was changed to a different formula, and it lasted for about a year, and then they went back to what the formula still is. A lot of the time the discussion at that time was really regarding the Life Member definition and the criteria that was used to establish it.

BUTRICA:

Right. Then what went along with that was defending Life Member privileges, if you will. For example, reduced conference registration rates was always an issue, because even though it was an established privilege—whether in the bylaws or elsewhere—the conferences would not be aware of it—for whatever reason—and Life Members would be denied a reduced registration rate. That seemed to be an ongoing issue.

TOLAND:

Yes, that is something that’s always been brought up, and I think that a lot of that is based on the fact that IEEE is a vibrant organization, but it’s also vibrant due to the fact that we’ve got a lot of people who are enthusiastic who are doing a lot of the activities amongst themselves. They’ve got a lot of volunteers who are doing stuff for the first time, and they might not be aware of the policies and the procedures that have been established. Things have gotten better, in terms of awareness of things in recent years with communications and making things a little bit easier for people to follow, but at the time—especially when you’re talking about the early 1990s—still a lot of it was paper, a lot of it was word of mouth, and people did not get that information, so it did create more of a concern for people. Today, it’s still an issue, as far as I know, but I don’t think it is as much of an issue.

BUTRICA:

As you get more and more Life Members, one of the big costs in servicing them seems to be the cost of Spectrum. Whether or not Life Members should receive Spectrum was a big issue, if you remember that.

TOLAND:

Yes, I do remember having that discussion, but I think they also eventually agreed that they should still continue to receive it. At some point they talked about providing it electronically, but they also realized that for the Life Members that might not necessarily be the best course of action, since a lot of Life Members might not have been very electronically current at the time. I’m sure that is changing with today’s technology, but at the time I don’t know if it was really a practical solution.

BUTRICA:

Right. It seemed to me, now that you bring that up, the Life Members Committee created a website, which was initially just for the members of the committee. Then they opened it up to all Life Members. Do you remember any of that?

TOLAND:

Yes. I worked with the volunteers. [Irving] Irv Engelson was one of the volunteers I worked with at the time who was a member of the committee. You’re right in saying that originally the audience was for just the Life Members Committee itself, specifically focused for them, but then we also realized that we did have 30,000 Life Members—or however many we had at the time—and that we really should be using—at the time, I’ve got to say—newer technology in terms of the web to make sure that people knew about the different activities that the Life Members Committee supported, and we were also seeing ways to increase awareness of the fund and maybe get more people to contribute to it.

BUTRICA:

Was there a problem with the design of the website or the links for getting to it?

TOLAND:

I don’t recall any specific design problems that were more out of the unusual than developing something new for the first time. I think at the time all within IEEE we were following the techniques and the templates that were being provided, but I think we did eventually come up with a better way to do it, but I think that was just a natural progression of learning how to make something a little bit better.

Technologies of Sociability

BUTRICA:

Right. It seems that the Life Members Committee has had, shall we say, several areas of main focus. One is education—students and educators, the education medal. The other is—or not the other, but another big one—seems to be geared toward Life Members, advocating for them within IEEE. That would be their right to a partial reduction of registration fees and that sort of thing. A major focus area that they sort of discovered was that they should be about not just Life Members, but older IEEE members. And they attempted to create various—perhaps it’s not the right word to use—technologies of sociability, different ways to get Life Members and older members: A, to be more active within the IEEE; and, B, to be able to be sociable, to communicate and to socialize among themselves. Very early on, they began supporting a luncheon at the winter meeting, if I remember that correctly.

TOLAND:

Yes, they would do it at the Electro, which was a conference in the Northeast. These are geographically-based conferences. As opposed to being supported by a society, they were supported by a region. IEEE would have Electro in the Northeast. Westcon would be in the West, and Midcon was in the Central. But you’re right. It was actually probably early on when I had started, or maybe just before. They had been supporting an industry luncheon for Life Members at Electro, and then I forget the specific reasons, but they did kind of step away from doing these luncheons. The committee was always trying to find better ways to make sure that the Life Members could connect and continue to have a sense of community. As the technology became available, after we did our Life Member webpage, IEEE was also starting with virtual communities, ways in which people could go online to, I guess, probably in today’s world it would be something similar to Facebook, or a way to actually talk to people online. You could post your stories online and have people read them. But that was never something that really took off from a Life Members’ point of view, as much as we tried to kind of let people know about it.

Life members have always been very keen on sharing their stories. They’ve been very good about doing that in terms of our Life Member newsletter. That’s always been a popular part of the newsletter. And we tried to fan that enthusiasm by making it available online, but we never really got the traction or the buy-in from the Life Members to actually put the stories online. We’d post some stuff there, but I would never deem it a success. It was just something we tried that didn’t quite work out. And, again, maybe today things might be a little different with technology, and people able to do stuff a little bit easier than 15 years ago, but at the time it was a good try.

BUTRICA:

They also had a members’ directory. It started, again, at the winter conference, which became Electro. It would be a list of those Life Members attending the convention, and you would see the Life Member's name and the hotel they were staying at, so you could contact them, get together with them. And then they decided, well, this should be a directory of all Life Members, and then it should be a directory of all IEEE members, age 65 on up, plus Life Members, indicating Life Members with symbols or whatever. But that died with technology. The directory became available to the sections, as I recall.

TOLAND:

Yes, the membership data diskette program, which has now turned into SAMIEEE, which is the online membership roster that is available for all the geographic units and society officers. This is going back probably in the early 1990s, when they started doing the SAMIEEE diskettes, and, again, at the time they’d send out actual discs to the volunteer officers, who’d put it on their computers. And, you’re right, it did kind of stop the need for doing, well, certainly the Life Member directory. I know the IEEE membership directory was still published in paper format for a few more years, but it was also discontinued, as IEEE realized the cost outweighed the benefit of producing it.

BUTRICA:

Let me ask you if you observed this at that time. It would have started during that first period, having supportive staff within the committee.

TOLAND:

Yes.

IEEE Sections Congress

BUTRICA:

It seemed to me that this directory was kind of emblematic, that the directory was issued by the Life Members Committee, and so it was just sort of national, if you will, for the IEEE overall, and it was sent out to the members. But, when the information became available on discs—or diskettes—then that was information being held by the Section. The Sections, from about 1989 to 1993, really came into their own as a focus of attention. I don’t know if that was in the entire IEEE per se, but certainly, it seemed to me, it was within the Life Members Committee. Did you notice anything with that?

TOLAND:

Yes. I think what you’re actually describing was also about the time that IEEE’s Sections Congress started to take off a little bit more, too. The Sections Congress is the triannual—every three years—meeting of all the Section leaders. The first actual Sections Congress was held in 1987, and then they had one in 1990, and then obviously in 1993. So from 1990 to 1993 is really when I think there certainly was more of an emphasis on the Sections within IEEE, and I think the Life Members recognized that as another opportunity for them to work closely and communicate with the members. I hadn’t really thought about what you just said about how the directory went away from making it available to the members themselves to the Section officers, but I think that is what happened, and I think the Life Members Committee realized that to some extent. Maybe not as plainly stated, as you just said, but they also realized there was a way to make sure that the Life Members still knew about other Life Members, as opposed to the Sections, just knowing about all the Life Members.

BUTRICA:

Right. Well, this is from reading the minutes of the committee. There seemed to be some resistance at first to making that move. People would not vote the money to do X or Y at the Sections Congress, but maybe they would allow this other thing, and it took until the 1999 Sections Congress when they really decided that this was something they should be doing, and they committed themselves to it every three years since. They’ve had a large—well, what seems to me to be—a large presence at each Sections Congress. Do you remember any negative or positive discussions about moving to the Sections Congresses?

TOLAND:

Yes. As a member of the Life Members Committee supporting the Sections Congress, I think they recognized that it would be a good opportunity for them. I suppose there was always somebody who thought that the funding could’ve been used for another project, so I think, in a sense, that could be considered a negative comment, that they really think they shouldn't be using the money—$25,000 or so—to support a luncheon for something else. The overall general feeling was that it would be a positive thing for the Life Members Committee to make sure that they’re known to the Sections, and especially as they’re also talking about, again, raising awareness for the program.

At the time—and we’re going back to the 1990s or so—the Life Members Committee was looking for groups to submit proposals for grant requests, because they wanted to make sure that they were able to spend their money on projects that were of interest to the Life Members, and as you talk about the focus areas of education and activities and history, they’re always keen areas of the Life Members Committee itself. So, they recognized the Sections Congress as a good opportunity to tell the Section leaders about the Life Member Fund, that they have a source of funds for the Sections, but also—and this evolved over time—as a way to get the Life Members within their Sections engaged in activities too, and to remind the Sections leaders that they have these Life Members who are able and willing to help out with some projects, and another way to get them engaged.

BUTRICA:

Right. I’m sure you’re familiar with Jacob Baal-Schem.

TOLAND:

Yes.

BUTRICA:

I’ve noticed that in terms of these Sections Congresses, you worked with him several times, over several years, in making people—in particular Life Members—more aware of what the Life Members Committee was doing, and the activities that the fund was underwriting. Do you remember any of that?

TOLAND:

Yes. I mean, I worked with him and a few other people—[Daniel W.] Dan Jackson was somebody else—and this kind of goes back into the formation of Life Member chapters which are now Life Members Affinity Groups. We recognized that we had the ability to have the Sections form these groups of Life Members, and we wanted to make sure that the Sections leaders knew they had—again—another valuable resource within their Sections, another way to make sure that we’re increasing the satisfaction of the members and trying to get them engaged, and also trying to see if they can do some good projects locally.

I worked with them in trying to have presentations at Sections Congress as well, to make sure that they reminded the Section leaders about it, because within IEEE we need to continue to promote and let people know about a program, because the Section leaders should be rotating off and moving off to do different things. We want to always continually go back and remind people that this is a good resource, because—again—you’re going back into the 1990s, and there wasn’t as much information online. We were putting stuff up there, but we also needed to kind of reinforce the message that we had.

Start of Life Member Chapters

BUTRICA:

Do you remember how the Life Member chapters were started?

TOLAND:

I think at the time—this is probably the late 1990s—once, I think, the Women in Engineering Committee of IEEE was formed, they also realized that they could form chapters, as well. IEEE realized that it didn’t want to confuse the Life Member chapter name, or Women in Engineering chapter name, with the technical society chapters. So, then they developed the Affinity Group designation. I think it goes back to the committee just realizing that there was another way to get the Section members engaged, and that we had people that wanted to do stuff, and forming an official group under a Section would be a way to do that, and it would also be a way to provide funding for them. The Life Member chapters/Affinity Groups could get funding directly from the Life Members Committee, but also being an official organization under Regional Activities and now MGA, they also qualified for some money from the MGA, as well. So it was a little bit of both. I don’t think all the Sections, or all the chapters, took advantage of the funding available from the Life Members Committee, but it certainly had been available for them.

BUTRICA:

Yes. What was the role of the regional coordinators? Were they mainly the interface between the different Section chapters and the Life Members Committee?

TOLAND:

Yes, that was their role. Again, this evolved over time, and I’d say that was probably closer to 2004, 2003, something in that area. As the program was established, and we recognized the need to have a regional representative responsible for the Affinity Groups, and so we had somebody identified to do that. Their role was to promote the formation of the groups, act as a resource. We had somebody who would be the coordinator from the Life Members Committee, and that was Jacob for a while, or Dan Jackson previously. As the Life Members Committee matured, or looked at its composition, they also realized that the Regional Life Member coordinator should be more involved in the Life Member activities, so we started inviting them at first to any conference calls we had, and then we started inviting them to a training that we would have. Generally, once a year they’d be invited to a Life Member meeting itself. So they would be more involved in the activities and know what’s going on within the committee.

BUTRICA:

Dan Jackson, I think, was the person who worked with the committee to get things going.

TOLAND:

Yes, he was one of the first people who did that.

BUTRICA:

He wrote the letters and got the regional directors to name the regional coordinators and that sort of thing. If I understand, what you just said is that Jacob Baal-Schem more or less took over what Dan Jackson was doing.

TOLAND:

Yes, that’s an accurate statement. I mean, I don’t have the roster completely memorized, but yes.

BUTRICA:

Sorry. (laughter)

TOLAND:

That is about right. I mean, we did have Dan first, who then moved off to do other things, and then Jacob did it.

BUTRICA:

You don’t remember what he went off to do, by any chance?

TOLAND:

I think honestly it was a point in his life when he had other things he had to focus on and concentrate on. Within the Life Members Committee, it was not uncommon for people to go off to stop working within IEEE and focus on local things. In some cases, some of the members of the Life Members Committee also went on to move in to the IEEE Foundation Board of Directors. So in the sense they kind of, depending on your perception, might’ve moved up a little bit more to do more within there.

LMC and Education

BUTRICA:

Right. I mentioned that the Life Members Committee was very much interested in education in terms of electrical engineering students and faculty. It seems that during the 1980s, as the IEEE was getting ready for its centennial, the committee started reaching out to new groups, civic groups with public speakers, for example. They also were interested in going into middle schools and high schools to get students interested in engineering per se, but specifically think about having electrical engineering in mind when going to college or choosing a career. How can we get more electrical engineers? There was a movie made in the 1980s for the centennial and narrated by Orson Welles.

TOLAND:

No, I never knew that.

BUTRICA:

That was put on a videocassette, and the Life Members Committee paid to have the cassette copies made and distributed to high schools.

TOLAND:

I know they supported the Faraday lectures, which was held at middle schools around the country, and I think maybe even around the world.

BUTRICA:

Do you remember the RE-SEED program?

TOLAND:

Yes, I do. It was a program from Northeastern University up in Boston, and the committee supported it, I think, for like six years. They were pleased with the program and they really liked it. Honestly, I think they would’ve continued to fund it, but it was more a question of policy. They don’t want to be considered a primary source of funding for a program. At the time, they were also looking at their mission and vision, and they were trying to align it also to the Foundation. As the Foundation made changes, the Life Members Committee would also look at what we were doing, and all of a sudden make some changes, as well.

LMC Finances

BUTRICA:

Could you talk about how the Life Members Committee was attempting to monitor its spending and donations coming in, and how much they could afford each year to approve as grants?

TOLAND:

Yes, that was probably 2005 to 2007. The LMC realized that it would be prudent to have a spending model similar to the Foundation's, basically taking a part of that money to set aside for grants. So the LMC took the funding model that the Foundation was using and adopted it to the Life Members Committee, which essentially made sure that we kept the Life Member Fund at a certain balance, and we used a certain amount of money for projects, and some money was still for the regular programs that they wanted to sustain on a regular basis. The LMC had a set amount of funding to give out in grants per year, so then we actually had to work and kind of reestablish a process in terms of getting grant requests in from other units, and also making sure that we’re monitoring it, and making sure that we’re reporting back to the committee, that the grants are being processed properly in terms of work done, and also making sure that we’re providing that information to them. That was around when Lyle Feisel was either the incoming chair, when Om Malik was the chair, and then Lyle was the chair itself.

BUTRICA:

Lyle Feisel was the one who instigated that?

TOLAND:

Yes, he and, I’d also say, Om Malik, who was the chair at the time. Again, it goes back to how things were being done by the Foundation, and then the Life Members Committee saying yes, we should also be doing it that way, as well.

BUTRICA:

To do like the Foundation was doing?

TOLAND:

Yes, they modeled it after that. Eventually, as things progressed, the Life Members Committee agreed to have a joint grant process with the Foundation, which I think was the right course of action, as opposed to duplicating efforts. We would have one source of grant requests, and I think that’s how they operate today, as well.

BUTRICA:

But the important element seems to be for the Life Members Committee to basically maintain their authority over the spending of the money.

TOLAND:

Yes, so they’ve always been very, very clear in that. They understand that they’ve been charged by the Life Members, because the Life Members are supporting the fund, and they want to act as good stewards of the money. So it’s always been very clear that they still have that responsibility. They're obviously working with the Foundation, but it would still be the Life Members’ activities and decisions on how the funds were distributed.

BUTRICA:

Right. It does seem—and now that you’ve made it seem more coherent to me—that around 2005 the Life Members Committee really did try to imitate the Foundation, embracing Foundation procedures and so forth and so on, whereas before they may have not been as cooperative, shall we say, with the Foundation.

Movement to MGA-focused Structure

TOLAND:

Yes. Well, I think as time moved on, they became less autonomous, and also as they got a better relationship with the Regional Activities Board, that was facilitated by the fact that we were having regional representatives on the committee. It kind of moved itself in that direction in general, away from being an IEEE Board of Directors committee to being more of an MGA-focused or Regional Activities-focused group, of course still being part of the Foundation. I think it also ties a line with the general feeling of how things were also moving in Regional Activities at the time. I think people were realizing it would be better to try to focus on the member and to try to keep them engaged—and actually, that’s always been a theme, because I remember seeing signs at IEEE back when I started saying, “Remember the member.” So that has always been a theme itself, but it always revolves and evolves into something else in a different form.

Regional Activities was discussing changing their focus to be the member geographic activities board, and talking about trying to engage the members—and it was in 2008 when they switched over, 2009 officially, I think—to the new—I’m going to say—focus and to the current-day structure. The Life Members Committee was also, at the same time, recognizing that that’s what they’ve been doing during their whole existence, in a sense, by having the Life Members. They’ve been kind of focusing on the Life Members, and the older members, as you said before, over 65 or over 55. So I think it kind of just worked out well, that they could combine efforts and kind of work through a more cohesive effort between the two groups.

BUTRICA:

When you said Regional Activities people were going on the committee, did you mean people like yourself, the supporting staff? Or did you mean actual sitting members of the committee?

TOLAND:

Well, in some cases we did have a couple members of the Regional Activities Board, or Member and Geographic Activities (MGA) Board, who came and kind of participated a little bit more, but it was also a lot of the regional coordinators who were identified as these people, who were people that were on the Regional Activities Board in the past. A lot of times they might have been past regional directors who were at that point in their career when they wanted to get involved, and kept involved, in IEEE, so they would take the responsibilities of being a regional Life Member coordinator, but they also had the experience of being on the Regional Activities Board itself.

BUTRICA:

Could you give me some names of these people?

TOLAND:

Well, Lou Luceri was one person who also eventually became a Life Members Committee chair relatively recently. I believe [Joseph A.] Joe Kalasky was a Region Two Director who also became a Life Member coordinator. Dan Jackson—who I’d mentioned before—was a regional director, and he became the coordinator for Region Three. I believe John Martin, who was on the Life Members Committee originally, might’ve been involved in Life Member chapters originally, but I’d have to go back and look. Other than that, I remember the regional directors’ names, but I don’t know which ones transferred over. I know Dave Kemp, in Canada actually—and, again, this is probably around 2000 at some point—he was a Region Director who also became a Life Member coordinator for Region Seven, and an Affinity Group coordinator, so he’d been involved, as well.

International Life Member Chapters

BUTRICA:

Right. One of the things that happens when you get involved with members at the Section level is, because IEEE is an international organization, you’re going to have Life Member chapters overseas. Do you remember that posing any particular problem?

TOLAND:

Well, the only issue about having the groups formed in Regions Eight, Nine, and Ten is the fact that life membership in general is, I’m going to guess, probably 80%, 85% is in the US. Most Life Members live in the US. So, forming these other groups outside the US was more of a challenge, because if you’re just strictly being Life Members, you had Sections that might not have had all the Life Members in a grouping. They might have enough to form a group, but they were not all, say, in the same city. They might’ve been in different parts of the area. So, we did have to modify the rules in a sense to make sure they weren’t as strict. Yes, we’d like the Life Member Affinity Groups or chapters to be run by Life Members, but we also understood that not everybody could maybe form a Life Member group in certain parts of the world based on the membership distribution or the geographic distribution of where the members were in that area. We did have to state that you could form a group without actually having everybody be a Life Member. We did prefer that, but it wasn’t an absolute criteria.

BUTRICA:

I remember the case of Beijing, where they made an exception, because there had been a national electrical engineering society, and they had been members of that for decades before becoming a member of the IEEE was a possibility.

TOLAND:

Yes, that actually came about because Irv Engelson was involved in this, as well. He had a relationship with somebody in China, and he got an email, or maybe a letter at the time, basically stating that there were a number of IEEE members in Beijing who were above 65, but they really didn’t have a realistic chance to become a Life Member right away. It would have taken some time because they were not able to physically join IEEE or its predecessor societies prior to that time due to the climate in China. So the committee came up with a plan that enabled these members to become Life Members quicker by covering their dues for them for a number of years. It was a reasonable amount of people. It might’ve been 50 or so people, and it was kind of based on when they would actually qualify based on their age and years of membership. So the Life Members Committee did that for probably, I’m going to say, close to five years then stepped down. So the first couple years you had a higher number of members that were eligible, and then by the time the program ended everybody had qualified.

BUTRICA:

You see a lot of China, India, Australia, New Zealand—that region—at that point sort of coming into its own. At least, it appears to be, reading the minutes of the Life Members Committee. Paying attention to Sections overseas also means overseas students putting in proposals to the Life Members Committee for grants to do different activities. I recall a number coming from Brazil. Did you see much activity along those lines?

TOLAND:

Well, I think this goes back to somewhat kind of the result of some of the awareness that they did at Sections Congresses. They wanted to make sure that people knew about the program. So we did get a number of grant requests from units outside the US, student branches, and if it fit within the criteria that the committee had established, which was generally history-related, student-related, or even Life Member interest-related, they would try to fund it, if they could. It also goes back sometimes to having the right champion and people knowing about it. A lot of times it was still probably a word of mouth, saying people know this is a good source of funding of programs.

BUTRICA:

Right. Back in the 1980s, the IEEE really made an effort to represent itself as an international organization. The Life Members Committee was asked, “Do you have any international members from overseas? Canadians don’t count. Could you get some?” They thought that this was rushing things and let it go. Do you know when the first outside of North America member was? Was that Baal-Schem, or was it someone else?

TOLAND:

That’s a good question, and it was around that time, but I’m thinking it actually might have been Eduardo Bonzi Correa, who was actually from Region Nine, who may have been the first person. I never actually thought about coming up with who that person is. It was 2002 when he became an official member of the committee. I know previous years they had some people that may have been originally from outside the United States, but they were residing in the United States. I don’t think anybody specifically was outside the US who came to the committee.

BUTRICA:

Right. It would pose a bit of a burden on the committee in terms of giving them money to attend the meetings.

TOLAND:

Yes, it did, but I also think it was also still based on the fact that the majority of the Life Members at the time were still in the US, and so they were kind of being consistent with where the members were.

BUTRICA:

They just recently met in Amsterdam, back in August. The first time they met outside of North America, that I can tell, was a few years before that, when they met in Argentina.

TOLAND:

That is correct, unless you want to go back. Actually, in 2007 we also met in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which, depending on your perspective, it’s in the US, but it’s certainly not in Regions One to Six. It’s Region Nine. But actually, that goes back to the committee itself trying to get more engaged with the Life Members, because when I first started out supporting the committee, the Life Member meetings were actually held in New York City at the United Engineering Building, which was across from the UN. So 1991 to 1993—or so I think—we always would meet up there two times a year, but then as IEEE Piscataway developed the conference center downstairs in 445 Hoes Lane—and that was about 1993 or so, when they expanded or started it—then we started to move to have the meetings in Piscataway.

It just made a little bit more sense, and the members didn’t seem to mind, so we had most of the meetings there. We did have some meetings, then, still in New Jersey. We might’ve had some at Newark. We had some in Morristown. We were always, I want to say, local to New York/New Jersey. But then Luis Gandia became the first chair outside the US. Outside North America, again, we had O. Malik, who was the chair from Canada. So Luis [Gandia] was from Puerto Rico, and it was his thought that we really should start trying to go to the different Life Member groups to really kind of interact with them.

We were traveling to these meetings, we being the members of the Life Members Committee themselves, not necessarily myself and Cecelia [Jankowski]. We’re traveling to the meetings. Why don’t we try to travel to a place where we can interact with the Life Members, and have an opportunity to talk to them, and kind of raise awareness of the fund, and have people see why we’re spending the money? So we did start to move the meetings around to other areas of the world. We did have a meeting in San Juan, but then we also went to San Antonio, Texas. Again, they have a popular Life Member group there, a busy one. We went to a meeting in Orlando, which was a good event, but we also had an opportunity there when we went to the Orlando meeting to actually go down to Daytona Beach, because we had sponsored a telescope being created at a children’s museum.

BUTRICA:

A radio telescope.

TOLAND:

Radio telescope, yes. That was actually an opportunity for the Life Members to visit and actually see the results of their donations, because that’s something that we, as a whole, didn’t necessarily see, certainly not in person. It was actually a good opportunity for all the committee members to actually appreciate what they’re doing, and they could actually see how it was being implemented, and see the effects that they’re having on the children who were going to the children’s museum. Actually, I think it was good to learn more about how the program went. It was a good step. Then, as you mentioned, we did go to Argentina and some other areas mostly around the US, where we had a lot of Life Members. We would have a reception held there as well, trying to engage the Life Members. One is, again, from a networking perspective, just kind of making people feel part of a community, but we also wanted them to try to support the Life Member Fund of the Foundation itself.

BUTRICA:

They seem to have no problem recently with going international in terms of the Sections, their meetings, their membership, and that sort of thing.

TOLAND:

Yes, and I think that does coincide with the overall IEEE membership, and the activities outside, and trying to make sure that we are sort of a more global organization, because, as you pointed out, before there was a lot of focus within the US, and now that the membership is growing we have more members there.

BUTRICA:

I wondered about that Daytona radio telescope, because the description in the minutes was kind of confusing. You said that the children were learning from it. Was there any adult learning from that telescope?

TOLAND:

Yes, I would think that’s the case. I mean, certainly the people who were putting it together were also learning about it, too, but even the teachers that were involved in it, as well. It was a telescope set up at the children’s museum, but then they had schools in the area who could actually then get the data from the telescope, and so the teachers were able to use that as part of their lesson plans, and they would also be able to use it as part of the demonstrations, part of the children’s museum itself.

LMC Education Projects

BUTRICA:

What would you say was the biggest education project undertaken by the Life Members Committee oriented towards, let’s say, high school students? Was it RE-SEED, or was it another?

TOLAND:

I’m not sure if I have any of that come to mind off the top of my head. I mean, if you look today, you have the Global History Network (GHN). The precursor to that was the IEEE Virtual Museum, which the Life Members Committee was one of the big supporters of. So they’ve always been very fond of supporting history, and also any history that could also be focused on pre-college students, as well, and trying to encourage people to do that. But I don’t remember any specific project that would strike me as one that was the most significant. I know they did have a lot of good feedback in providing funding for the programs, but I don’t remember right now.

BUTRICA:

Do you remember them supporting this project that involved movies made in 1904 of a Westinghouse plant in Pittsburgh, where they were making turbines and other equipment?

TOLAND:

Yes, I do remember. I think that was in the 1990s. That was something that was new at the time, and we actually had the person involved in doing that, and I think they were very pleased with the final outcome of the program, because they also recognized that history and that valuable data would have been lost had they not taken the initiative or actually worked with the person to actually get the data transferred.

BUTRICA:

Right. Do you know whatever happened to those movies? I looked them up online, and they’re on the Library of Congress website, and they’re on YouTube, as well, but the Library of Congress says that they own it.

TOLAND:

I would have to check.

BUTRICA:

When the Life Members Committee gave them money, the stipulation was that the movies would belong to the IEEE. I wonder if that meant the digital versions belonged to the IEEE, because they’re now Library of Congress National Heritage. That’s something I’ve been trying to understand.

History Projects and Committees

Butrica:

History, then, is another major focus of the Life Members Committee. First came education, right after World War II, then came something we won’t talk about, (laughter) and then came history starting in the 1960s. They’ve given a lot of money to the History Center to undertake projects. They funded the Virtual Museum. They funded the GHN. One thing I’m curious about—and I’m hoping you’ll remember this—the Life Members Committee funded things piecemeal, if you will, at the History Center, and it was clear that the director of the History Center was hoping to get larger projects, or projects that were defined in some way, so that there was less of a need to keep going back for these smaller pieces of money. They proposed the huge "Power and Control" project, which changed names, and changed purposes, and the things they were going to produce. But they produced several very good volumes out of that. So, at some point, Emerson Pugh, then later Eric Herz, came before the Life Members Committee and suggested a new way of funding the History Center, a quasi-endowment. Do you remember the quasi-endowment?

TOLAND:

I do remember that, but I’m trying to remember. I mean, I remember it being approved. Was it like $250,000? Or was it more than that?

BUTRICA:

It may have been $300,000. I’m not sure.

TOLAND:

Yes. Honestly, I don’t remember specifically, other than the fact that they did do that.

BUTRICA:

The first time it was presented to them, it was presented as a quasi-endowment set up by the Life Members Committee, which would entail creating their own brochure and generating donations to the endowment. It also would involve a lot of legalities and whatnot. They voted it down, and then a year or so later, after the second presentation, they agreed to create a quasi-endowment, but within the Foundation. They didn’t have to both with any of the legalities of setting up a separate operation. It was simply a matter of creating the quasi-endowment within the Foundation.

TOLAND:

Right. It sounds familiar. I’m just trying to remember how much did I know. I think a lot of that might have happened when I wasn’t supporting the committee, because I’m looking at something now, and it was from 1998, which actually was from Emerson Pugh to the Life Members Committee talking about establishing a quasi-endowment. So I think a lot of the discussions that you’re talking about could be during the time when I wasn’t necessarily following it that closely, other than the fact that it sounds familiar, and it might have been approved once I started going back to it. Yes, because actually I’m seeing here that the Life Members Committee approved a grant of $50,000 to the quasi-endowment in 1998, contingent upon satisfactory reports, then $25,000 in 1999 and 2000. So yes, I think a lot of the background which you’re talking about, I don’t think I remember too much about that, because I wasn’t supporting the committee then.

BUTRICA:

What’s interesting about those amounts of money for the quasi-endowment is that the "Power and Control" project was going on at the same time. It was going to be three volumes on the history of electrical technologies. The first would go up to World War I, the second one between the two world wars, and the third one post World War II, but it wound up being six different books. What I noticed about the amount of money provided for that project, which included oral histories and archives, was that its annual cost to the Life Members Committee was around $25,000 to $35,000. The Life Members Committee was spending more on that one project than on anything else, including the newsletter, the student prizes, and you name it.

TOLAND:

Right.

BUTRICA:

It was huge. Then this large amount comes up in relationship to the quasi-endowment. That’s why I bring it up.

TOLAND:

Yes, well, I know the Life Members Committee has always been, like I said before, a big proponent of history, and I think, due to the just various budget things within IEEE, the History Committee would always want to give the Life Members Committee an opportunity to support projects that they knew Life Members were interested in. So they would come to the Life Members Committee for the projects, and we’ve always had a member of the History Committee or History Center come into the Life Member meetings, because there was a good connection between the two groups.

BUTRICA:

They always had to report on how they were spending the money.

TOLAND:

Yes.

BUTRICA:

Do you remember any discussions—positive, negative, or any other way—regarding the history prize that they had with SHOT [Society for the History of Technology] for the best article in the history of electrical technology, or the history fellowship, or the graduate fellowship?

TOLAND:

Other than the fact that they would come up for approval and discussion, and maybe they might modify some of the things, nothing specific, other than I know they might have changed how SHOT administered the prize. They might have increased it a little bit, but from what I recall the Life Members Committee was always pleased with the process and the selection of the people who were being recognized, either through the SHOT prize or the fellowship. So they didn’t really have too many problems with that.

BUTRICA:

How were relations with the History Committee? Who were some of the individuals on the History Committee that they interacted with the most?

TOLAND:

On the History Committee itself, it might’ve been Jacob Baal-Schem, who was on it for a little bit. In terms of actual committee members, many times we had a lot of communication through the director of the History Center. It was either Mike Geselowitz or Bill Aspray, who was the previous director. We had a lot of interactions through them, not necessarily through the History Committee chair at the time. The Life Member chair might’ve had discussions or conversations, but officially they would not have had too much interaction.

BUTRICA:

So members of the History Committee really didn’t attend meetings?

TOLAND:

Yes, they didn’t attend the Life Member meetings.

BUTRICA:

They would just be communicating.

TOLAND:

Yes, they’d be communicating how things were going on. I mean, I’m sure at times we might’ve had one or two people attend. We would also sometimes have a liaison to the History Committee, so we’d have a Life Members Committee member on their committee, who would then maybe report back, as well. So there was communication. It just didn’t result in the form of one of their members coming to the Life Member meeting.

BUTRICA:

Right. I guess that was a consequence perhaps of the fact that by then the History Committee had its own money.

TOLAND:

Yes, it could be, because I don’t know when they started the history fund, honestly. That’s something that I didn’t keep track of.

Committee Communications

BUTRICA:

Right. Well, as someone from Rutgers who has a degree in communications, let me ask you some communications questions. The committee met originally once a year during what became ELECTRO. Then it started meeting twice a year, because there was so much business to attend to. Then they started a teleconference in between meetings to take care of business. When you were supporting staff, do you remember if they had any other means of meeting between the two face-to-face meetings?

TOLAND:

Yes. In the 1990s they didn’t really have too much interaction between the meetings. I think email was starting around then, but not everybody was necessarily on it, so a lot of the communication that we did at that time was mostly probably through phone, probably talking to the chair itself. So we really didn’t have as much activity going on during that time. We had the Life Member newsletter going out twice a year and other activities going on, but it wasn’t as active as it was during the later part of my time supporting the committee. But I think it goes back to, again, the outreach, telling people about the program, about the Life Members Committee. Also, the fact that they were taking a more active role in trying to solicit grant requests, and I think that was one of the reasons we also started having some teleconferences between the Life Member meetings, because we might’ve been more on a grant review schedule similar to the Foundation, which had three meetings a year, so we wanted to make sure that we approved any grants that we received in line with the Foundation’s schedule. And it goes back to also the Life Members Committee wanted to make sure that they still maintained input or control over their funds.

BUTRICA:

Okay. So obviously there’s going to be a lot of communication, and once they have email they’re going to be emailing each other and that sort of thing. The Life Members Committee reported to both the Board of Directors and the Foundation. Did the Board of Directors name members of the committee? That is, did they put Board of Directors members on the committee?

TOLAND:

Yes. That was the process until probably about, I think, until about 2011 or so. They would always have a member of the Board of Directors on the committee itself. And then at the time when we made the change to remove it from being an IEEE Board of Directors committee to reporting to the MGA board, but still an IEEE Life Members Committee in name, that’s when they decided they did not need to continue having a Board of Directors member on the Life Members Committee. Historically, a lot of the people that have been appointed to the Committee have been members who’ve served on the IEEE Board of Directors, so there has been a close tie, but now it’s been more of a relationship with the MGA board as opposed to the Board of Directors.

BUTRICA:

And are they members of the committee Life Members?

TOLAND:

Yes, yes.

BUTRICA:

So, when the Board of Directors names someone to the committee, they have to be a Life Member.

TOLAND:

Well, when the Board of Directors named someone, they did not have to be a Life Member.

BUTRICA:

The Board of Directors representative didn’t have to be a Life Member.

TOLAND:

Yes, that was not a criteria. I think in general they tried to do that, but it wasn’t something that was required. Like, I know Jan Brown was a member of the Life Members Committee in the 1990s—1992, 1993ish—and I know she was not a Life Member at the time.

BUTRICA:

Did the Foundation have a representative?

TOLAND:

Yes, the Foundation had a representative on the committee itself, and I think that is something that’s been more prominent in recent years. I can go back until the early 1990s. And I’m not quite sure if we actually had an official representative, but I certainly think for my second stint, say, from 1998 on there was definitely a better relationship with the Foundation, and they made sure that they had a representative on the committee itself.

BUTRICA:

Why do you think they were having a better relationship with the Foundation at that time?

TOLAND:

I think a lot of it was just the Foundation and the Life Members Committee realizing that they had a lot of commonality, and working together. I can’t speak for any discussions that the Foundation had at the time, but I do think it was just a matter of people realizing that it was better to cooperate, as opposed to being autonomous. Like I said, during my first stint, 1991-96, I kind of got the feeling that the Life Members Committee was more on its own, and then after that it was more of realizing that we need to kind of work together, and work with the other groups, be it the Foundation or the MGA board or RAB or whatever you want to call it.

LMC Funding

BUTRICA:

Yes. So I guess when you first joined the Life Members Committee—or became a member of the staff—the fundraising was being done through the Foundation at that point.

TOLAND:

Yes. Well, that’s also been a big change in the program. Quite honestly, I’ll say, through the 1990s the funding was specifically through the renewal invoice, the renewal notice to the members, and that’s where the money came from. They might get some occasional donations elsewhere, but a majority of the donations came through the renewal.

And I think that’s still true today, but we also implemented some programs that would encourage Life Members to contribute. For the last maybe seven years now, they’ve been doing the Life Member coasters and the pins. Life Members who contribute I think it was originally $100, they would be getting a coaster, or a pin if they contributed $50. So we worked with the Development Office to implement that program to encourage more people to contribute. That did have an effect on the donations, because after we started that program it increased. We found if you would actually give a recommended donation, people tended to give that donation amount. So if you say “Give $50,” they would give $50, but if you say “If you can give $100, you’ll get the coaster and a pin,” then more people gave it a coaster and a pin.

BUTRICA:

Right. Do you remember who came up with that idea?

TOLAND:

Well, the coaster idea was actually a suggestion from Michael Deering, who’s with the Foundation. He presented that idea to the Life Members Committee itself as a possible option. It was a collaborative process, working with the volunteers and coming up with them. They agreed that it was a good idea. Working with the History Center, then, the idea was to have the Life Member coasters identify and highlight an IEEE milestone. So it was a way to actually incorporate the history aspect of a project, but also a way to give something to the Life Members. We worked with the History Committee and also the History Center to identify potential milestones that can be represented well on a coaster. I think the first one was the Telstar communications satellite, because that was pretty easy to put on a coaster. Since then they’ve done a number of them. They also try to be regional in their selection, so it’s getting people recognizing all the accomplishments around the world.

BUTRICA:

Going with history just seemed to be a logical step, because not just the Life Members Committee, but Life Members themselves, seemed to be very much interested in history.

TOLAND:

Yes. Yes. It's been a good program, and I haven’t kept track of the numbers of donations recently, but I think it’s been still a success, and I know they’ve increased the contribution to get a little bit more money in.

LMC Highlights

BUTRICA:

What would you say were the highlights of the years you were working with the committee?

TOLAND:

I guess you can probably categorize them a couple ways. One is the fact that we’ve been able—throughout my time there—to give out the grants, to actually have an impact on the people that are the recipients of the grants to the different programs. To specifically state it was this program or that program, I can’t come up with a name right now, but just that it was always a gratifying part to actually give the money, and they’d be able to do something locally and get the feedback.

Now, going back to the radio telescope, that was a good example. But also I think the fact that we’ve been able to help build a sense of community within the Life Members by establishing the Affinity Groups and trying to get them connected and keeping them still engaged, trying to remind the Section leaders that Life Members are a valuable resource, and that they can help contribute to IEEE, and they still are willing to help. That’s also been satisfactory.

Also, I think, just the fact that we, from the committee perspective, have grown more to work with the Foundation, to become better stewards of the Life Member Fund, and working with all the people—the Foundation staff—the people that do the finances, and also the people on the committee itself, just trying to make sure that we are aware of the responsibility of having the money and the donations, and that we’re trying to be good stewards with the money and make a difference. I think the Life Members Committee has made a difference, in its own way, in building, like I said, the community of the Life Members, but also in funding the projects.

BUTRICA:

Yes, yes. It looks like, at the time when you came in, you had the Foundation and the Life Members Committee at odds. As you say, the Life Members Committee collected its own money every year, did a fund drive, and at some point that I don’t remember now, the Foundation came in and did, if you will, a unified campaign for donations, which included the History Center, the Life Members Committee, the Foundation, the IEEE General Fund. There was, shall we say, negativity expressed among members of the Life Members Committee about this approach: Would Life Members understand the importance of checking off for the Life Members Committee Fund? Were they going to lose out to the Foundation? And so on.

As far as the Board of Directors is concerned, or IEEE in general, they did seem to have difficulties with them, because they had money problems in terms of the Life Members. You’d have more and more of them. They’re not contributing, necessarily. Actually a very small percentage of them actually contribute to the Life Member Fund. As their numbers grew, the costs to the IEEE of providing them these services was going up. It seemed to me that money was at the source of a lot of the friction that the committee experienced. One problem, it seems, is the lack of stability in the committee's composition. You volunteer, of course, and you get appointed. It seems to me that, because they would be on the committee for, say, three years at the most, you had a lot of turnover. The committee really, shall we say, couldn't build up any kind of political gain or political asset in dealing with these other bodies, which seem to have more permanence.

TOLAND:

Right. Yes, well, I think in looking at the history of the chairs, we actually did start more of a succession plan in a sense. We had Om Malik as the chair in 2004 and 2005, and then Lyle Feisel was the chair after that, but Lyle was on the committee previously. He was aware of the activities going on previously, so he’s been involved since then. We have tried to get some of the leadership, I guess, a little bit more engaged, and it goes back to having cooperation with the Foundation. I guess the one thing that was also discussed—I think it was probably 2002 or so, 2003—is when the Life Member annual profile requirement was changed, and that’s the annual renewal notice that goes to the Life Members. Well, previously to that point we would always send out the letters to the Life Members, but if a Life Member did not return it, nothing happened to the member’s record. So we had Life Members who were essentially, probably, passed away on IEEE records as being active members, because we were sensitive to the fact that some members could be unable to do it but still getting services.

At that point Maurice Papo, who was the VP of Regional Activities, was looking at things, and he said, “Well, why is this process in place?” We talked to the Life Members Committee and agreed that—and I think it might’ve been starting in 2003—that members who did not return the profile would be marked as inactive in the IEEE membership records. The person is still a Life Member, and if somebody would call, “Hey look, I’m still here, I still want to receive services,” then they would be reinstated with no problem. But that did, I think, calm some of the fears, in a sense, of the number of Life Members, because if you look at the data, the numbers were going up every year, and then you’d look at the year after that, and then you’d see, OK, then the numbers have dropped to I think it might be 26,000 now, something to that effect. So, that did help calm some of the fears about the money, because you could see that the number of Life Members was not going to keep increasing. It was going to flatten out and be at a sustainable level, depending on your perspective, for a while.

BUTRICA:

Right. It’s interesting that you bring that up, because earlier, I think in the 1990s, perhaps even earlier, in the 1980s as well, this profile renewal question came up. The question was: if they don’t check it off, if they don’t send it back, what do you do? Do you put them on a special list, or do you completely inactivate them? I guess this is when the Foundation now was involved in the fundraising, and if they didn’t turn it in they were dropped completely. As a result, the number of Life Members being serviced fell off remarkably. So what do you do when the profile renewal is not sent back?

TOLAND:

Yes. Well, I think at the point when you’re talking about the early 1990s, they were having that discussion, and I think they agreed that they’d keep them on the rolls, and then we agreed to modify the process in 2002 or so. That’s the process. I think some of it also wasn’t necessarily documented within IEEE processes and procedures or even the policy manual. So we were doing things from an operational standpoint without actually having the documentation to back it up. And we have the board of directors to approve the policy change, and the probably Regional Activities Board at the time, or MGA Board, to change that, as well. So we actually made a decision, and I think they stuck with it then.

Operations Manual, Charter, and Strategic Plan

BUTRICA:

You mentioned the operations manual. The charter and the strategic plan: where did they come from? Was that the Foundation saying “you should do this”?

TOLAND:

No. I think the charter is something that all IEEE Board of Directors committees were responsible for having, so that is something that predates my role in it, but I think it is something that it was noted that we needed to have. You mentioned, or at least one of the questions might’ve been about the review of the Life Members Committee. I think the charter was something that all committees needed to have. I did work with the committee when they looked at that on a regular basis, to help revise it and modify it as appropriate. A lot of times it was also kind of just making sure that they still had a clear focus as to what they were working on. The same thing with the strategic plan: they wanted to make sure that they had a vision for what they wanted to do going down the road. I think as they’ve grown in operation with the Foundation, that might’ve been less of an emphasis. They have core beliefs and core ways of going about things, as opposed to worrying about a strategic plan itself, because they want to be consistent with what the Foundation and then the MGA boards are doing.

BUTRICA:

Who did those reviews of the Life Members Committee that took place from time to time? The Board of Directors?

TOLAND:

When it was a Board committee, yes, the Board of Directors would have a process implemented in which they would ask the committee to gather information, and they’d provide it to the review committee itself. I helped gather some of the material in putting that forward. I don’t remember specifically when they had them, but basically it would be similar to what you’re doing in terms of looking at the minutes of the committee itself, looking at the memberships, looking at the financials to some extent, and kind of making sure that it was still consistent with the charter and the role of the committee itself.

BUTRICA:

Do they do those anymore?

TOLAND:

Well, now it falls under the MGA board, and the MGA still has a requirement to review the committees every few years. I suspect that it is something that they’re talking about now, because the fact that now it’s 2014 and the MGA board came into being in 2009 or so, it’s been about five years that they’ve been looking at those things. I know there’s been a lot of change, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the board itself will be starting to look at their committees on a regular basis to kind of make sure that they’re still doing that. They also might be doing it on an informal basis, on a regular basis, as opposed to doing a formal review.

Committee Membership

BUTRICA:

The size of the Life Members Committee: I noticed at one point there were 18 people on it, and then suddenly it’s reduced to around eight for several years now.

TOLAND:

Yes. Any idea as to why we had so many people?

BUTRICA:

Yes, and why did it just suddenly dropped off.

TOLAND:

Well, I think we probably wanted to be more consistent with what was in the charter and adhere to what’s written there. I’m not quite sure as to why they had so many people that one year or so. At that point it was probably coordinated by the IEEE N and A [Nominations and Appointments] Committee and the IEEE Board of Directors, and it could’ve been just that they realized that they probably had a lot of people that could be leaving the committee, but they did not want to lose the knowledge that those people had. They didn’t want to make a clean sweep and get everybody off, so I suspect that they might’ve said, well, let’s keep these people on it for one more year, add these new people on the committee, so it would make it a bigger committee, but then after that we go back to keeping it consistent with seven or eight people, and making sure that you get good rotation, so you don’t have to clean slate every two years.

BUTRICA:

Right. It seems to me that there’s always been this idea of a chairman and a vice chairman. They had that very early on, when there were only four or five people on the committee.

TOLAND:

Yes.

BUTRICA:

Then, during the 1960s, you had a certain consistency. There was institutional memory over five, six, seven, eight years. Then in 1970, it was as if there had been a coup, and all these people were swept out, and there was suddenly all these new people, and they didn’t, obviously, have any connection with the past or have any organizational memory. They just know this is what we’re going to do. Then they get the idea, well, we need to have some kind of institutional memory, so let’s have the chair, and then the vice chair, who will then take over as the next chair.

TOLAND:

Right.

BUTRICA:

Then, again, they’ll lose most of the members of the committee and try to carry on. It seems to me that they do have a problem with institutional memory, even with the vice chair succeeding as the next chair.

TOLAND:

Yes, that might be the case. I know we did try to document a lot of the things like the operations manual trying to make them document the procedures that they have there, also create summaries of the projects that they’re funding so people understand, in some cases, some of the history. Like, you mentioned the student paper contest, and how they’ve been funding that for such a long time. So that is something that we want to make sure that the new committee members get that information, so when they’re joining it they can actually see, yes, it’s part of their culture, I guess, or something that they have funded for a while, and it’s kind of their regular business.

BUTRICA:

Right, and they shouldn’t drop it.

TOLAND:

Yes, unless they happen to see a particular reason the project isn’t working anymore, but yes.

BUTRICA:

Right. We were talking about the Foundation and the Life Members Committee. Now they have the same grant review process as the Foundation. The idea of a grant review process, that is, well-stated standards for selecting grants, they’re always talking about that. During the 1960s, they talked about it the need to do something along those lines, and somebody will stand up and say: “This is what we look for.” Then several years later, they've forgotten that they ever had that conversation. They talk about the need for a grant review process and principles to follow. They’ll set up a committee, and then they’ll come up with something. Then, say, four years later they’ll say, “We have absolutely no rules or standards for how we review grants.” “Yes, we should have a preview process.” They’ll come up with this elaborate scheme, they’ll put it into effect, and then three or four years later, they’ll say, “We need a grant review process.” (laughter)

TOLAND:

Yes. I think that has happened. I think that’s common to everything within IEEE. I mean, I supported the Regional Activities Board or the MGA Board for a number of years, and I would go back in the minutes of the Regional Activities Board in the 1970s and see comments about not having the Young Professionals involved, engaged, and renewing, and those are discussions that we still have today. So I think that lack of institutional memory has been recognized, at least by the Life Members Committee, and they’ve been trying to document what they’re doing through the operations manual, and now that we’re coordinated with the Foundation in terms of grants, having that documented there as well, because they do recognize the need to be consistent and not focus time on things that have been discussed previously.

BUTRICA:

You mentioned the Young Professionals. There’s something there that I don’t quite understand. There are the Young Professionals, and then there’s also something called the Gold Members. Are they the same thing? What’s the relationship?

TOLAND:

They are the same thing now within IEEE. Well, I’m going to say from 1998 to 2013 the Gold Member was a Graduate Of the Last Decade. Recently, IEEE has changed that to refer to them as Young Professionals and actually increased that young professional age requirement, I think, to maybe 35. So, they really have modified that to be more encompassing, because a lot of people outside IEEE wouldn’t necessarily know what Gold is. The Life Members Committee has always tried to support those efforts as well. They would do that, a lot of projects that might come up for some of the then Gold groups. They would support them by giving them some funding.

Future of Life Members Committee

BUTRICA:

Any idea of where you see the Life Members Committee going in the future?

TOLAND:

I think they would still continue to have good cooperation with the Foundation itself, and still try to build upon the relationship that they had with their Life Members to try to make sure that they continue to appreciate their IEEE membership, and their community and the networking that they had within the organization. They would also like to get some more people to contribute to the fund, but at the same time I think the Foundation has other programs that also might be appealing to Life Members as well. So I don’t know if they would have so much of an emphasis on building the fund balance, other than trying to keep the networking and the good relationship with the Life Members themselves. They would also focus on the Affinity Groups, to make sure that they’re going out there, meeting and engaging the members, because that all falls within what the MGA goals are: to have a good relationship with the member. I think the Life Members can contribute to that overall position, as well.

Life Member Affinity Group Activities

BUTRICA:

Okay. A lot of the discussion about the Affinity Groups seems to be about getting members to participate more in IEEE activities. They’re always talking about that. Could you tell me why that is? Is it just that it's something that is always on the agenda, or is there some inertia that has to be overcome?

TOLAND:

I think it’s something that is kind of always on the agenda, but I also think they recognize that it’s a value that IEEE can provide to the membership itself. It’s just another way to make sure that the Life Members, the people that have been members for such a long time, still can take advantage of being affiliated with IEEE. I think they recognize, in general, a lot of those people are not necessarily the ones that really need all the technical journals. I’m sure a lot of them still read them and get it, but it’s just another way to add value to an IEEE membership, to being a member.

BUTRICA:

This is speaking from the Section I’m in: a lot of the activity seems to be having speakers come in and talk about their research, or what it is that they’re currently working on, as opposed to other activities that Life Members seem to be interested in, say, history, for example.

TOLAND:

Right, and I think that’s what they try to do from a Life Member Affinity Group point of view. They try to have events that really appeal to the Life Members. I know the Philadelphia Section. Merrill Buckley, who was a past IEEE President, for a while there he was very involved in the Life Member activities. They would organize events to museums, or a technical component, or even some of the power plants or stuff like that, things that might have a technically-focused visit for them.

BUTRICA:

The Princeton Section seemed to be very active at one time, very much engaged with the Life Members Committee, but then I stopped seeing any references to them.

TOLAND:

Yes. I think a lot of times it does come back to having the right person in the group. I think you should also point out the one thing that the Life Members Committee has also implemented in the last five or six years is the Life Member tours, the technical tours, and that’s building upon the idea of having a community of Life Members, and there’s activities that might appeal to them. Now, this isn’t something that’s going to appeal to everybody, because the tours might have 50 people, if that, but it is an opportunity for them to build upon their IEEE relationship and also their love of history and travel and to actually have some common adventures, and build upon their common interests.

BUTRICA:

Is it just Life Members and elder members who go on those tours?

TOLAND:

I think in general that is who has come, but I think it’s open to anybody. I think in general that’s who’s participated in the past, at least the first few years of the program that I was monitoring.

BUTRICA:

It involves taking off a good chunk of time to travel over there, take the tours, which are not one or two days. (laughter)

TOLAND:

No, but it was also contingent on really getting a good Life Member volunteer, and Scott Atkinson was one of the drivers of the program. Again, going back to Lyle Feisel, I think he mentioned it as a possibility, but then Ted Bickart, who was on Life Members Committee, actually worked on it a lot, and then Scott kind of took it off from Ted, but came up with the idea. They were building upon what I guess a lot of universities do sometimes, too, as part of alumni groups. They might have trips, as well, so it’s a similar concept.

BUTRICA:

Right. Early on, when they were discussing it, they were saying that there might be a possibility of revenues coming into the Life Member Fund, but it didn’t happen. They pretty much just break even, isn’t that correct?

TOLAND:

From my time, yes, they are breaking even, but I guess in that regard you can never know if it’s going to work out for more donations, because it could be that somebody who had a good experience on it, then when they pass away they might leave some money for the Life Member Fund or the Foundation as part of their annual giving. I think right now the current process is just to make sure that it breaks even, and I think that would be a good use of funds.

BUTRICA:

And once again, it’s another way of involving the Sections in these activities.

TOLAND:

Yes, they would certainly engage the Sections to do that. I know when they were doing the trip to Panama, which might’ve been the first tour, they really got the local Section in Panama there involved, and next year I think they’re going to Europe. I forget. I think they certainly get those people involved, too.

BUTRICA:

Yes. The one to Japan involved at least four different Sections, and, of course, each Section had its milestones and whatnot to visit.

TOLAND:

Yes.

Closing Remarks

BUTRICA:

Is there anything else you want to add?

TOLAND:

No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve probably talked enough. (laughter)

BUTRICA:

Okay, we’ll call that it. Thank you.

TOLAND:

You’re welcome.

END OF INTERVIEW