First-Hand:IEEE Past President Memoir: Kenneth Laker

Family background and education questions

What were some major events in your life, outside IEEE, that shaped you?

1. The sudden death of my father when I was 13 years old.

2. Meeting and marying my wife 42 years ago.

3. My assignment as a grader to an NYU faculty member Mohammed Ghausi who subsequently became my PhD advisor and mentor.  We subsequently co-authored two books together.

4. The birth of my three sons John, Chris and Brian.

5. My four years as a U.S. Air Force officer working as a researcher at the Air Force Cambridge Research Labs.  During my time at AFCRL from 1973-77 I had the opportunity to enter a new and exciting field called surface acoustic wave devices which was far removed from my prior experience and PhD thesis.  My success in this new technology helped me to realize the value of taking intellectual risks to explore new fields.

6. My eight years at AT&T Bell Labs from 1977-84.  These eight years was the most prolific period of my career from a research, inventor and publications stand point.   I learned a great deal from several wonderful colleagues.

7. The Judge Green decision in 1984 to separate the Bell operatiing companies from AT&T.  This decsion was catalyst for my move to the University of Pennsylvania late that same year.

8. The birth of my grand daughter Melanie in 2007.

Why did you become an EE, CS or other technical professional?

I enjoyed math and science in both grammar and high school.  I also enjoyed building and creating things using an erector set and model airplane kits.  Hence, I was directed by teachers and a guidance councelor to consider majoring in engineering.

Questions concerning your career

How did your IEEE activities evolve in parallel to your career?

How did your IEEE activities contribute to your career?

Did you use IEEE journals and conferences as professional outlets?

General IEEE questions

When and how did you join IEEE (or predecessor AIEE or IRE)?

What was your initial interaction with the IEEE?

When and how did you first become active in volunteer roles?

What committees/Societies/Sections activities were you involved with?

What leadership positions have you held in IEEE, and, what were the circumstances that got you elected to these positions?

How did you choose the areas in which to be active?

What major events stand out during your career as a volunteer (independent of whether or not you played a role in these events), and which of these took place during your presidency?

If you were around before 1963, what are your recollections/experiences of the merger?

How was IEEE organized when you started and became active? (The society structure only assumed its present form in the 1970s)

How did you come to be on the IEEE Board of Directors?

How has IEEE evolved/changed over the course of your involvement?

What have been some of your significant accomplishments in IEEE? Of which ones are you the proudest?

What have been some of the most significant accomplishments in IEEE during your membership, other than those above?

Specific questions relating to your IEEE Presidential years (President-elect, President, and Past-President)

Why did you decide/agree to run for President?

What are your recollections about your "campaign?" What were your assumptions about the electorate (if any)?

Why do you think you won (or lost first, and then won)?

Once elected, did you feel that your qualifications were inadequate in certain areas? If yes, what, if anything, did you do about it?

What, if anything, stood out during your year as president-elect?

What did you hope to accomplish during your Presidency?

What did you actually accomplished from the above, and what prevented you from accomplishing the rest, if any?

What were the major initiatives of your Presidency, and were they satisfactorily completed?

Were there any unexpected problems or events that caused you to lose focus on your initial expectations?

What were some of your goals that you were unable to achieve, and why?

What were the major initiatives and accomplishments of committees during your Presidency?

The Board of directors and its committees have changed over the years, can you briefly describe the structure of the Board and its standing committees during your period of leadership? Were any committees started or terminated during your period of leadership?

What did IEEE innovate (with or without your help) during your presidential year? (for example, in 1993 the Individual Benefits and Services Committee decided to make money by taking royalties from suppliers.)

Were there any new products or services launched during your presidency? Were there any products or services terminated?

How did the Board of Directors operate and how did it provide leadership and guidance?

Did the IEEE have a formal strategic plan during your Presidency? To what extent did it make a difference?

Did the IEEE have a Strategic Planning Committee during your Presidency? To what extent did it make a difference?

What percent of the time, approximately, did the Board spend on strategic issues (as opposed to operational issues; bylaw and policy revisions, etc.)?How were your relations with predecessors and successors and were there any notable interactions?

How were your relations with the Executive Director and other staff?

What issues did the Board of Directors face during your Presidency and which did they resolve, fail to resolve or refused to try to resolve during your Presidency?

What are your happiest, unhappiest, most frustrating, funniest, and saddest recollections of this period?

If you got a second chance at being president, what would you do differently?

How much time did you devote to the presidency, and what was the effect on your “real” work?

What, if anything, stood out during your year as past-president?

What was your relationship to the Major Boards and their Chairs?

How was your presidency affected by the activities of the Major Boards, their volunteers and staff?

How much did you involve the President-elect on actions that could affect his/her presidency?

Presidential travels

Where did you travel in your Presidential year?

Were there any specific travels to Sections, Regional Committees, Societies, Conferences; that standout in your memory?

What awards did you hand out?

What companies did you visit?

What national societies did you visit and during those visits were there any particular individuals that you met that stand out in your memory?

What governmental agencies and offices, US and others, did you visit, whom did you meet and what did they want from you and from IEEE? What did you want from them?

In retrospect, how much was your travel and venues driven by personal desires vs institutional necessities?

Post-Presidential Activities

Can you briefly describe your IEEE activities after your Presidential years were over?

When, if at all, did you cease being an active volunteer and why?

Do you regret and/or miss the apparent loss of power and influence of your presidency?

What new or other activities, if any, replaced your IEEE functions?