Oral-History:Peter Lewis

About Peter Lewis

Peter A. Lewis, P.E., was born in New Jersey in 1938. He attended Lehigh University, earned a BS in electrical engineering, and participated in Air Force ROTC. After graduating from Lehigh, Lewis served four years in the Air Force and then returned to Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) in New Jersey. While working at the utility company, he took evening graduate courses at Newark College of Engineering, now the New Jersey Institute of Technology from which he received a MS in Engineering Management with a concentration in finance, in May 1969. He completed a master’s thesis titled “"Financing the Nuclear Fuel Requirements of Public Utilities." Early in his career, he also attended the GE Power Systems Engineering Course and studied for the New Jersey Professional Engineering exam.

After his thirty-three year career at PSE&G, Lewis joined the IEEE staff as Managing Director of Educational Activities. He has been a member of IEEE and its predecessor organizations, the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, since 1955. Currently, Lewis is a Life Member and an IEEE Life Fellow, elected in 1987 “for leadership in research, testing, and development of utility battery energy storage technology.” He is an active IEEE volunteer most interested in pre-college education. In 1999, he co-collaborated with Ken Laker to start what’s now the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship. He joined the IEEE Foundation Board in 2002 and was elected an IEEE Foundation director emeritus in 2008.

In this oral history, Peter Lewis discusses his career at both PSE&G and IEEE and his voluntarism with the IEEE Foundation. He has been active in IEEE professional and philanthropic activities and is most interested in pre-collegiate education.

This interview is part of the IEEE Foundation Fiftieth Anniversary History Project.

About the Interview

PETER LEWIS: An interview conducted by Karen Galuchie for the IEEE History Center, 18 October 2018.

Interview #821 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Peter Lewis, an oral history conducted in 2018 by Karen Galuchie, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Peter Lewis

INTERVIEWER: Karen Galuchie

DATE: 18 October 2018

PLACE: Marana, AZ

Introduction

Galuchie:

Today is Monday, October 15th, 2018. This is Karen Galuchie and I will be interviewing Peter A. Lewis for an oral history, for the IEEE History Center’s Oral History Program and the IEEE Foundation’s Fiftieth Anniversary History Project. Since 1973, the IEEE Foundation has been the charitable arm of IEEE, and we are conducting this oral history interview to capture the history of the IEEE Foundation. Hello, Pete.

Pete, can you share with us some brief biographical information for context? Can you share with us where and when you were born?

Lewis:

Where and when I was born. According to my parents, I was born in February of 1938, in Somerville, New Jersey. And my parents at that time were living in Blawenburg, New Jersey.

Galuchie:

So was that at the Somerset Medical Center?

Lewis:

Yes, it was.

Galuchie:

Wonderful.

Lewis:

It was called Somerset Hospital at that time, I believe.

Galuchie:

Where did you get your engineering education?

Lewis:

Well, I attended Lehigh University for four years, received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, and took Air Force ROTC as well, during that time. After graduation, I entered the Air Force for four years.

Galuchie:

And after the Air Force?

Career at PSE&G and Graduate Education at NJIT

Lewis:

After service in the Air Force, I returned to employment at Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G). During my early years at PSE&G, I enrolled in the evening graduate program at Newark College of Engineering, now a part of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), to obtain a MS in Engineering Management, with a concentration in finance. During the early years, I also attended the GE Power Systems Engineering Course in Schenectady, New York and studied for the NJ Professional Engineers exam. My assignments at PSE&G initially involved developing plans for the Extra-High Voltage transmission system to accommodate the installation of 5,000 MegaWatts (MW) of new nuclear power generation. Later, I was assigned to the Research & Development Department, an expanding area of energy R&D at the time. With thirty-three years of service at PSE&G I retired and joined the IEEE staff as Managing Director Educational Activities.

IEEE Member, Volunteer, and Employee

Galuchie:

How long were you on staff with IEEE?

Lewis:

I was on staff with IEEE for about nine years.

Galuchie:

Were you an IEEE volunteer before you became an IEEE staff member?

Lewis:

Oh yes, I’ve been a member of IEEE and its predecessor organizations, the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, since 1955.

Galuchie:

You joined both?

Lewis:

Yes, not at the same time, but I did join both. I was very happy in 1963, when the two organizations were combined to form IEEE because I no longer had to receive dual sets of publications. I should mention that at Lehigh and at PSE&G I was fortunate to have professors and supervisors who encouraged my active participation in AIEE and IEEE activities. As a result of their encouragement, I participated in the Energy Development Subcommittee of the Power Generation Committee and over a number of years became chairman of both as well as a member of the Technical Council of the Power Engineering Society.

IEEE Fellow and Life Member

Galuchie:

I have heard that from many IEEE members who were members in 1963, when the merger happened. You are currently an IEEE Life Fellow. You were elected as a fellow in 1987. Is that correct?

Lewis:

It sounds about right, yes.

Galuchie:

Do you happen to remember your citation? If you don’t, I have it here.

Lewis:

You have it there. Well it’s for work on electrochemical battery systems, I believe, or battery energy storage systems.

Galuchie:

Yes, the official citation is “for leadership in research, testing, and development of utility battery energy storage technology.” Did you do that work while you were at PSE&G?

Lewis:

Yes, PSE&G was selected as the prime contractor for construction operation of the battery energy storage test facility, which we modestly called the BEST Facility. Our objective there was to test load leveling batteries of a size suitable for electric utilities. We did, at that time, test advanced lead acid batteries, and a circulating electrolyte zinc chlorine battery, in utility scale operation. One thing you may notice is that there was no mention of lithium batteries. The facility was shut down about twenty-five to twenty-six years ago, at the time lithium batteries were being developed. Of course, lithium batteries have taken over both small-scale applications and large-scale applications.

Galuchie:

You reached life status with IEEE in 2004, which means you were at least sixty-five years of age, and your age and years of membership equaled one hundred. When you achieved life status was that a particularly important event for you?

Lewis:

Well certainly it emphasized my age, didn’t it? I believe I became a Life Fellow in 2003 when I turned 65. At that time, I had forty-eight years as an IRE/AIEE/IEEE member, so my age plus member years totaled 113.

Galuchie:

[Laughter] It does do that.

Lewis:

The funny thing about that is the organization was changing at that time. IEEE was changing at that time, and the requirements for life membership varied. Some people got it with fewer years of service or lower age, but then it reverted to the 65/35 formula. So, I had to become sixty-five before I became a Life Member.

Galuchie:

I remember that. It was an interesting time, and many people had strong opinions on that topic. After looking at your membership record, I noticed that during your time at PSE&G, from 1988 to 1992, you were involved with Member & Geographic Activities which at the time was probably called Regional Activities Board (RAB). You were on the RAB Admissions and Advancement Committee from 1988 to 1992. Do you remember that time?

Lewis:

I remember it. Yes, we did have meetings in New York City. Eric Herz used to drop in and meet with the committee from time to time. I was also a member of the Princeton Section of IEEE, and active in the Power Engineering part of the Princeton Section

Galuchie:

Were you also an ABET reviewer?

Lewis:

Not at that time. That wasn’t until after I joined IEEE on staff. I guess it was about 1991 and 1992.

IEEE Foundation, Educational Activities, and Pre-College and Engineering Education

Galuchie:

Do you remember when and why you first became involved with the IEEE Foundation? Actually, I believe you became involved with the IEEE Foundation, prior to joining the IEEE Foundation board in 2002. Do you remember your first time working with the IEEE Foundation?

Lewis:

Yes, that was at a time when I was Managing Director of Educational Activities. The Educational Activities Board wanted to prepare a number of initiatives, and it was seeking funding from the IEEE Foundation, among other sources. A couple of those projects were workshops dealing with relationships with industry representatives as well as pre-college education. One was Industry 2000. We held a workshop a couple of times, one in 1994 and one in 1996, and we put together cooperative programs between industry and IEEE. I guess, the major event we asked for funding to support was the workshop on technological literacy counts. It brought together educators, pre-college educators, and members of IEEE. That workshop was held in Baltimore, Maryland. The outcome was a well-coordinated program with representatives from both the education community and IEEE volunteers that wanted to help support education.

Galuchie:

It sounds like an incredibly worthy activity. Do you happen to know if there’s anything continuing as a result of that, today?

Lewis:

IEEE has a more active pre-college education program than it did prior to that workshop, and it integrates cooperation among IEEE volunteers and middle school and high school educators. Of course, there have been several programs that perhaps have contributed to that, such as the REACH program where more teachers are being brought in to work with IEEE, producing more results for students.

Galuchie:

REACH is a program of the IEEE History Center. REACH stands for Raising Engineering Awareness through the Conduit of History. It brings the history of technology alive in the social studies classroom. I believe you have directly supported this program, correct, Pete?

Lewis:

That’s correct. My interest in pre-college education really began when I was at PSE&G. I was asked to serve on the Commission on Technology Education for the State of New Jersey. The program brought together industry, teachers, supervisors, and members of the education community. The focus of technology education at that time was not just computers. It was really trying to create creative thinking skills in students, and to get them to do more hands-on work than they would obtain from the regular science classroom.

Galuchie:

Interesting. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also co-collaborated with Ken Laker, in 1999, to start what’s now the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship, a project at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Is that correct?

Lewis:

That’s correct. Ken, when he was Vice President of IEEE Educational Activities picked up on the fact that the fiftieth anniversary of the Science and Engineering Fair would be held in Philadelphia. He thought that IEEE should have a better presence than it had had in past science fairs. At that point, he initiated the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship, which was about a $10,000 scholarship for four years.

Galuchie:

That’s correct.

Lewis:

Eventually, the initial funds came from IEEE, and subsequent to that they were picked up by the IEEE Foundation.

Galuchie:

I believe the IEEE Foundation awarded two grants to fund it for several years and ultimately, under your leadership, established a fund to solicit donors to support the program long term. Does that sync with your recollections?

Lewis: Oh, yes. Initially, the problem with setting up the scholarship was that it did not have an ongoing funding venue. By creating the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship Fund it had a form of endowment, although it’s not an endowment. There is a continuity of funding now for the scholarship.

Galuchie:

It was most recently presented for the twentieth time in Pittsburgh

Lewis:

The twentieth time?

Galuchie:

The twentieth time, this year, in 2018. Our 2019 president, José Moura was able to be there, since it was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s hard to believe that was twenty years ago.

Lewis:

Yes, that’s right.

Galuchie:

You left the staff of IEEE in 2001.

Lewis:

Yes.

IEEE Foundation Board, Programs, and Funding

Galuchie:

You joined the IEEE Foundation Board in 2002. Can you share a little bit about how that transition worked for you and your thoughts on joining the board in 2002?

Lewis:

It was a great honor that I was selected for the board of the IEEE Foundation. I had worked with Jerry Haddad from IBM, and he was on the Educational Activities Board. He was also a member, I believe, of the IEEE Foundation Board. He encouraged me to work with the board. I very much enjoyed being on the board. Initially I was as a member at large. I worked with Henry Bachman on projects and subsequent to that became Vice President of Projects.

Galuchie:

You did, for one year.

Lewis:

For one year, and then I became Vice President of Grants. The board at that time was more responsive than active in soliciting projects to fund. I’ve noticed over the years that the Foundation is now very active in setting a course for how projects are to be funded and which ones will receive a high priority.

Galuchie:

During your time as Vice President of Grants, there were several key transformational activities that occurred under your leadership. First, in 2005, you led the streamlining of the grants process, removing the pre-proposal, which Jerry, when he was Vice President of Grants, had implemented. But as things evolve, things do improve, and you also, with the help of Bob Alden, implemented the first online submission capability, so the Foundation wasn’t just receiving either grants applications via email attachments or paper. Can you recall how those activities evolved?

Lewis:

The key here is the change in technology and improvements in communication. Bob Alden was very quick to recognize that we could do things better and he was able to work with Glenys Gotthardt in setting up some of the administrative procedures for submitting proposals. Doing this by email and putting in digital communication became the logical way to do it.

Galuchie:

Glenys, the board administrator, managed the grants program?

Lewis:

That’s correct. I don’t know about stories, but it became fairly apparent that we were sometimes working almost in competition with the IEEE Life Members Committee in funding programs and sometimes putting money where, if we had done it jointly, it would have been done in a different way. And by working with the Life Members Committee and the Foundation together, we were able to more effectively use the funds that were available.

Galuchie:

Excellent. During your time, you and Rolf Remshardt ran a joint IEEE Foundation grants and projects committee review. You brought the two groups together, to have a joint conversation. I remember participating in that meeting at the Newark Marriott Airport, where many IEEE meetings are held. Do you have any recollections about that meeting and the subsequent activities from that, that you can share?

Lewis:

I don’t have specific recollections of that. We were trying to get the budgets aligned because some of the projects were ongoing and required funding for two or three years. Grants were kind of limited on what money had been spent. We also wanted to avoid duplication in activities and to make sure that the new grants would not be duplicating the ongoing projects. That’s about as far as I can remember, on that particular activity.

Galuchie:

All right. Thus far I have pointed out a couple of major events that stood out during your time on the IEEE Foundation’s board. Are there any others that you recall, any other that you would like to talk about?

Lewis:

Not that I can recall. However, early on as a board member I was concerned with the funding for projects. It seemed as if the money that was available for funding seemed to be at the bottom of the balance sheet. Money that was left over from one year, and not spent on something else. We tried to bring up the funding for grants as a separate line item; funding above what would be remaining at the end of the year. This has happened to some extent. There’s been a lot more initiative on the part of the Foundation now to set a direction for projects, and funding seems to be focused in those areas.

Galuchie:

I recall the event you’re talking about. I believe, since that time, the Foundation, in its budgeting process, has actually defined an amount designated for the grants program in its budget. That change was under your leadership as well. Prior to that, you’re right, it had been very fluid.

Lewis:

Yes.

Galuchie:

Part of the culture of the IEEE Foundation has always been philanthropy and its relationship with IEEE because the IEEE Foundation exists to further the scientific and educational purposes of IEEE. Can you describe the Foundation’s relationship with IEEE when you were on the Foundation board?

Lewis:

A large part of the projects that were funded at that time were initiated within IEEE, such as the Industry 2000 and the Technology Literacy Council projects. We did also receive projects or proposals for grants from outside organizations, but there was no real focus on the areas in which these projects might occur. From what I’ve seen recently, there is a lot more emphasis on particular areas of work, such as the REACH program, and to some extent, the TryEngineering program, supported also by IEEE Foundation.

Galuchie:

Yes, the IEEE Foundation has supported the TryEngineering program, both deployment of its curriculum materials on the website as well as translations into other languages beyond English, demonstrating the longs-sanding relationship between the Foundation and IEEE Educational Activities.

Lewis:

Now there seems to be much more of a global outreach with the programs at the IEEE Foundation than ten years ago.

Galuchie:

There is more of a focus on global outreach. Currently, the IEEE Foundation has four areas of focus, including illuminating the possibilities for technology to address global challenges, educating the next generation of innovators, engaging a wider audience in the appreciation of innovation, and celebrating the innovation excellence. Those are four very broad areas illuminate, educate, energize, and engage.

Most members come onto the Foundation board with a particular interest area of activities. Did you come onto the board with a particular interest area? Have your interests evolved since you joined the board?

Lewis:

Yes, as a matter of fact, when I joined the IEEE staff as managing director of Educational Activities, my primary interest was in pre-college education. Of course, as managing director of Educational Activities, I was also involved in lifelong learning and the accreditation process. However, as I moved to the board of the IEEE Foundation, my primary interest was in pre-college education at all levels.

Galuchie:

Does this interest continue today?

Lewis:

Oh yes, I’m actively involved in some pre-college education programs and I appreciate the resources provided by the IEEE Foundation through the History Center and the Educational Activities Board.

Galuchie:

When you were on the Foundation board were you ever active in its fundraising activities?

Lewis:

I was not very active, other than talking to people I met at meetings and in local section activities.


IEEE Foundation Donor, Smart Village, EPICS, and Other Initiatives

Galuchie:

Were you a donor when you were on the board?

Lewis:

Yes, I was a donor when I was on the board. Matter of fact, I was a donor before I was on the board.

Galuchie:

Actually, our donor records indicate you’ve been a donor since 1995.

That’s as far as the records go back, so it could be longer ago than that. You do remain a donor to today, correct?

Lewis:

That’s correct.

Galuchie:

Thank you very much.

Lewis:

One of the things that should be emphasized more throughout IEEE, and also the Foundation, is the great advances that have been made in digital technology, electronics technology. Many startup companies have grown to be vast corporations, and there must be some IEEE members there that have stock from the early days that they would be more than willing to contribute to the IEEE Foundation. It might provide them with some tax relief as well as helping out the Foundation.

Galuchie:

I believe you’ve also taken advantage of the IEEE charitable rollover as a gift method.

Lewis:

Charitable rollover of IRAs, yes.

The changes in tax laws have created more of an incentive to donate in that manner because the standard deduction has been increased. Now it might be more profitable to donate money from a rollover IRA or 401K program, and thereby reduce income. Reduction of income saves not only taxes, it also makes a contribution to the Foundation.

Galuchie:

Absolutely. You’ve been engaged and involved with the IEEE Foundation for quite a number of years. During that time, what would you consider its most significant accomplishments?

Lewis:

There is quite a lot to choose from. The continued presence and initiation of programs in the pre-college area has been a major accomplishment. It’s an area that had lagged behind, I believe, in the late 1990s. A lot more work was needed to get the pre-college programs underway, to get the teachers to help support those programs, and to support the teachers intellectually. Another major accomplishment is the outreach to the global community. A number of projects have been identified, providing updated technology in areas that are not advancing as quickly as they should. That has enabled engineers and engineering students in other countries to take advantage of some of the new things that are happening.

Galuchie:

You’re referring to IEEE Smart Village and EPICS in IEEE?

Lewis:

Yes, I think those are the programs.

Galuchie:

Great. How do you think the Foundation should define success?

Lewis:

One of the things that’s happening, to some extent, and perhaps needs more encouragement, is the replication of programs. As an example, the TryEngineering program started as a program of IEEE, but I believe other professional societies have joined in that program, making it a much broader program than it was when initiated through IEEE. One of the measures of success is whether or not the program can be replicated, whether it can be expanded, and whether in the course of replicating or expanding the programs, they can be supported by other resources.

Galuchie: Do you see that one of the roles of the IEEE Foundation is to collaborate with the other professional engineering association Foundations as a way where the parent association doesn’t have to be the one leading the way and the foundations try to get collaboration and buy-in across the pan-engineering community?

Lewis:

That would be very important, and the challenge will be the leadership. The IEEE Foundation could definitely provide the leadership and bring some of these other organizations into a cooperative role. We did have one other program, many years ago, which was the right program at the wrong time. The program was developing the career asset manager, which was a way to get engineers to look at their career and consider where they wanted to be, where they were, and how to plan how to get there. That program attracted interest from the National Society of Professional Engineers. We were able to collaborate with that organization to produce a handbook that would be helpful to engineers in career planning. The problem, it was the wrong time. It was a paper-based program that should have gone into digital.

Galuchie:

There is some effort in Member and Geographic Activities, through student activities, to develop a mentor net and other career tools, so there is some career development and planning. Currently, the Foundation is not engaged in those activities, but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t be involved sometime in the future. As you look back, during your time on the board, is there a road you wish the Foundation had taken, a road not taken?

Lewis:

No, with the resources available, the IEEE Foundation has done a very good job providing stewardship for its resources. A road not taken; it’s hard to determine that with the changes that have taken place in technology. The Foundation has adapted well to what is changing, and it has implemented programs to bring more people into the areas of influence.

Galuchie:

As you reflect and ponder your time, how might your experience help the Foundation, as well as those members contemplate getting involved with the IEEE Foundation, in the future?

Lewis:

The important thing is the awareness. The Foundation, under its current Executive Director, has been very outgoing in generating interest in the programs of the Foundation and the programs of IEEE. That has to be reinforced.

After changing from a Section in the east to a Section in the southwest, I see that there is a need for more communication with the outlying Sections where members may have to drive 150 miles to get to a meeting. That takes time, so there are not a lot of Section meetings in remote areas. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but I could imagine they have even greater challenges.

Galuchie:

I imagine that they do, and that’s an opportunity for the IEEE Foundation to take advantage of a digital footprint.

Lewis:

Yes.

Galuchie:

As we look to the future, what should the Foundation do going forward? It sounded to me like you were suggesting more member and volunteer outreach into the IEEE community. Have you seen any notable trends that you think the Foundation should be following? Lewis: Notable trends, concerning technology?

Galuchie:

Trends concerning technology, philanthropy, the membership, or IEEE.

Lewis:

I mentioned one earlier, and that’s to get some of the people sitting on these blue chip stocks to donate them. The reports that I receive as a director need to be publicized more throughout the Institute. IEEE’s Spectrum does contain some of the information, and I know some is published in the Institute, but it might be helpful to get involved with IEEE Societies in a greater way.

Galuchie:

Excellent, thank you. Would you also suggest that additional awareness is one of the ways the Foundation could attract new volunteers and support?

Lewis:

Awareness is the key to getting people involved. I know the Life Member affiliation groups are looking for things to do, so one might make them more aware of what’s going on with the IEEE Foundation.


IEEE Foundation Director Emeritus and Technology for Humanity

Galuchie:

You were elected an IEEE Foundation director emeritus in 2008. I noticed it’s on the wall in your study. How did that feel?

Lewis:

That was a very unusual situation. I very much appreciated that and it was totally unexpected. When I got the letter from Richard (Dick) Gowen, I thought he had written to the wrong person, but apparently not. I very much appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Galuchie:

You’re with quite a group of individuals. Dick Gowen is president emeritus and Emerson Pugh is as well, and I believe Henry Bachman is, too. Lyle Feisel and the recently departed John Meredith, among others, have also been elected president emeritus. You’re with an excellent crowd of director emeriti, and absolutely deserved it. I remember you receiving the recognition during a meeting held in Denver, Colorado in June of 2008.

Since 1973, the IEEE Foundation has been the philanthropic partner of IEEE. As we contemplate recording our history for the first fifty years in 2023, what should we include?

Lewis:

The emphasis should be on how the IEEE Foundation has grown over the years, and how its outreach has expanded to not only programs within the United States, but to programs around the world. The Smart Villages program is very important for those areas that are not developing as quickly as they should. More work needs to be done in that area. More work also need to be done to encourage students in other countries to get involved in a technology that can help their citizens prosper.

Galuchie:

Before we wrap up this oral history, is there anything else you wanted to add?

Lewis:

It’s very important that the IEEE Foundation continue the work that it has been doing and maintain its role as the independent arm supporting IEEE.

Galuchie:

Thank you very much, Pete, for your time today. This is Karen Galuchie, representing the IEEE History Center, in my official role as the Executive Director of the IEEE Foundation. I’m so glad you were able to give us your time today to do this oral history. Thank you very much.

Lewis:

Thank you.