First-Hand:RAW Interview of Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret) by the INSTITUTE on "Professionalism and Ethics"


Kathy Pretz, Chief Editor of IEEE’s INSTITUTE, conducted a raw interview of IEEE Life Senior Member Walter L. Elden, P.E. (RET) on April 23, 2021 to prepare for a June 2021 article in SPECTRUM/Institute. The subject matter focused on his views and past experiences in Professionalism and Ethics.

1974 Engineer of the Year Awarded to Walter L. Elden, P.E, (Ret) for his Professionalism by the IEEE Orlando Section

Here is the link to the final published article in INSTITUTE June 2021ː

A Passionate Proponent of Professional Ethics for Engineers - IEEE Spectrum

A Passionate Proponent of Professional Ethics for Engineers - IEEE Spectrum

A Passionate Proponent of Professional Ethics for Engineers

Walter Elden is an advocate for ethics advice and support programs for members


06 JUL 2021


SUGGESTIONː Listen to each audio while following the original unedited text, as in the audios, new comments of Elden have been added. Answers to 5,6 and 9 are particularly important.

QUESTION 1. Tell me about your engineering career.

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. In 1954, I Visited the campus of U of Florida while serving in the Navy, where I spoke with a Professor about the school of Engineering, I was impressed by what I saw and learned, then enrolled at Florida

b. Being a Korean War Veteran of the US Navy, the GI Bill paid for my education and living expenses

c. Completed Engineering in 3 years, earning a BEE (With Honors) degree

d. My first assignment as an Engineer was with the Martin Co, in Orlando, Fl with a Systems Engineering assignment where I was responsible for specifying, overseeing the development by 2 subcontractors, develop a suite of Signal Conditioning modules for flight testing the Army’s new Solid Propellant Pershing Short Range missile. Each Pershing tested carried 80 of these Modules.

e. Later, the Army Pershing Missiles were deployed along the Eastern Front of Europe, Nuclear Tipped, to hold the Russians back from invading Europe

f. After working 2 years at the Martin Co. I decided that I needed to get actual experience designing and developing various electronics equipment.

g. So I moved to Houston, TX with one of my Sub Contractors for the Pershing program, Dresser Electronics. There I was assigned and developed one of the Signal Conditioning Modules used to test the new Air Force ICBM Missiles, the Minuteman.

h. I took advantage of nearby U of Houston, enrolled and obtained MSEE degree, attending night school classes.

i. Then I moved back to Orlando, FL, where a new, small Ground and Airborne developer of Telemetry Systems and Equipment, Dynatronics, hired me into their Airborne Section.

j. There at Dynatronics, I was a Project Engineer with total responsibility for the proposal writing to compete, then after winning the contract, leading and doing the design, development, final testing and shipping to customers telemetry and data acquisition equipment for testing High Altitude Research Balloons for the Air Force, Amplifiers for the F-4 Air Force Fighter, A 250 Channel System for testing the West German 2nd Stage Satellite Launcher, and finally a 40 Channel Data Acquisition system for flight testing High Altitude Clear Air Turbulence, or HICAT, flown in an Air Force U-2 Research Aircraft. I delivered it to Lockheed Burbank, trained them and then assisted and witnessed the first test flight in a U-2 at Edwards Air Force Base. Later, the system was flown all around the world for 2 years, testing HICAT.

k. I rejoined Martin where I switched back to Systems Engineering for the remainder of my career. At Martin I was engaged in conducting studies, conducting research on new communications technologies, and had one work proposed for a Patent on Voice Encoding.

l. Then I moved to Honeywell in St. Petersburg, Fl, where I continued my work and interest in Systems Engineering, wrote proposals, conducted studies, and won a Systems Contract for Automating the Air Forces Technical Control Systems for Communications. This contract involved a one week visit to the Air Force’s communications systems in the Tokyo, Japan area.

m. Returning to Martin Co I conducted technology studies in the new Packet Switching form of Networking, led the Systems Engineering part of a proposal for upgrading the FAA’s Enroute Air Traffic Control Systems around the US. At Martin Co I became active in Engineering Professionalism and Ethics and became very acting in the local Orlando Section of IEEE, causing me to be separated from Martin (more on this later).

n. After becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer in Florida, I was engaged in a Mobile Home fire, which killed 2 children. Appearing as an Expert Witness and being deposed by 2 Defendant Companies, the case was settled in favor of the children’s parents (more on this later).

o. I then joined NCR in Columbia, SC in their Advanced Systems department. There I conducted Networking studies, joined the ANSI Committee developing standards for the new packet switching public data networks. I contributed to both ANSI and intra-NCR networking standards development for interfacing with Public Data Networks, later to be known as the INTERNET.

p. I was offered a position with Harris Corp in Melbourne, FL, where the remaining career years I conducted studies, led/wrote proposals for new business, and my final job was as the System Architect of the proposal for the upgrading the Defense Messaging System, or DMS. With Harris one of the competing Prime Contractors, the team consisted of numerous Subcontractors. The system design had to employ Commercial Off the Shelf Technology and products and conform to the X.25/400 and 500 standards for message switching. The Harris proposal was rated #1 Technically and its proposal value was $1 Billion.

q. I retired in 1996 and then devoted my free time to advancing IEEE’s Professional and Ethics activities (more bout this later)


Here are examples of Airborne Products and Equipment I designed/developed - CLICK ON LINK TO DISPLAY


QUESTION 2. What inspired you to pursue engineering?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. I was raised in a Blue Collar Catholic family of 6 where both my father and mother only had the first 8 years of schooling, but they emphasized religion, education, to work hard, music and to engage in school sports, where mine were basketball, track and volleyball

b. I was given a violin at age 11 and took formal lessons thru the 12th grade; as a result I served as the Concert Master all thru Junior and Senior high school

c. I decided in the 12th grade to enroll in Orchestra, Band and Chorus and that I wanted to become a High School/College Director of Music, In Orchestra, Chorus and Band, which I patterned after my high school Director of Music

d. As a result, I was awarded a Music Scholarship to the University of Miami

e. Three weeks after graduating from high School, the Korean War started

f. I completed my Freshman year at Miami but was assured I would soon be drafted into the Army. I enlisted in the Navy instead.

g. I was given an intelligence test and was told that I did well enough that I would serve in the Aviation Branch plus be guaranteed to attend 33 weeks of aviation electronics maintenance

h. It was the effects of the Korean War which gave me the opportunity to pursue engineering rather than music

i. I eventually received a year of schooling here I was trained in Naval Aviation electronics, and SONAR

j. I Served in Squadron VX-1 maintaining 3 pieces of equipment; the APN-22 Radar Altimeter, LORAN for navigation, and IFF for Identifying if one’s plane were a Friend or Foe

k. I Assisted a Field Engineer install and test the new APN-22 Radar Altimeter in planes and blimps of our squadron

l. That experience convinced me to switch to engineering from music and to become educated to design the equipment rather than just test and maintain them as a Technician

QUESTION 3. Why did you join IEEE and why do you continue to volunteer for the organization?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. A course taken at U of F on Engineering Professionalism and Ethics in 1957 convinced me to become a licensed Professional Engineer later in my career as for me that would be the mark for what an Engineer should look like

b. I joined the AIEE and IRE in my Junior year of 1957

c. Was inducted into the Sigma Tau Engineering Honorary 1958

d. Received the BEE (With Honors) degree in 1958

e. Took Engineer-Intern exam week of Graduation, step 1 to becoming a PE

f. My early involvement with Pre IEEE, the IRE, was in the Society on Space Electronics and Telemetry, my working field

g. I presented papers at IRE and IEEE conferences about the equipment I developed

h. Later I got very involved in promoting Professionalism and Ethics, serving on the MCC, which I helped form, Employment Guidelines Task Force, published charts showing results of the IEEE Salary Surveys

i. I served on the MCC from 1996-98 and have been working to support and restore Ethics Advice and Ethical Support ever since

QUESTION 4. What led you to take up the cause of professional ethics?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. Working long hours designing airborne telemetry equipment without extra compensation made me question if I was truly a professional or just another worker

b. Lack of being recognized as the Professional Image I had developed of a PE from the U of F course on Engineering Professionalism and Ethics

c. I then switched from Product to Systems Engineering at advice from a more senior engineer who interviewed me

d. Then in the 1970’s, there developed the BART Case, led by Dr. Stephen Unger and the CSIT

e. I began reading the CSIT Newsletter published under Dr Steve Unger on professional activities starting in IEEE

f. The Amendment of IEEE’s Constitution adding Professional and Ethical Activities in 1973

g. My joining the Florida state branch of the NSPE, FES, and becoming the State Vice Chair of PEI

h. My proposing and creating the first Professional Activities Committee In IEEE in the Orlando Section in 1973

i. I attended UCLA in 1974 for a one week course on “System Safety and Product Liability” conducted by Attorney-Engineer George Peters, joined the SSS and had papers published about engineers working in industry

j. Getting a Professional Activities Session established for the first time at the 1974 SOUTHEASTCON and my presenting papers about Professionalism, Ethics, Licensure, Product Safety

k. I became a licensed Profession Engineer in Florida in January of 1974

l. My being pressured by my Engineering Manager (a Licensed PE and Senior Member of IEEE) to not present them, as it would be too extreme to do he said, but I did present them

m. The Orlando Section awarded me an “Engineer of the Year” for my Professional Activities in the Orlando Section

n. Then my being “Forced to Resign” in 1974 for allegedly Missing Schedules (but was untrue) and having been forced to read out loud a 3 page performance appraisal with 3 others present which was 85% false

o. I was “forced to resign under coercion” on August 24, 1974. I was unprepared emotionally for this event so much that for the next 6 months I was not able to even try to get employed somewhere else. Plus our daughter was just entering the 6th grade and I did not want to cause her to have to complete that last year of Elementary Studies at a new school. We lived off our savings for that time period.

p. Then around March of 1975, I was able to find employment over on the Atlantic Coast at the Kennedy Space Center of NASA. It was over an hour drive each way. Being an experienced Systems Engineer, I was tasked with establishing the Systems and Performance Requirements for the Voice Communications Systems in support of the new Space Shuttle program.

q. The technical part of that work was great, but the pay was not. By June I found an opportunity with NCR at their new facility in Columbia, SC, which I accepted in the Advanced Systems Department, which introduced me to a new field; Public Data Networking and the first elements of today’s INTERNET.

r. At the same time the BART Case Amicus Curiae filing by IEEE in 1975 on behalf of the 3 fired engineers led me to re-think that I was more than just a worker.

s. I attended the FES State meeting at Marco Island in 1975 and debated against engineers in industry being exempt from holding a PE License as it worked against them being treated as a Professional

t. In 1975 also, I was asked, being a PE, to investigate the probable cause of a fire in a mobile home which killed 2 young children.

u. I conducted an investigation, obtained technical materials and reports on Aluminum wiring causing fires, and was deposed by 2 manufacturer’s attorneys for 8 hours. I testified that both could have failed and caused the fire, but it had not been able to examine the mobile home, so I could only give my opinion.

v. The case ended that weekend in favor of the Parents, whose attorney had retained me

w. That experience caused me to have greater respect for avoiding possible product liability in poor or defective designs by engineers and manufacturers, thus causing harm to the public users

QUESTION 5. Why are you so passionate about making sure IEEE addresses ethics advice and ethical support for its members?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. Having experienced being forced to resign in 1974, debating against exempting engineers in industry from being required to hold PE licenses in 1975, and the experience in the mobile home fire deaths case, convinced me to get involved professionally in IEEE and work to support my fellow engineer members be supported in practicing ethically

b. I then contacted Dr. Steve Unger, of the CSIT, to see how I could contribute to his ethics efforts.

c. That led me to being appointed to a new USAB Ethics Task Force charged with developing a proposal and procedures for IEEE to form a Member Conduct Committee. The Task Force met in New York in the Spring of 1977 to begin that work.

d. Steve led the group develop procedures for Disciplining Members who violated the Code of Ethics. I then led the same group develop procesures for Providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support. Then USAB President John Guerrera asked me to go to San Diego and present its proposal for creating a MCC. I did that and also Jim Fairman presented one proposal of the Board for just Disciplining Members. These were then combined and at the February 1978 meeting, the Board created the first MCC and approved each of the 3 proposed services to be provided.

e. Later, just after the first Member Conduct Committee was formed in 1978, I filed what may have been the first MCC Misconduct Complaint against my former Engineering Director, a Texas PE and and IEEE Senior Member, charging several misconduct actions he took in getting me forced to resign, but the MCC would not accept it as a case.

f. My wife urged me to “just let it go” and with MCC not accepting it as a case, I did just that.

QUESTION 6. Why is it important for IEEE to offer these services to members?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. In order to answer this, I feel it is important to review what the IEEE Attorneys in the BART case argued in the Amicus Curiae brief they entered in that case, along with 2 other IEEE cases, Virginia Edgerton and Salvador Castro:

“Based upon the foregoing, we submit and we urge this Court to acknowledge that an engineer has an overriding obligation to protect the public. Specifically, we urge this Court:

(1) To rule that evidence of professional ethics is relevant, material and admissible in this case; and

(2) To rule, as to any motions for judgment or any jury instructions, that an engineer is obligated to protect the public safety, that an engineer’s contract of employment includes as a matter of law, an implied term that such engineer will protect the public safety, and that a discharge of an engineer solely or in substantial part because he acted to protect the public safety constitutes a breach of such implied term.”

b. In addition to the BART case of the 3 engineers being fired for trying to get design defects corrected, in both the Edgerton and Castro cases, there was one common thread; first, in each instance, Edgerton and Castro uncovered technical conditions, which, if left unchecked, could/would cause harm to the users and the public. Then when each attempted to get their supervisors to respond responsibly to try to correct the defects reported, they were not in favor of rectifying them. Then when each went one step further to inform a higher authority of the defect(s), their respective supervisors retaliated by firing them. These incidents are the same as what occurred in the above BART case to the 3 engineers.

c. There can be no question which has the greater power in these situations, as since the late 1880’s the so called at-will employment law has allowed the employer to be able to dismiss or fire an employee for “any cause-just or unjust”. And for that reason and that in the BART Case Amicus Curiae, IEEE Attorneys pleaded that “the engineer’s overriding duty is the protection of the public”, the IEEE must offer Ethical Support when called upon and justified.

QUESTION 7. What did you learn in updating Page 2 of the 2017 version of the IEEE ETHICS HISTORY REPOSITORY?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. When I undertook to update the IEHR, it was done at the request of IEEE History Center Dr. Michael Geselowitz. Further, he issued a memo that my work was being done under his request and asked for full cooperation in providing me materials I sought.

b. Well, things started out on the right track, but over a period of a year’s work, I found that even though high-level Executive Staff promised cooperation, essentially I received nothing from my numerous requests. Eventually I began to feel there had been a large cloak that was placed over my work such that no one dared cooperate and supply me materials. So I had to rely on First Hand papers, of members such as Dsr. Steve Unger, Joe Herkert, and Greg Adamson.

c. The best example was when I sought to get copies of the Board Minutes from the 1998 closed session where the Board voted to eliminate the Ethics Committee and all its programs along with the authorization to deny members Ethics Advice and Ethical Support. To this day that has not seen the light of day.

d. Further, I contended that “In the IEEE, less than 1 % of its nearly 450,000 members worldwide even know there is an EMCC, and that under the Code of Ethics, Canon 10, the IEEE is obligated to provide them Ethical Support. I still believe that.

e. While the EMCC is required by the Board to issue an Annual Report, but to only the Board, members over the years have learned almost nothing about its activities. I contend its Annual Reports should be made public to the members

f. The young members of IEEE seem to not be involved in promoting Professionalism, Ethics Advice and/or Ethical Support, but need to learn more about them and become active in their purposes.

g. One important thing I learned from doing the updating, is that residing in the hands of all the IEEE members, young and experienced, is that they can fix this on their own, like over 83% who voted YES in 1972 to Amend the IEEE Constitution to add Professional Activities and Ethics for the first time since AIEE was formed in 1884. Yes, I am saying these members can, if succeeding Boards do not fix it, can by Amending the Constitution once again and guarantee that in addition to the EMCC Disciplining Conduct in violation of the Code of Ethics, that both Ethics Advice and Ethical Support “SHALL BE PROVIDED”. But, it will be up to the members to choose to do this, if necessary.

QUESTION 8. What are your thoughts about the recent actions the IEEE Board has taken to address professional ethics?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. The only thing I was able to find on this was adding to the EMCC Ops Manual an Appendix which establishes a new Committee under the EMCC with now specific procedures for handling Member Discipline complaints. What’s new here is that for the first time since the MCC was first established in 1978, the specific EMCC procedures have been made public. But it does nothing to recognize that Ethics Advice and Ethical Support are still valid under continued Governance Bylaw, Policy and Procedures. So, it is more a negative than a positive action, but overall, for what it addresses, it is a positive. My issue with it is that it still does not recognize Advice and Support and they are the real Professional Ethics policies. I have addressed this in my latest paper, titled:


QUESTION 9. Why should young professionals care about professional ethics?

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. Their future careers will depend upon it.

b. I am glad you raised this topic. When I organized the Concerned Ethics Volunteers, the CEV, in 2017, most of us were Life Senior or Fellow Members. But one was a young woman, working at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, ERAU. She got very involved with our efforts and could see on her own what we were trying to achieve and bought into it all. I wished there were more like her we could have tapped.

c. While in a few years most of us will be gone, she and all the other younger members have their futures ahead of them. They need to see how important it will be to know that their IEEE will be there to support them, and in turn, will be helping to keep the public and society safer from the products they will help create.

d. I feel the EMCC should be tasked with creating Professional and Ethical Educational materials for all members. This could consist of a packet of materials which are included with the New/Renewal Membership Materials sent out each year to members upon joining and/or re-joining containing:

1. Copies of the parts of the Constitution, Bylaws, Policies/Procedures, Code of Ethics pertaining to Member Discipline, Ethics Advice and Ethical Support performed by the EMCC, the EMCC Ops Manual with Appendices

2. Copies of the EMCC Annual Report, particularly what cases were handled and their final results

3. Pleadings from the IEEE Amicus Curiae in the BART Case on the ultimate responsibility of engineers to protect the public

4. More TBD

QUESTION 10. Tell me more about your suggestion for regionalized ethics and member conduct committee.

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. Breakout EC and MCC Committees from today’s single EMCC

(1) An Independent Ethics Committee, EC

(a) Serve the Institute as a whole

(b) Perform a Legislative function

(c) Maintain Code of Ethics current and up todate

(d) Assist TAB Societies prepare/maintain and interpret Application Guidelines

(2) Regionalized Member Conduct Committees, MCCs

(a) At least one per Region with more TBD

(b) Perform a Judicial function of hearing cases, requests for support

(c) Interpret local laws, customs, norms, language effects on Code of Ethics

(d) Seek assistance from Ethics Committee where needed

(3) Board of Directors and Executive Staff

(a) These bodies will continue to perform Executive functions

11. ADDED Audio - 3 (NON WIN-NON WIN) Cases; NASA, VW, Boeing

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. In the 198X NASA disaster, when Space Shuttle Challenger blew up after Thiokol Engineering (Roger Boisjoly) predicted that an O Ring would fail under extreme cold weather experienced, killing the entire crew, could have been avoided if Managers and politicians had listened and acted on the advice of Engineering, and it would have achieved one of the greatest WIN WIN outcomes to that date.

b. Discuss the VW EMISSIONS SCANDAL where Corporate level Executives and Managers were convicted and sent to jail in the 2015 scandal where if enough VW Professional Engineers and Supervisors had stood up and took steps to counter their Managers policy to produce a cheating software to deceive the Regulators, it may have saved those Executives from jail

c. Discuss the Boeing 737 MAX accidents and design flaws, etc. cite clash in differences in business vrs engineering values, priorities. Cite Herkert Et al authors raising issue of Industry Exemption playing what role in disaster.

d. Discuss that in internal conflicts between engineering and business elements, bringing the issues out in the open to be maturely examined by all affected parties, could lead to WIN WIN results, like in the case I brought to Program Manager getting a solution internally. These need non confrontation, open business members and to work together to resolve the issues. WIN WIN outcomes benefits all parties

e. In BART, Edgerton and Castro if a WIN WIN outcome could have been achieved, truly TECHNOLOGY WOULD HAVE BEEN ADVANCED, BENEFITING HUMANITY (Public and Business)

f. Cite what Elden/Stefanik learned from former Dean of Engineering Joseph Weil, of how Industry Exemption got established in Florida PE FS 471 law

12. Interview ADDED Audio - A Mixed Assortment of Topics Which I Later Remembered

DROPBOX Link of the Expanded Recorded Audio Made by Walter Elden:

a. Cite the Ethical Support request case which came from Central Africa between a Professor and his Superior and its handling and the need to Regionalize MCCs close to where National and Local laws and norms differ

b. Cite that I got Edgerton in touch with Unger in her Support Case

c. Cite in Wally Read’s actions, DIRECTORS of IEEE, a 501 C3 Non Profit Corporation are legally obligated to serve the interests of its members over that of outside business or self interests

d. Cite that IEEE’s ETHICS HOTLINE, which was shut down, never encountered any legal liability to IEEE, that later it was operated successfully for several years under the Online Ethics Center, then later transferred under the NAE

e. Being a Licensed PE in conflict situations, like those discussed herein, there should be a second source for supporting one’s legal Code of Professional Conduct by being enforced and supported by one’s State PE Board, protecting the public under the law

f. Cite that in the WIN WIN event I previously commented on, it’s important to share that when I was confronted with my subordinate’s situation of uneven evaluation allocated time, I as an Engineering Supervisor immediately realized that if left unadjusted and if our team was awarded that contract, if Vendor B’s product were not selected, it might raise a financial penalty liability for my company. A lesson here is for Supervisors to be sensitive to what their subordinates raise in those kind of issues may very well be in the company’s interest to listen carefully and do the right thing both ethics and business wise, to avoid liability damages. Another WIN WIN.

g. Industry Bodies I Served Onː

  1. Served on NIEE Board of Directors
  2. Served on the original IEEE 802 Local Area Networks Standards Committee Chairing the Network Management Task Group
  3. Served on and Chaired the SAE High Speed Avionics Data Bus Standards Committee
  4. Served on the ANSI PUBLIC DATA NETWORKS STANDARDS COMMITTEE and Chaired the Datagram Task Group
  5. Served on NSPE/FES PEI Practice Group as State V Pres. At annual FES meeting debated against exempting engineers from holding PE license in industry

h. At NASA/KSC conducted study of the System Requirements for the Audio Telephone System supporting the SPACE Shuttle program

i. Role of Steve Unger on my IEEE career as an ethics mentor and role model. I consider him as “The Father of IEEE ETHICS”

j. In MEMORY of Joe Wujek who was another active IEEE ethics proponent but was killed in a car accident

k. The Dilemma employed Engineers in Industry face practicing ethicall

  • Topicsː
    1. - held accountable to protect the public as paramount #1 responsibility on the one hand
    2. - while employed under at-will law on the other hand
    3. - while one’s professional society (IEEE) will not provide ethical support but touts its Tag Line of “Advancing Technology For Humanity”
    4. - but, would holding a PE license provide access to State legal Ethical Support?
    5. - how can a single “at-will” employed engineer, with no written contract, be expected to uphold one’s professional responsibility against the power of the employer in a design/safety dispute?
    6. -what protections are there for the employee engineer in these kind of situations?