First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:John Brooks Slaughter


Full name

John Brooks Slaughter

Birth date


What Award did you receive from IEEE?

IEEE Founders Award

Place of Birth

Topeka, Kansas

Where did you grow up

Topeka, Kansas

Family Background: Parents and their education level & Siblings and their education/profession

Parents: High School Educations, Three Sisters: High School Educations

What did you want to do when you grew up?

Become an Electrical Engineer

What was your upbringing like? Did you have a large family?

Wonderful family, Mother, Dad and Three Sisters. We faced segregation and racial discrimination but did not let them deter our pursuing our aspirations.

Did you have any hobbies (eg. Some people talk about learning trade skills from a family member.)

I constructed model airplanes and electronic devices

Did you partake in after school activities? Did you play sports?

I played baseball and ran cross country track.

Did you have a part-time job (after school, summer)? What was your most surprising job assignment?

I managed a frozen food locker facility after school and in the summer. To be placed in charge of the faciity at age 16 was the most surprising assignment.

Did you take vacations and/or go on day trips? Favorite holiday/family gathering?

We went on annual vacations to visit both my mother's and my father's families.

EDUCATION: Favorite subject in school (K-12, university). Why?

In K-12 it was Literature because I was a voracious reader. In college it was American History and English Literature for the same reason.

Did you have a least favorite subject in school (K-12, university. Why?

In K-12 it was math because I had difficulty with it but in college and beyond I enjoyed it. I did not have a least favorite subject in college because I love to learn. I don't have a least favorite subject otherwise because I love to learn.because I love to learn.In K-12 it was math because I had difficulty with it but I enjoyed it when I was in college and beyond.

Why did you select the university (universities) you attended? What was your major and why did you select it?

I attended four universities from baccalaureate to Ph.D. The primary reason is that they were close to where I was residing at the time.

Employment and career: First job - Current position - Favorite job

First job was as an Associate Engineer at General Dynamics. My current position is professor at USC. My favorite position was president of Occidental College.

Has your career turned out as you expected?

Much more than I ever envisioned!

Has IEEE played a role in your career? How? What does IEEE mean to you?

I have been associated with IEEE for 60 years or more and am proud to have served as chair of the Minorities Committee and become a Fellow.

You have been awarded one of IEEE's highest-level awards. What does this award mean to you?

It is very meaningful to me because it is an honor to be recognized by my electrical engineering peers.

What other associations have helped you in your career?


Reflection: What would you have done differently or tell your younger self now?

Do not stop learning and be sure to add courses in the humanities and the social sciences while pursuing your engineering education if you wish to be educated and not just trained.

Was there a project that you were so passionate about that you continued to pursue it even though there may have been doubts about its success?

I led a group of engineers and technicians in successfully integrating digital computers as controllers in large electro-mechanical equipment.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

Becoming a university president twice and seeing each of them become more diverse and inclusive while also becoming more academically excellent at the same time.

Personal Life: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?

I enjoy writing and model railroading

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

Being father to two wonderful children

Do you have a favorite food? Or a family recipe that may have been passed down?

I like catfish, collard greens, and hot buttered rolls.

Do you have a favorite genre of music? or a favorite song? Or do you play an instrument?


Do you have a prize possession? If so, please explain.

Just my family

What are three things people may not know about you?

Left-Handed, introverted, Claustrophobic

Who was your mentor? (eg. family member or professor)

My father

What is one thing you cannot live without in your work space?

My Day-Timer planner

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

I will be retiring on June 30, 2022