Eta Kappa Nu Merger with IEEE


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The Ten Founders of Eta Kappa Nu.

Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) was founded as the national honor society for electrical engineering in the United States on 28 October 1904 by Maurice L. Carr and nine other undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These founders created a lifelong membership designation for individuals who demonstrate potential for further career success and professional contributions. Membership qualifications were set related to the society ideals of scholarship, character, and attitude. The organization aims were to promote excellence in education, to assist members during their careers, and to serve the profession.

The ten founders were M. L. Carr, Charles E. Armstrong, Ralph E. Bowser, Carl K. Brydges, William T. Burnett, Hibbard S. Greene, Frank W. Winders, Edmund B. Wheeler, Milton K. Akers, and Fred D. Smith.  They formed the first chapter, designated the Alpha Chapter, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and developed a national structure.  M. L. Carr and E. B. Wheeler served as the first and second presidents, respectively. The Beta, Gamma, and Delta Chapters were organized at Purdue University during 1905-06, Ohio State University on 5 January 1907, and Illinois Institute of Technology on 24 May 1909, respectively. (While the Beta Chapter was the second operational chapter of HKN, it did not receive approval from the Purdue University administration until 1913 for an official charter date of 15 March 1913.) As of 2009, the organization had more than 200 student chapters in electrical and computer engineering programs and had inducted about 200,000 members as students or as professionals. 

Eta Kappa Nu has had a close relationship with the AIEE and IRE and then the IEEE.  HKN student chapters and IEEE student branches organized many joint service activities and prominent electrical and computer engineers were often involved in both HKN and these professional organizations.  Also, the cooperation included joint award and recognition ceremonies.  This close relationship was extended in 2010 in which HKN became an organizational unit and the official honor society of IEEE.

The Merger

Richard Gowen, John Vig, and Bruce Eisenstein.

On 14 February 2009, Ea Kappa Nu signed a merger agreement with IEEE.  The merger, which went into legal effect on 1 September 2010, made HKN the official honor society of IEEE, recognizing scholarship and academic excellence and identifying student leaders, young professionals and eminent scholars in the IEEE’s technical fields of interest.  The agreement was signed by Bruce Eisenstein, President of HKN; Richard Gowen, President of the IEEE Foundation; and John Vig, IEEE President and CEO, during the IEEE meeting series in Puerto Rico, at a ceremony attended by more than 200 members of IEEE and Eta Kappa Nu. A restricted endowment was created in the IEEE Foundation to support HKN’s educational, societal, and recognition activities.  In addition to holding HKN’s current assets, the new endowment received an initial donation of US$1.2M from IEEE.            

Bruce Eisenstein, HKN President, signing the merger document on 14 February 2009.

The formal merger of Eta Kappa Nu into the IEEE organization was approved by the HKN Board of Directors, the HKN chapters, the IEEE Board of Directors, the IEEE Assembly (representing the members of the IEEE), and the IEEE Foundation.  As a result of the merger, Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) became IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN), the honor society became an organizational unit of IEEE within the Educational Activities Board (EAB), and the governing body changed from the HKN Board of Directors to the IEEE-HKN Board of Governors.  The HKN student chapters remained distinct at their host institutions.  The HKN awards program and THE BRIDGE magazine, switching to an all-electronic IEEE publication, continued as signature activities under the the IEEE-HKN Board of Governors.  The headquarters moved from Chicago, Illinois to the IEEE offices in Piscataway, NJ.      

The honor society emphasis on ideals of scholarshipcharacter, and attitude and the distinctive symbols and general process for member election remained the same.  Any person inducted before or after the merger may use the designation “Eta Kappa Nu,” “HKN,” “IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu,” or “IEEE-HKN” followed by the year of their induction.  The new IEEE-HKN began chartering chapters outside of Regions 1-5 and the membership eligibility expanded to IEEE fields of interest.

Seated: Richard GowenJohn Vig, and Bruce Eisenstein. Standing, from left to right: Michael LightnerArthur WinstonMoshe Kam, Fern Katronetzky, Howard Michel, Evelyn Hirt, Eric Herz, David Hodges, Joseph Lillie, Pedro RayLewis Terman, Douglas Gorham, Cecilia Jankowski, and Teofilo Ramos. February 2009.

The Transition and Beyond

THE BRIDGE Magazine 113(3), 2017. This cover with an image of Intel's UAV light-display show won a 2018 APEX Award.

During the years following the merger, the IEEE-Board of Governors gave special attention to integrating the organization into the IEEE structure and to engaging HKN alumni in its activities.  An annual Founders Day (a celebration of HKN and service) and an annual student conference were emphasized as signature activities along with student and career recognitions, chapter support, the awards program, and THE BRIDGE magazine.  The first chapters outside of Regions 1-5 were chartered in 2012 at the University of Hong Kong and Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.  As of 2020, a total of 27 new chapters have been a chartered since the 2010 merger and many inactive chapters reinstated. THE BRIDGE magazine began an electronic-only publication and won APEX awards of excellence for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.  Chapters were encouraged to have local Founders Day events each October 28th to promote Eta Kappa Nu and to engage in service activities. The chapters reported a growing number of service hours which demonstrated the impact that HKN chapters have on their local campus and community. A social media presence was added with a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page. Comprehensive Identity Guidelines were developed to increase recognition of the IEEE-HKN brand and to provide templates for various chapter operations activities. These guidelines were recognized with a 2021 APEX Grand Award.

The annual Student Leadership Conference provided professional development for student members. This conference program began in 2002 and was expanded after the merger. Many conferences were hosted by the following HKN chapters.

THE BRIDGE Magazine 115(1), 2019. The annual report for 2018 is contained in this issue and this report won a 2020 APEX Award.
  • 2002, Nu Chapter, Iowa State University
  • 2004, Alpha Chapter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2006, Beta Chapter, Purdue University
  • 2007 (Two Conferences), Mu Chapter, University of California, Berkeley and Gamma Theta Chapter, Missouri University of S&T (then University of Missouri-Rolla)
  • 2008, Sigma Chapter, Carnegie Mellon University
  • 2009, Theta Tau Chapter, University of Michigan, Dearborn
  • 2010, Beta Xi Chapter, University of Oklahoma
  • 2011, Alpha Chapter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2013, Epsilon Beta Chapter, Arizona State University
  • 2014, Nu Chapter, Iowa State University
  • 2015, Mu Chapter, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2016, Beta Epsilon Chapter, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 2017, Beta Chapter, Purdue University
  • 2018, Epsilon Sigma Chapter, University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 2019, Epsilon Delta Chapter, Tufts University
  • 2020, HKN Experience, Virtual Conference
  • 2021, Student Leadership Conference, Virtual Conference
  • 2022, Student Leadership Conference, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

IEEE-HKN continued its awards program. The Outstanding Young Professional Award, the C. Holmes MacDonald Outstanding Teaching Award, the Vladimir Karapetoff Award, and the Distinguished Service Awards were presented at the IEEE EAB Awards ceremonies. The Karapetoff Award was discontinued in 2019 and the Asad M. Madni Award added in 2019. The Outstanding Chapter Awards and the Zerby-Koerner Outstanding Student Award continued to be presented at the annual meeting of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEHDA). Key Chapter recognition was added in 2014 to promote best practices and high activity among chapters. Key chapter awards were given at the student leadership conferences.

2020 Call for Award Nominations. HKN Zerby/Koerner and MacDonald Winners for 2011-2019.

The early leadership of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu is shown in the tables below.  Fern Katronetsky served as the Director of IEEE-HKN from 2010-2012; Nancy M. Ostin became Director in 2012.  The appointment of volunteer Editor-in Chiefs of THE BRIDGE magazine began in 2013 with Steve E. Watkins (EIC 2013-2017). A student position was added to the Board of Governors for 2014 and then expanded to two positions in 2018.

Presidents of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu from 2010-2024
Term President Affiliation while President Chapter of Induction
2008-2010 Bruce A. Eisenstein Drexel University Beta Alpha '68
2011-2012 Stephen M. Goodnick Arizona State University Pi '90
2013-2014 John A. Orr Worcester Plytechnic University Alpha '67
2015 Evelyn H. Hirt DoE Pacific Northwest Nat’l Lab Beta Sigma '74
2016 S. K. Ramesh California State University, Northridge Lambda Beta '08
2017 Timothy P. Kurzweg Drexel University Epsilon '94
2018 Steve E. Watkins Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta ‘82
2019 Karen A. Panetta Tufts University Epsilon Delta '95
2020 Edward A. Rezek Northrop Grumman (retired) Delta Zeta '75
2021 Ronald G. Jensen IBM (retired) Nu '72
2022 James M. Conrad University of North Carolina at Charlotte Beta Eta '89
2023 Sampathkumar Veeraraghavan Amazon Epsilon Delta '13
2024 M. Ryan Bales Georgia Tech Research Institute Gamma Theta '03
Presidents and Director of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu: l-r John Orr (2013-2014), Stephen Goodnick (2011-2012), S. K. Ramesh (2016), Nancy Ostin (Director), Tim Kurzweg (2017), and Steve E. Watkins (2018). Not Shown: Bruce Eisenstein (2008-2010) and Evelyn Hirt (2015). November 2017.
Editors of THE BRIDGE Magazine since 2013
Term Editor-in-Chief (EIC) Affiliation while EIC Chapter of Induction
2013-2017 Steve E. Watkins Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta '82
2018-2019 Stephen M. Williams (Co-EIC) Milwaukee School of Engineering Iota '84
2018-2022 Sahra Sedigh Sarvestani (Co-EIC) Missouri University of S&T Beta
2020-2022 Steve E. Watkins (Co-EIC) Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta '82
2023-Present Jason K. Hui Textron Systems Epsilon Delta
Student Members of the Board of Governors 2014-2023
Term Student Governor University of Induction Chapter of Induction
2014 & 2015 Kyle Lady University of Michigan Beta Epsilon
2016 Leann Kreiger Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta
2017 & 2018 Michael Benson University of Michigan Beta Epsilon
2018 Katie Lewis Boston University Kappa Sigma
2019 & 2020 Katelyn Brinker Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta
2019 Panagis Samolis Boston University Kappa Sigma
2020 & 2021 Sandro Sartoni Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy Mu Nu
2021 & 2022 Joseph Green Boston University Kappa Sigma
2022 Ashley Kuhnley California State University, Northridge Lambda Beta
2023 Matteo Alasio Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy Mu Nu
2023 Elanor Jackson Missouri University of S&T Gamma Theta

Many recent IEEE Presidents are members of Eta Kappa Nu; these include the following:

Thomas M. Coughlin (2024 President), Saifur Rahman (2023 President), Susan "Kathy" Land (2021 President), Toshio Fukuda (2020 President), José M. F. Moura (2019 President), James A. Jefferies (2018 President), Karen Bartleson (2017 President), Barry L. Shoop (2016 President), J. Roberto de Marca (2014 President), Peter Staecker (2013 President), Gordon Day (2012 President), Moshe Kam (2011 President), Pedro Ray (2010 President), John R. Vig (2009 President), Leah H. Jamieson (2007 President), Michael R. Lightner (2006 President), Arthur W. Winston (2004 President), Bruce A. Eisenstein (2000 President), Kenneth R. Laker (1999 President), Henry L. Bachman (1987 President), Richard Gowen (1984 President), and Robert E. Larson (1982 President).

Further Information

Eta Kappa Nu Page

History of Eta Kappa Nu - A book prepared by Larry Dwon in 1976 on the early history of HKN.

Profiles in Engineering Leadership: Eta Kappa Nu's First Century Eminent Members - A book prepared by the IEEE History Center on behalf of Eta Kappa Nu.

IEEE-HKN: The Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society, Steve E. Watkins, IEEE Potentials, 31(4), 19-21, (2012).

Eta Kappa Nu Web Page,