Oral-History:IEEE Past Presidents

IEEE Past Presidents Oral Histories

In 2009, as part of the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of IEEE, the IEEE History Center undertook a project to record oral histories with as many living past presidents as possible.  These oral histories focus on the interviewees' experiences as IEEE leaders, rather than on their professional careers. These interviews complemented seven interviews that had been done earlier. To date, the following past president oral histories have been completed. Additional interviews are being processed, and will be posted when completed.

Dates refer to the year the individual served as IEEE President:

  • Ernst Weber (1963) Weber spent his career at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, beginning as a visiting professor of Electrical Engineering and ultimately becoming President of what had become the Polytechnic University of New York (1957-1969). A member of both AIEE and IRE, and a past president of IRE, he was chosen by the merger committee to be the first president of IEEE. As the first IEEE President, he was most concerned with creating an integrated system out of the separate systems of the two predecessor organizations.
  • John Granger (1970) Granger was an engineering entrepreneur who founded the successful company Granger Associates. As IEEE President, he pursued IEEE’s relationships with national engineering societies, and wrestled with the question of IEEE sponsoring meetings of classified research.
  • James Mulligan (1971) Mulligan spent much of his career as a faculty member and chair of the Electrical Engineering Department at New York University. Mulligan played an important role in implementing the AIEE/IRE merger, and then as IEEE President, he worked to meet the professional and technical needs of members, such as working with other engineering society presidents on the issue of jobs and job training for unemployed engineers.
  • John Guarrera (1974) Guarrera had a varied career, beginning at the MIT Rad Lab, going from there into industry, and finally into academic administration at California State—Northridge. As an IEEE President, he was instrumental in setting up the USAC, the predecessor of IEEE-USA, and he championed the professional needs of engineers.
  • Arthur Stern (1975) Stern was an engineer and executive with GE, Martin-Marietta, and Magnavox. Before and during his presidential term. Stern played a central role in solving many of the integration problems that persisted after the 1963 merger that created IEEE.
  • Robert Saunders (1977) Saunders spent his career at the University of California, first at Berkeley and then at Irvine. First as head of the IEEE Educational Activities Board, and later as IEEE President, he advocated IEEE activities in continuing education.
  • Ivan Getting (1978) Getting spent part of his career at MIT, and part in industry, both with Raytheon and as president of the Aerospace Corporation. As IEEE President, he reached out to industry leaders so that they would understand the role and importance of IEEE as a professional society.
  • Jerome Suran (1979) Suran retired after thirty years at GE, and then became a professor at the University of California, Davis. As IEEE President, he tried to balance the somewhat divergent interests of U.S. and non-U.S. members.
  • Robert Larson (1982) A successful engineer/entrepreneur, as IEEE President he balanced the number of board members representing technical societies at ten, the same as the number of board members representing geographic regions.
  • Charles "Bud" Eldon (1985) Eldon spent his career in production and manufacturing engineering at HP. As IEEE President, he reestablished a working relationship with the Popov Society, the electrical engineering society of the USSR.
  • Bruno Weinschel (1986) Weinschel spent most of his career as an electrical entrepreneur, owning his own company that specialized in passive microwave components. After selling his company, he became IEEE President. As IEEE President, he saw the beginning of IEEE electronic publishing, with the distribution of abstracts via CD-ROMs.
  • Henry L. Bachman (1987) An industrial engineer and senior manager with Wheeler Laboratories, as IEEE President Bachman oversaw the IEEE adoption of approval voting for institute elections.
  • Emerson W. Pugh (1989) Pugh spent his career in research at IBM, ultimately writing a series of books on IBM history. As IEEE President, he led the rewriting of the IEEE Code of Ethics to the document that (with one small change) has been in effect ever since.
  • Merrill Buckley (1992) Buckley spent his career as an engineer and manager at RCA. While 1984 IEEE Vice President for Regional Activities, he planned the centennial convocation that became the model for IEEE Section Congresses. As IEEE President, he directed much of his attention to improving professional activities for the working engineer.
  • Martha Sloan (1993) Sloan spent her career on the faculty of Michigan Technological University. She was the first female IEEE President. As IEEE President, she led the American Association of Engineering Societies Engineers Week
  • Troy Nagle (1994) Nagle is an academic who started out in digital signal processing at Auburn and later moved into biomedical engineering at North Carolina State. As IEEE President, he confronted a failed upgrade of the Institute’s computer systems, and accepted the resignation of IEEE’s Executive Director.
  • James Thomas "Tom" Cain (1995) Cain received his education and spent his career in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Pittsburgh. As IEEE President, he led IEEE further into electronic publishing through IEEE publishing its own CD-ROMs of its Journals.
  • Wally Read (1996) Read, a power engineer and former president of the Canadian Electrical Association, was the second of three IEEE Presidents from Canada. In the 1980s, Read was responsible for two of the first three IEEE Milestones recognizing events in his native Newfoundland. As IEEE President, he pursued the dual goals of increasing international membership and achieving greater recognition for IEEE members from industry.
  • Charles "Chuck" Alexander (1997) Alexander spent his career as a university educator and administrator. Alexander had long been active in IEEE educational activities, particularly in providing innovative programs for student members. As IEEE President, he promoted both the importance of engineering to society and the importance of IEEE for engineers.
  • Ken Laker (1999) Laker spent his career as chair and faculty member of the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a leading expert on microelectronic filters. As IEEE President, he led IEEE in embracing the internet, through IEEE Xplore for electronic publishing, an improved website, and the IEEE Virtual Museum.
  • Bruce Eisenstein (2000) Eisenstein spent his career as a faculty member and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University. As IEEE President, Eisenstein developed a number of structural and process changes that improved the way IEEE was run.
  • Joel Snyder (2001) Snyder had a varied career during which he worked in industry, taught, and ran his own consulting firm. He spent much of his presidential year coping with financial issues.
  • Ray Findlay (2002) Findlay, who spent his career on the faculties of first the University of New Brunswick, and then McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was the third IEEE President from Canada. Findlay spent much of his presidency implementing improvements to IEEE’s financial systems, and coping with post-9/11 conflicts between IEEE’s U.S. incorporation and its global presence.
  • Michael Adler (2003) Adler spent his career in industrial research at General Electric. As IEEE President, he sought to make IEEE more relevant to industry, and worked to improve IEEE’s governance.
  • Arthur Winston (2004) Winston’s career spanned both industry and applied education. As IEEE President, he championed IEEE as a global organization.
  • W. Cleon Anderson (2005) Anderson spent his career in a series of industrial positions, ultimately with Level 3 Communications. While on the IEEE Board, he convinced IEEE to retain the kite logo. As president, he tried to enhance member's careers and improve the functioning of the Board of Directors.
  • Michael Lightner (2006) Lightner has long been a faculty member of the Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering Department of the University of Colorado. As IEEE President, he attempted to create a lower-cost membership model.
  • John Vig (2009) Vig was employed at the Electronic Components Laboratory at Fort Monmouth, NJ, USA, and worked as a physicist, electronics engineer and program manager, he performed and led research aimed at developing high-accuracy clocks, sensors and low-noise oscillators. During his presidency, he focused on issues such as open access publications, the value of IEEE volunteers, the question of who membership is for, diversity, the 125th IEEE Anniversary, and IEEE's role in creating and preserving history.

In addition to their oral histories, eight past presidents participated in one of two video-taped panel discussions at the 2009 IEEE Conference on the History of Technical Societies.