IEEE Foundation History


The first meeting of the IEEE Foundation Board convened on 29 March 1973 at the United Engineering Center, New York, NY. The top priorities were establishing a strong infrastructure and developing the process to accept and administer donations in support of IEEE programs. The IEEE Life Members Fund was moved into the IEEE Foundation and became an integral part of the organization.

Funds in support of IEEE Awards were quickly established. The first donor-designated fund established was the IEEE Jack A. Morton Award Fund, which supported the presentation of the IEEE Jack A. Morton Award, an IEEE Technical Field Award, recognizing individuals for “outstanding contributions in the field of solid-state devices.” This award was presented from 1976 to 1999. Additional donor designated funds were quickly established to support other awards such as the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell and Edison Medals and the Tesla and Steinmetz Awards.

Preserving the history of technology was added to the IEEE Foundation portfolio when, in preparation for the IEEE Centennial, IEEE created the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering and a Fund to accept donations in support of the Center was established.

By the early 1980’s, IEEE societies such as IEEE Computer and Vehicular Technology Societies were working with the IEEE Foundation to establish Funds for their awards, scholarships and fellowships.

Throughout the second decade, the IEEE Foundation expanded its focus to include educational initiatives. The growth was thanks in large part to principle and planned gifts received from IEEE leaders including Myron Zucker and Gertrude and Alfred Goldsmith. Zucker’s support enabled the IEEE Industry Applications Society to create a suite of activities designed to advance the education of students. The Goldsmiths’ generosity exponentially increased the IEEE Foundation’s ability to support IEEE’s philanthropic and educational activities.

Preserving and promoting the history of technology, the profession and IEEE grew in prominence during this decade. Support was centered on growing the IEEE History Center’s public outreach activities through its newsletter, oral histories program and publishing activities.

By the end of the 1980’s, electronic publishing began to take hold across the world and the IEEE Foundation provided IEEE with funding to research the current and future environment for publications, thus helping IEEE chart its course for electronic publishing in the 21st Century.

By the end of the decade the growth in activity, scope and impact of the IEEE Foundation resulted in the need for dedicated IEEE Foundation volunteer leadership, separating those responsibilities from those of the IEEE President.

After two consecutive decades of organic growth, the IEEE Foundation adopted a strategic plan calling for increased and focused expenditure of philanthropic dollars to further the scientific and educational purposes of IEEE. This prompted the Board to increase the number of Directors from 9 to up to 18, expand its committee structure, hire professional staff dedicated to raising funds, create the first web presence and launch the IEEE Foundation Focus newsletter.

Throughout the decade, the IEEE Foundation support of educational programming grew. Investments were made in GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade, now known as IEEE Young Professionals) activities, accreditation activities, career resources, STEM initiatives and a journalism intern at IEEE Spectrum.

The IEEE Power & Energy Society initiated a successful fundraising campaign to endow its suite of awards. IEEE Educational Activities established and worked to endow the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship. The IEEE History Center launched the Virtual Museum thanks in large part to seed funding provided by the IEEE Foundation.

In 1998, the IEEE Board of Directors gifted its share of the sale of the United Engineering Center (UEC) to the IEEE Foundation. The gift dramatically increased the IEEE Foundation’s ability to support IEEE philanthropic activities - with an emphasis on enhancing the IEEE Awards Program.

To honor our Forever Generous legacy giving donors, who commit to supporting the IEEE Foundation after their lifetimes, and in recognition of the extraordinary support from Gertrude and Alfred N. Goldsmith, the IEEE Goldsmith Legacy League was founded in 2001. The League recognizes people who name the IEEE Foundation as beneficiaries in a will, life insurance plan, retirement account, donor advised fund, trust or other after-life giving vehicle.

The IEEE Foundation continued to grow and make operational improvements throughout its fourth decade. During this time the IEEE Foundation helped preserve the historical legacy of one of IEEE’s iconic publications, Proceedings of the IEEE, by partially funding the digitalization of the 1963-1987 issues for inclusion in the IEEE Xplore digital library.

Humanitarian technology programming became a mainstay of the IEEE Foundation, first through the investment in the inaugural IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge Conference (from which IEEE Smart Village evolved). Subsequently, the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Fund was established to support projects that implement or disseminate replicable, sustainable, technology-based solutions in underserved and underprivileged areas to improve the quality of human life.

As the IEEE Foundation grew, recognizing and celebrating donors continued to grow in importance. In 2008, a second significant donor recognition group, the IEEE Heritage Circle, was created to honor donors for their cumulative philanthropic giving to IEEE during their lifetime.

When IEEE and Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), IEEE’s honor society, merged in 2010, the new IEEE-HKN joined the IEEE Foundation portfolio of programs.

To address the critical shortage of power engineers, the IEEE Power & Energy Scholarship Plus Initiative was launched in partnership with the IEEE Foundation to encourage students to pursue careers in power engineering.

By the end of the decade, Leah Jamieson was the first female elected to serve as IEEE Foundation President.

The fifth decade ushered in a period of rejuvenation and partnership with donors and IEEE designed to bring relevance, focus, scale, impact and alignment with IEEE through philanthropic giving. Four categories, called Pillars: Illuminate, Educate, Engage and Energize, were created to bring structure, hone our purpose and report impact. IEEE Smart Village, EPICS in IEEE, IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative and IEEE REACH received BOLD investment when adopted as the centerpieces of IEEE Foundation fundraising and program investment activities.

The first IEEE-wide comprehensive campaign - Realize the Full Potential of IEEE - was launched and successfully exceeded its fundraising goal, raising $32.1 million. The campaign’s success drove new levels of technological access, innovation and engagement which impacted 1.2+ million lives.

With the help of the resilient, generous and creative people that make up the IEEE community, the IEEE Foundation responded to the unprecedented worldwide COVID-19 pandemic by establishing the IEEE Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund. This supported a variety of IEEE’s educational and technological projects that responded to imminent needs worldwide during the pandemic.

Proudly joining IEEE in its commitment to advance diversity in the technical professions, IEEE Foundation worked more closely with IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) through a collaboration to advance the careers of WIE members and nurture female engineering students to pursue their dream careers.

To better acknowledge, herald and highlight the diversity of the IEEE community, during 2022 six new giving levels were added to the IEEE Heritage Circle. Each new level is named after a previously under-recognized, accomplished professional.

IEEE Foundation Focus Newsletter

The IEEE Foundation began publishing its newsletter the 'IEEE Foundation Focus' in 2000. It reports on the programs supported through the IEEE Foundation and the donors whose charitable gifts make the programs possible.

Further Reading