# Oral-History:Troy Nagle

Troy Nagle was born in Booneville, Mississippi and grew up in Red Bay and Huntsville, Alabama. As a child he became interested in math and science, and went into electrical engineering at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa as an undergraduate, receiving his masters there as well. Nagle went to Auburn University for his doctorate, writing his dissertation in control systems, and then went on active duty for two years in the Ordnance Corps. While on active duty, Nagle served in the Army Missile Command in Huntsville, and then was posted in Vietnam working on electrical power systems. After active duty, Nagle returned to Auburn University as an assistant professor. Nagle later got an MD at the University of Miami to work in medical devices and in 1984 began teaching at North Carolina State, with a research professorship at the medical school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He became involved in the IRE in 1962 as a student and continued on to take part in the Computer Society and Industrial Electronics Society before becoming involved in the larger Institute. Nagle has served as President of the Industrial Electronics Society and Vice President of area activities for the Computer Society, leading to larger Institute roles such as TAB, the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. In 1994, Nagle served as IEEE President. He has remained involved since his term as president on the Awards Board and Sensors Council.

In this interview, Nagle discusses his career and involvement in the IEEE. He talks about the various positions and committees he sat on in the IEEE – including TAB and the Board – and the various issues faced by them and their procedures. Nagle also discusses running for posts such as Division Director and President. Nagle talks about his education at Alabama and Auburn, and how his later interest in medical devices led him to move to North Carolina to be closer to medical research facilities and multiple universities. His time as President is covered, including his election campaign, and the various issues he dealt with such as globalization, industrial relations, promoting technical activities, diversity, publications, and the IEEE computer system. Nagle also talks about changes he has seen in the IEEE over the years, and about colleagues such as Martha Sloan, John Powers and Tom Cain.

TROY NAGLE: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 27 July 2009

Interview #515 for the, IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.

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

Troy Nagle, an oral history conducted in 2009 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA.

## Interview

Interview: Troy Nagle

Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser

Date: 27 July 2009

Location: Paterson, New Jersey

### Background and Education

Hochheiser:

This is Sheldon Hochheiser of IEEE History Center. It is the 27th of July, 2009. I’m here at a studio in Paterson, New Jersey with 1994 IEEE president, Troy Nagle. Good morning.

Nagle:

Good morning.

Hochheiser:

If you don’t mind, I’d like to start with a little bit of background.

Nagle:

Okay.

Hochheiser:

Where were you born and raised?

Nagle:

Well, I was born in Booneville, Mississippi, and grew up in Red Bay, Alabama, and Huntsville, Alabama.

Hochheiser:

I know where Huntsville is. Where’s Red Bay?

Nagle:

Well, Red Bay is on the border of Mississippi. It’s a little bit hard to find. But it’s about, maybe 40, 50 miles south of the Tennessee state line.

Hochheiser:

Now I have it in my mind. What did your parents do?

Nagle:

Well, my father was an electrical engineer who grew up in Tishomingo, Mississippi, a small town near Red Bay. He went to Mississippi State University, studied electrical engineering, and when he came back home there wasn’t really engineering jobs at that time, so he went up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I think, and my mother was from the local area there in Mississippi, and she went up with him. They got married, and then decided they wanted to move back south, so they went to Red Bay, and they both ended up being schoolteachers. He was the principal of the school there, which was grades 1 through 12, and she was the home economics teacher.

Hochheiser:

Were you interested in technology and science growing up?

Nagle:

Yes, yes, always interested in math and science, and well, back in those days you had a standard curriculum.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

Everybody took most of the same courses, so there really wasn’t a lot of shopping around that students can do today.

Hochheiser:

Mm-hmm. And, let’s see, so you graduated from high school in Huntsville?

Nagle:

Yes. We moved to Huntsville from Red Bay, Alabama, and I started the fifth grade there, so the fifth through the twelfth. Graduated from Butler High School in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1960.

Hochheiser:

And from there you went to the University of Alabama?

Nagle:

Went to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

Hochheiser:

And how did you choose that school? Because it was the state university or was there another reason?

Nagle:

[Interposing] Well, my father and his brothers had all gone to Mississippi State.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

And so I had determined that I wanted to go to a state school in Alabama, and Alabama and Auburn were the two major ones, and so I ended up going to the University of Alabama.

Hochheiser:

Did you go there planning to major in electrical engineering?

Nagle:

Well, actually, I didn’t have a firm mind as to what I wanted to major in. I remember on the first day you had to fill out forms about what you were going to study, and I looked over the form, and I didn’t see anything that I really knew I wanted to do, so I checked electrical engineering because that’s what my father had done, and I said, well, I’ll try this and I’ll see if something comes along that I like better, then I’ll switch. And I never found anything I liked better, so I never switched.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] What was your electrical engineering curriculum like at Alabama?

Nagle:

Well, the year I entered, they had a special accelerated program. They took all of the chemistry and put it into one course, the first semester, so we had three lectures a week, and two laboratories a week. And then we had normal math kinds of courses, you know, calculus, algebra, same kind of thing people have today.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

We did get a chance when I was a senior to take a computer programming class, which was interesting. Computer programming was done by decimal numbers. You would program operations in the computer, using the numbers 1 to 99, and then you’d move numbers around between locations, and that was kind of interesting, and so that got me interested in working with computers.

Hochheiser:

I assume this was back in the punch—you were using punch cards for programming this?

Nagle:

Oh absolutely, yes. And also the curriculum had material science. We had lots of physics courses, and, as a senior, we were able to take languages. I did two semesters of Russian. There was quite a bit of flexibility. Sometimes I think more flexibility, or as much as we have today in our curricula.

Hochheiser:

And then, if I’m correct, upon graduation you proceeded directly to a master’s program?

Nagle:

Yes. I stayed at the University of Alabama and continued on. The department head called me in, and asked me if I would like to apply for a NASA fellowship, and to go to graduate school, and well, I thought that was a pretty good idea, so I applied, and was lucky enough to get the fellowship. I continued on for another three semesters, and got the master’s degree there in University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

Hochheiser:

At what point did you decide to continue past that and go for a PhD?

Nagle:

Well, during the master’s program, I was working with a PhD student there, Dr. Chester Carroll, and he was helping me find a thesis topic, and I was also working with a professor there, Erwin Reinhard, as the chairman of my master’s committee. But in the process of working on that project I got to know this PhD student very well, Dr. Chester Carroll. When he graduated, he went to Auburn and invited me to come over and be one of his first graduate students. So I said, okay, well, I could do that. And at that time the Vietnam War was getting started, and so I decided I’ll continue on in graduate school and we’ll see how the military options avail themselves. I was in the ROTC at the University of Alabama. And so I was going to go into military service, but I first went for the PhD at Auburn, and then went into military service.

Hochheiser:

Right. So going for a PhD you deferred the commitment from your ROTC—

Nagle:

[Interposing] Deferred the starting date, yes.

Hochheiser:

—‘til after you finished your doctorate.

Nagle:

Yes.

### Joining the IEEE and Active Duty

Hochheiser:

Backing up a little, did you join IEEE or one of its predecessors while you were a student?

Nagle:

Yes, I did. I joined the IRE in 1962, I believe the date was. And we had a student group there at the University of Alabama, so I participated in that, and then, if you were continuing on as a student, you could continue your IEEE membership in some sort of student status until you got your PhD. And then there was a five-year graduated dues increase, to get you started, and at that time the obvious thing to do was to keep being a member.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

I do remember that once I had the PhD, and once I was a full member of IEEE, the insurance program was better than almost any other life insurance kind of program you could have, so that cemented the relationship for me for many years. So, IEEE term life insurance at that time was really a terrific deal.

Hochheiser:

So that was an added benefit to the professional benefits?

Nagle:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Were you active in the student chapter in Alabama?

Nagle:

I don’t remember the student chapter being really active—a few meetings. I ended up, as a senior, being president of the engineering student body, and so my activities were more school-wide than just in the IRE student branch.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

But I don’t remember any specific activities that were undertaken. There was also Theta Tau, which is an engineering fraternity, and that group was quite active. So for engineering students at the University of Alabama, there were a lot of activities to consume your free time.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] When you were working on your PhD at Auburn, was there a student chapter there? And if so, were you involved at all?

Nagle:

Yes, there was a student chapter, but I didn’t have a lot of involvement. As a PhD student, I was pretty focused. I wanted to finish in two-and-a-half years to get the PhD completed, and then get my military active duty out of the way and get on with my career.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

The dissertation was on using sampled data techniques and digital controllers for control systems.

Hochheiser:

So then you finished your doctorate, and then joined the army.

Nagle:

Then I completed two years of active duty in the Ordnance Corps.

Hochheiser:

And what did you do while you were at active duty?

Nagle:

Well, the first year or so I was assigned to Huntsville, Alabama, to the Army Missile Command in an R and D unit. And then the Vietnam War was very hot at that time.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

And we were approaching the peak number of troops, and I got orders to go to Vietnam, and so then they sent me to Fort Benning, Georgia, to train me to be an ammo dump – an ammunition depot – lieutenant. And so I took that course. Then I went to Vietnam. There was an electrical systems office that was down near Saigon. There was a Ben-Wah Airbase, and nearby there was a large Army base, Long Binh, that needed an electrical engineer. They had an electrical systems office, and the colonel running that unit had a personnel request for somebody with expertise in electrical engineering. The personnel office sent me to interview with him. So I ended up going there and serving my term there in an office doing electrical power systems for the various American army bases in Vietnam.

### Auburn Faculty Member and IEEE

Hochheiser:

So then you finished your active duty commitment.

Nagle:

Finished the active duty commitment and I came back to Auburn University as an assistant professor.

Hochheiser:

How did you—or maybe it—or was it simple? Or how did you manage to go from being a doctoral student at Auburn to being a member of the faculty?

Nagle:

Well my PhD mentor had essentially done the transition from a student to a faculty member, and so I had him as a model, and most of the professors there were well known to me, I’d had most of them in classes, and so they were almost like colleagues. It was a very easy transition.

Hochheiser:

As a faculty member at Auburn, to what extent were you involved in IEEE activities, either in the Alabama section, or in societies, conferences?

Nagle:

Well, the Alabama section had a Computer Society chapter. So I was involved in that, and an officer in that. And at that time in the early seventies, I started working with the Industrial Electronics Society.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

The Society was doing conferences, and I got involved in a conference committee, and submitting some of the work we were doing to the Industrial Electronics annual conference.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

This was digital signal processing, digital controllers and, digital control systems. In societies and in all of IEEE, you do a volunteer job, and if the entity likes what you’re doing, then you get offered another one, and then another one, and it just keeps going.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

Yes. At that time it was called Industrial Electronics and Control Instrumentation.

Hochheiser:

And the latter makes the connection to your work even—

Nagle:

[Interposing] Yes.

Hochheiser:

—more evident, I guess.

Nagle:

Yes.

### Society President and Vice President

Hochheiser:

So I believe you eventually became president of the society?

Nagle:

Yes. By 1981 I had worked with the conference for a number of years, and became a co-general chair of the conference that was held in San Francisco. And then after that I became the vice president for conferences, and then I guess in about 1984 or so I was president of that society, and served in the [[Technical Activities Board for a couple of years.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

Yes, I was also active in the Computer Society. And having served on the Technical Activities Board for a couple of years, and the Computer Society at that time had two division directors.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

And so, one of my friends convinced me to serve as the area activities vice president of the Computer Society. Roy—

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] What does that mean?

Nagle:

Roy Russo. Well, that was their geographical activities equivalent. It was like the member activities these days.

Hochheiser:

Okay. And what did that involve?

Nagle:

Well, it involved trying to find ways to link the Computer Society to the various regions around the world, trying to have activities associated with regional events. It was a new position, so I was trying to do something new in various areas around the world. One thing we did was an effort to have tutorials at the Hanover Fair. So we developed a program of Hanover Fair tutorials which was a real eye-opening experience. Although we had great plans that the Computer Society and IEEE would have a lot of people interested in learning our technologies, it turned out there were some that were interested, but there were, perhaps, 100,000 people coming to this fair, and most of them were there to look at equipment. That’s the reason they went there. So that was a real eye-opening experience, and we needed to do a better job at figuring out what our customers needed before we planned more of those kinds of activities.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

So then with the Computer Society I became a candidate for one of the division director positions, and was lucky enough to be elected.

Hochheiser:

Okay.

Nagle:

So that got me onto the IEEE Board of Directors for a couple years.

### Technical Activities Board

Hochheiser:

Can we back up a little bit to the Industrial Electronics Society? So you became president.

Nagle:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

And as a result you—and as part of being president you were on TAB?

Nagle:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Now, was TAB your first exposure to overall IEEE activities, as opposed to societies?

Nagle:

Yes. National and international activities.

Hochheiser:

What was what did you find TAB like in the early to mid eighties?

Nagle:

Well, at that time the TAB operated differently than today. It had society presidents, but it also had ten division directors, as it does today, I’m sure, but the major decisions were made by the TAB OpCom (Operations Committee), which was the division directors, so that the TAB itself would recommend actions and the TAB OpCom, the ten division directors, would actually make the final decision.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

And so there was always a bit of an adversarial relationship between the presidents of the societies, where the presidents of societies felt they were really the heart and soul – engine – of the IEEE, and the division directors, many of those had actually been society presidents at one time.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

There was always this perception, “you directors are taking control, and we need more input.” And so in later years we actually changed the way TAB operated and let the TAB itself make the decisions. The division directors, led by Ted Hissey and Wallace Behnke, gave up some of their authority. They serve on the board of directors and actually control the Institute at that level, so…

Hochheiser:

So at this point the division directors were no longer part of TAB.

Nagle:

No, they were part of TAB.

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Oh they were still part of TAB.

Nagle:

[Interposing] They were still part of TAB, it’s just that the division directors of the Opcom didn’t overrule what the society presidents had done, or could do.

Hochheiser:

I see. What, if any, were the issues that TAB was dealing with while you were there as the society president?

Nagle:

Yes, at that time there was the book broker program where conference proceedings were sold to libraries. It generated quite a nice reserve. There was something like a two-and-a-half or $3 million reserve that was sitting there, not being used very effectively. So there were several of us that just proposed to the society presidents that TAB should be taking some initiative and should be investing some of those reserves to create new services. And so over two or three years, that actually came to pass. I think one of the important things that resulted from that, those new initiatives, was in 1988 the TAB funded the first scanning electronically of the IEEE journals, and putting those into an electronic database. So you’ll see now if you start doing searches many of the journals go back to 1988 and stop there. Later, some have actually been scanned back to their beginnings. Hochheiser: [Interposing] We’ve been working with the pubs people to get more and more of the old things scanned. Nagle: Yes. ### Getting an MD and North Carolina State Hochheiser: One thing I notice, if we can switch back a minute to your professional career, as you were advancing at Auburn I know you also went and got an MD. Nagle: [Laughter] Yes. Hochheiser: What led you to decide to do this, and how did you manage to do it while being a professor? Nagle: Well as a PhD student I’d worked on a project funded by NASA. I’d done and seen a number of projects where you did a lot of work, you studied something, you published a report, it went into a library or bookshelf, and maybe you publish a paper or two, and then you were done and moving on to the next study. So I thought it might be better to work in something that had more practical impact on our everyday lives—medical electronics, medical devices. And in order to do that there was a two-year MD program for people with PhDs in science and math, so I applied to that program and took a leave of absence from the university. I was lucky enough to be accepted into that program, 36 people out of 300 or so that were applying. People always ask me, “how did you get in over others?” I’ve always thought, well, okay, you get 300 people, they’ve all got really good reputations, and really good applications, but one of the questions was how are you going to finance it. And I said, well, I’m going to sell a house and use the equity. And most of the students coming in were borrowing and taking loans, and I believe to this day that the University of Miami, where this program was located, considered the fact that I did not need financial support to help get my application from the big pile of applicants over to the small pile of accepted students. Hochheiser: [Laughter] Nagle: So I essentially closed out my graduate students – got them all out the door – and had a two-year change of context. I went down to Miami for two years, and then came back. Hochheiser: And then that led to your gradual move into biomedical engineering, I assume. Nagle: Yes. After coming back to Auburn for a couple years – they have a veterinary school – but there wasn’t much opportunity for me to do research there, and Auburn is130 miles from Birmingham, where there’s a medical center. It’s 110 miles to Atlanta, where there are medical centers. So I explored moving up to North Carolina, to Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, where there are two large medical centers, and three universities and so forth. So I moved up there, and turned out to be a nice move for me. Hochheiser: So you moved up to the engineering school at North Carolina State. Nagle: Yes. First I went for six months at Chapel Hill, to their biomedical engineering program, as a visiting scientist. And then while I was up there I decided to try to stay, and applied for a faculty position at NC State in electrical engineering. So I started there in August of 1984. Hochheiser: And then after a few years you also had a research professorship in one of the med schools? Nagle: Well, my initial appointment in January of ’84 was at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the medical school. Hochheiser: Okay. Nagle: So when I moved up, I continued my relationship there, and I guess I had a formal research appointment in 1986 or something like that. Hochheiser: Yes. Nagle: That then started a clock which runs until today, actually. Hochheiser: [Laughter] We’ll get back to it. ### Division Director and EMB If I can get back now to your Computer Society activities. So you became active in the Computer Society. Nagle: Yes. Hochheiser: To the point of, in the latter part of the eighties, you became one of the division directors in the Computer Society. Nagle: Yes. It was, let’s see, ’87, ’88, something like that. Hochheiser: Yes. How did you obtain that position? Was that an elected position or an appointed position? Nagle: No, that was a normal election. I had been the vice president for area activities. Hochheiser: Right. Nagle: And then they – the Computer Society – always put up two or three candidates for each of the division director slots. I was one of the people put forward. At that time there were about 100,000 members of the Computer Society Hochheiser: So you were nominated by the Computer Society board? Nagle: By the Computer Society. Yes, Board of Directors. Hochheiser: To stand for election. Nagle: Yes. Hochheiser: Did you have to actively campaign in any way? Nagle: Well, at that time there wasn’t much campaigning that you could do. You had to do a good job presenting your credentials and showing your IEEE activities, and showing your academic and professional background, so people looked at your position statement, and looked at your IEEE activities and cast their ballot. Hochheiser: And you won the election. Nagle: Yes. And during the early eighties I was also working with the EMB Society, and I had offered my name to be a Region 3 candidate for a position on the administrative committee, AdCom of the EMB, and so I was elected and I served a two-year term there. Hochheiser: What did you do on the EMB committee? Nagle: Well, I attended the AdCom, the administrative committee meetings, and gave my input, that’s just like any member. The administrative committee actually is the governing body, and sets the direction for society. And the executive director was a staff position, Susan Blanchard, who actually lived in Durham, North Carolina, near where I live, and so that’s how I got to know about the EMB society. Hochheiser: Were there any particular issues facing the AdCom while you were on it? Nagle: Well, it was globalization, for Engineering in Medicine and Biology as well as for Industrial Electronics. The Industrial Electronics Society has always been very global, even from the time when I was president. The administrative committee has always had a very large fraction of the members from outside the U.S. The EMB at that time was struggling to become more global, and that was one of the efforts that was going on. Hochheiser: And of course we’ve already talked about, since you were in geographic activities in the Computer Society, that it too was dealing with these same globalization issues. Nagle: Yes. Yes. ### Board of Directors and Technical Activities VP Hochheiser: Okay. So you’re elected to be a division director from the Computer Society, so now you’re on the IEEE board. Nagle: Yes. Hochheiser: What were the major issues facing the IEEE Board, and the IEEE as a whole, in the late 1980s when you were there? Nagle: Well, let’s think—I can’t remember anything beyond the improvement of the infrastructure at the operations center. Hochheiser: Yes. Nagle: I mean, there was a great problem with the computer systems, and keeping the records, and we were trying to upgrade the computer system. We were trying to do it in house, and at some point, then, it wasn’t working. And so we actually had to go to outside firms. And then that didn’t work too well either, and then we had to have yet another outside firm. Over about a five or six-year period, we spent a lot of money to upgrade the computer system. So that was the major issue. If you can’t collect the dues and collect the income from the journal sales and keep everything accounted for properly, then you can’t make any progress. You can’t run your business. So that was an overwhelming activity over a number of years before it finally was solved, after a very large investment. Hochheiser: Were you also on the executive committee at this time? Nagle: No, during my last year of the division director, I became a candidate for the vice president for technical activities. Hochheiser: Okay. Nagle: And so in ’89 and ’90, I believe, I was elected to be the vice president for technical activities, and during that time I was then a member of the executive committee. Hochheiser: Now how did you come to stand for that election? Nagle: Well, at that time, the vice presidents were elected by the IEEE Assembly. Hochheiser: Right. Nagle: There was a nominations and appointments committee of the IEEE who collects the nominations, and I was nominated by the board of directors. The nomination appointment committee collects lists, and then provides them to the board of directors. The board of directors then selected names, and I was one of two candidates in 1989, - - . Hochheiser: But, at this time, the election is from the Assembly. Nagle: From the Assembly. Hochheiser: So the board proposes two candidates to the Assembly? Nagle: That’s the way I remember it, and then you could have petition candidates as well. Hochheiser: Okay. Nagle: But that year there were only two of us. Hochheiser: So did you go directly from being a division director to being the vice president for technical activities? Nagle: Yes. ### Changes in TAB Hochheiser: So you had two terms on TAB then? The first time when you were representing the Industrial Electronics— Nagle: [Interposing] Well I, in a sense, I was. The timing was good for me, because I had two years on TAB as president of the Industrial Electronics Society. Hochheiser: Right. Nagle: Then the next two years were as the division director of the Computer Society, and then the next two years as the chairman of TAB, as the vice president of technical activities, so I had— Hochheiser: Ah, so you had six consecutive years Nagle: So I had a lot of years in TAB. Hochheiser: I imagine that many consecutive years on TAB must be not common. Nagle: I would think not, yeah. Hochheiser: Ah. Did the issues facing TAB change at all over your six years as a member of TAB? Nagle: Well, the book broker surplus was characterized and allocated for new initiatives, and that money was available to do things, over that six-year period. Hochheiser: Yes. Nagle: During that time we changed the decision structure in TAB so that the TAB as a whole [made the decisions]. The TAB OpCom didn’t overturn or have to endorse every decision made by TAB. I think those were the two major things. And then we, of course, we started the scanning and archiving of the electronic database for the journals. ### Board and Industrial Relations Hochheiser: So you have this four-year period, now, on the board, first as a division director, and then the vice president of TAB. We talked about the infrastructure issues. Were there other issues? Was the board as a whole dealing, say, with globalization? Nagle: Well, yes, and another issue that comes around frequently in the Institute was a big effort was to look at industrial relations – how to link more to industry, how to get more applications-oriented. So we had an industry relations study group, an industry relations committee. The executive committee would have its meetings around the world, and meet with industry each time. Almost every meeting of the executive committee was held in a location where there was industry involved. Local industry people would participate and we’d constantly seek new ways and better ways to link IEEE to industry. Hochheiser: Did you find any? Nagle: Well, if it were an easy job, it would be solved. I’m sure it’s still a difficult one— Hochheiser: [Laughter] Yes. Nagle: If you look at IEEE’s membership, I think even today half the people are from industry, but only very few industry leaders are actually holding volunteer positions in IEEE. And that may be a status quo that the Institute just has to live with. Hochheiser: Do you have any idea why that’s so? Nagle: Well, in a company, they’re very focused on business aspects, keeping the company going, making a profit for the stockholders. The professional development of their employees is important, but it’s not nearly as important as these other things. Whereas at universities—most universities aren’t going to go out of business in a recession, and the professional development is very important, and what better way to achieve professional development than to have volunteer positions in an organization like the IEEE. In IEEE, members learn management skills, they learn financial skills, they learn how to get people to do things for free! It can be pretty hard to get somebody to do something that you really need done, and you aren’t going to pay them anything. Maybe as a reward they’ll get a trip somewhere to a meeting. Some people will do a lot for that, and some people won’t. Hochheiser: Was North Carolina State supportive of your commitment to IEEE and the time that it took? Nagle: Absolutely. Yes, always. And every university volunteer who’s spending time with the IEEE has to have the support of his or her employer or it just won’t happen. Hochheiser: What in general were the board meetings like, in this era? Nagle: Well a typical TAB board meeting is a huge square table with about 60 or 70 people sitting around, and you had to very carefully use Robert’s Rules of Order to keep things moving, and so forth. A typical Board of Directors meeting was maybe 35 or so people sitting around a table, pretty much the same kind of thing. Formal agenda items had to be vetted before they could get on the agenda, and of course the chairman of the TAB, which I was for a couple years, set the agenda, and for the Board of Directors, the president set the agenda. ### Executive Committee Hochheiser: Once you became the vice president for TAB, you were now on the executive committee. Nagle: Yes. Hochheiser: And similarly, what did the executive committee do, and how often did it meet? Nagle: Well, the executive committee would meet at every board meeting, but then it would have several, two or three other meetings between board meetings, and the executive committee acted for the board, between the meetings. So if something important came up that needed board action, the executive committee would take the action, and then ask for board approval or endorsement at the board’s next meeting, which always was granted. Hochheiser: Do you recall any significant issues that the executive committee needed to deal with in that way, between board meetings? Nagle: No, just normal things. If you have an operations center, and offices around the world, various things have to be approved and so forth. Examples are insurance, employee retirement funds, and other various things; actions have to be taken all the time, and so the executive committee would do those kinds of things. ### Running for President Hochheiser: Audio File MP3 Audio (515 - nagle - clip 1.mp3) What led you to be interested in becoming president of IEEE? Nagle: Well I don’t know. IEEE always, to me, from the beginning, was very complex, almost like a puzzle. How does it work, and how can you make it better? So almost at every position, or every level, I was always looking at it in that way. How does this work, how could it be simplified, how could it be improved? So I always tried to focus, and still do focus, on things that I could do to make it work better, and to have a somewhat more lasting effect. And then as far as being the president, you had a lot better chance to make some lasting improvement than in any other position in the Institute. Hochheiser: When did you first run for the position of president-elect? Nagle: I was nominated by the Board of Directors immediately after my term as the vice president for technical activities, I was nominated with Martha Sloan, and I think there were maybe two or three of us running. Hochheiser: Yes. Nagle: Martha was the first woman candidate for president, and she ran an excellent campaign, getting out, and so she won by a landslide. Hochheiser: How did you campaign for the office of president? Nagle: Well, the next year I was nominated again by the board. And basically, I had various IEEE activities that I was attending, and of course there I would talk to my friends and tell them about what I wanted to do, what I would want to do if I were elected. There were the debates, of course, and you present your position there. And in my case, the second time the Region 3 director was very supportive. I was in Region 3, he was very supportive, and he actually did a lot of campaigning for me in Region 3. Hochheiser: Who was that? Nagle: David Connor. And so when the election came, the next time around there were just two of us candidates that time. Edward Bertnolli was the other. He was the regional vice president, and I was a technical vice president, so there were two of us, regions versus technical activities. And so it was a very, very close race, something like 468 votes out of 50,000. Very, very close. Hochheiser: [Interposing] That’s very close. Nagle: And I won Region 3, and he won the other five U.S. regions, and I won the non-US regions 7, 8, 9, and 10. Hochheiser: [Laughter] Nagle: And because my Region 3 director did a good job, I won my home region by a large margin, and I needed every vote that he was able to get for me. Hochheiser: What were the elements of your platform? That is, what was the substance in what you were running on? Nagle: Well, I was running on the globalization of the IEEE, and promotion of technical activities. And the other candidate started his position statement saying U.S. engineers are the best in the world. So he just right from the beginning gave me regions 7, 8, 9, and 10, just from the first few sentences in his position statement. So it was really U.S. versus globalization. I mean, he was trying to focus the U.S., and IEEE-USA. I can’t remember the exact nature of his position, but mine was more international and globalization, and his was more U.S.-centric. Hochheiser: Mm-hmm. What did you hope to accomplish as president of IEEE? Nagle: I’ll give you one example. I wanted us to be able to assess member needs, and to deliver locally to sections and to chapters, certain kinds of products that IEEE should be able to generate. So we developed a kit for running focus groups. We had professional help to develop this kit, and we had videotapes that told local people how to organize one, and how to run it. And then we shipped them out; the idea was to try to develop a culture of local focus groups feeding information back to the service center to try to direct the way new products would be developed. And that was an interesting idea, but it never quite caught on. It didn’t have a staff infrastructure to actually keep it running, and that’s the kind of thing that volunteers can’t do. Volunteers turn over – pass through the organization – running focus groups, and so forth, and maybe someone would do one once, and send the data back, and it just didn’t get institutionalized. ### Organization, John Powers and the Computer System Hochheiser: How closely and in what ways did you work with the staff? Nagle: The board created, at my request, a$200,000 president’s project fund. This focus group was one example project, but there were 10 or 12 small projects like that, where we were testing the water. And so we spent most of that funding, 10 or 20k at a time, on small trial projects like that. And each one of those had staff help, and staff input for all the things we were trying to do.

Hochheiser:

To what extent, or how do you as president, oversee the operations and functioning of an organization as large and complex as IEEE?

Nagle:

Well, at that time, the president didn’t operate the way the president does today. I think today it’s the president and CEO. Back then it was just the president, and the staff. The executive director of the staff was the principal person operating the Institute. And the feeling was that in general, among volunteers, we would give direction, but we would not interfere in staff operations. We would set policies and general directions, but the details and execution of things were left to the executive director, the chief staff person. And that if we were too restrictive on what we allowed staff to do, then we couldn’t hold them responsible for the results. And so that was the typical mode of operation. And then, during the year I was the president, we had some difficulty getting the computer system to work properly.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Nagle:

And the staff, the executive director, John Powers, was just not able to make it happen, and so he resigned in mid-year. Then that put a big effort on the volunteers. We appointed Ted Hissey as the executive director, and the president-elect, Tom Cain and I spent a majority of our time recruiting a new staff director for the Institute and get the Institute moving again. So that consumed the last half of my year as president, which was not the way I had intended to spend it. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

Anything else you can tell me about John Powers? I know he was executive director for just a couple of years.

Nagle:

Well, John was a very innovative guy. I remember for every meeting he would attend, he had a notebook and he’d take notes, and he had lists of great ideas, and he would follow up on them. He was a good leader for setting future strategic directions. However, he could not [get] the computer system updated. He’d lost the confidence of the board after a series of computer system failures. He was greatly loyal to his staff, and the staff at that time just didn’t have the background or the ability to implement the system. I spent some time up in Piscataway myself, being somewhat of a computer expert, trying to figure out what was happening. Every morning, John and this staff leadership team would meet – it was like a red team, putting out fires. They’d meet early in the morning, and decide each morning what they were going to do that day. And this happened every morning. You can’t run a computer system hardware/software overhaul, a big project, putting out fires every day. And John Powers was not able to it done under the financial constraints given him. The Board felt that we had to replace people and replace contractors. We had to do something. John decided to step aside and let the Board get a fresh start – this is my personal opinion.

Hochheiser:

Of course.

Nagle:

All along the way, John just kept hoping that everything was going to turn out all right, and that they were going to find the magic solution, one more day, one more week. And it just didn’t happen. So he actually resigned. He wasn’t forced out. He could just see the handwriting on the wall, this wasn’t going very well, and he decided to go pursue other things.

Hochheiser:

So he resigned in the middle of your term?

Nagle:

At one of the board meetings, actually.

Hochheiser:

So did his resignation require more involvement on your part than—?

Nagle:

Yes, on all the top volunteer leadership’s part. We all had to spend a lot of extra time, and we had to do some recruiting, and keep the business running, and find some contractors who could fix the computer system. Yeah.

Hochheiser:

Were you able to eventually fix the computer system?

Nagle:

Oh yes, I’m sure the people now will tell you the computer system is great. It’s probably been fixed several times since.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

Hochheiser:

—the problems in the computer system, in ’94 when you were president.

Nagle:

Yes we hired a project management firm that was good at this kind of thing and could come in and salvage projects; they had done this several times before for other organizations. So it cost us more money, but we ended up getting the problem solved. I think it took maybe one more year.

### Presidential Issues and Travel

Hochheiser:

Besides the computer problems, what other issues were facing the board while you were president?

Nagle:

During that time period, we were always thinking of selling the engineering center there in New York, and downsizing, and we were moving people. There were always questions whether Spectrum should move from New York over to New Jersey, and you know, all of these kinds of things were being looked at regularly. I can’t think of, at the moment, of any other highly pressing issues beyond the computer system failing, and the executive director resigning. Those were the two main issues of 1994.

Hochheiser:

Did you travel much as president of IEEE?

Nagle:

The President of IEEE always travels, travels a lot. I tried to minimize the travel. I made a list once, the year I was president. I attended 50-some-odd meetings. But if you look at travel reimbursements for the president, I know before and after me they were a lot higher than in my year. I think I had approximately half the travel expenses of the Martha Sloan and Tom Cain.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

A lot of the travel for the president is to go around the world to award functions, and to present awards, to negotiate and sign agreements with national societies, history milestones, there are many events around the world each year that request the presence of the president. And what I tried to do for many of those is to send some of the vice presidents. As for the difference, the total travel cost of the IEEE was about the same, it’s just some of the vice presidents were traveling, and less for me, and I was trying to spend more time on solving the infrastructure problems.

Hochheiser:

How closely did you work with Martha Sloan and with Tom Cain?

Nagle:

Oh, we worked very closely together. The three Ps. As a group, yes. We would have our sessions, just the three of us. And as president-elect you start developing your plans. Then you hope, as president and as past president you’ll be able to implement them. And so you really are depending on the president—if you’re president-elect, the president letting you do the things you want, and not being assigned a lot of extra things. And then as the past president, you hope that the president that year will let your projects continue on to a conclusion, so you have to work closely as a group.

### New Executive Director and General Manager

Hochheiser:

How did the board go about picking a successor to John Powers?

Nagle:

Well, the board met in executive session and discussed the options, and we had an executive director, the executive director position at that time, then we just separated that from the general manager, and we decided to appoint a retired volunteer who had industry administrative experience, Ted Hissey. So he was elected to that position.

Hochheiser:

Which position?

Nagle:

The executive director.

Nagle:

And then he assumed an operating role while we then opened a search for a new staff general manager. And that took some time.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Nagle:

So Ted was operating the rest of that year, as I recall, the rest of my year as president.

Hochheiser:

And then was someone else—was he also acting general manager? Were there other people in that role, or do you recall?

Nagle:

I’m not sure. I can’t recall exactly. I think the chief financial officer acted as the general manager for staff for a while.

Hochheiser:

And then, I guess, while you were past president, Dan Senese was selected as the general manager.

Nagle:

That’s as I recall, I can’t remember exactly the date.

Hochheiser:

And at that point Ted Hissey—did he leave at that point?

Nagle:

He probably continued on a while. I’m not sure if the executive director position was ever combined back with the general manager.

### Globalization, Finances, Publications and Diversity

Hochheiser:

Let me raise a few other topics; these are issues that tend to appear periodically.

Nagle:

Yes. They have a way of coming back, don’t they?

Hochheiser:

They do. We’ve talked about globalization at several different periods in your career.

Nagle:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Nagle:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So were there any, specific things that you did as president, or that the board did, dealing with globalization while you were at the top?

Nagle:

Well, we had an effort to develop some agreements with national societies around the world, so we went to Hungary, for example, and had an agreement with several of their national societies. We were working with some groups in Asia and Japan. I’m trying to remember. We made a trip through Northern Europe, and visited some of those national societies, and we went to Latin America, down to South America, and visited some of those national societies. So then the question always within IEEE is how can you cooperate with a national society—at that time we were having 300 to 400 conferences and technical meetings around the world. I think it’s probably up to 900 or 1,000 now.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Nagle:

And so all of these chances to work with national societies, yet from their standpoint we’re coming in into their turf, and having these meetings, and many times we don’t even speak to them at all about our plans. So yes, there’s opportunities there. And it’s a constant problem, because our leadership turns over, not only the volunteers, but also the staff. And at the national societies, their volunteers and staff turnover, so it’s almost a never-ending job keeping those relationships active and having a relationship in which both sides actually feel they’re getting a benefit from it. It’s very hard.

Hochheiser:

Were there any financial issues facing the board at this period?

Nagle:

The finances of the Institute have always been very good, with nice reserves. There’s always the question about the reserves of societies, and how can those be used from time to time to meet the emergencies of the rest of the Institute, whose reserves aren’t so good. That’s one of the things that comes up, I’m sure, occasionally. While I was the president, the system was that the technical activities would invest their reserves into a pseudo-IEEE bank, and they could have long term or short term agreements. And the long term did something like 6 to 7%, and the short term did something like 3 to 4%. And then the IEEE bank invested everything long term, and took the extra 3% generated on the short term, and used it to fund general operations. We did that, but my opinion at the time, stated to my friends, was we can do this, and it won’t work many years because the societies will figure out what’s going on, and they’ll just put it all in long term, and—

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Nagle:

I’m sure there’s a completely different system now.

Hochheiser:

Any issues facing publications that you recall during this period? We talked about some of the issues a bit earlier.

Nagle:

Well, one problem that came up frequently was that some of the technical publications, some of the Transactions, would take large conference proceedings and simply make those an issue of the Transactions. So they’d have a few thin issues, and then suddenly a big issue that’s an inch-and-a-half, 2 inches thick. And then the distribution of the income from the all Transactions package would then be weighted towards sending more money to those guys. So that was a key issue for debate, and it was discouraged for them, for the conferences, for societies to publish conference proceedings in the Transactions. But we could never find an ironclad rule to do that. So I don’t know if that’s still a problem or not. That was one that comes to mind. You talk about publication problems that we were looking at, debating. There was a great debate on it. Diversity: the Women in Engineering group was formed. And there was always a discussion about how could we get more minorities and under-represented groups involved, or how could we get people from around the world, mostly from developing countries, and find ways to give them access. So we had special membership rates for them, and that was more of a topic for the regional activities than the technical. In the technical activities we were always struggling to get more people from outside the U.S. into the administrative structure. And we were focusing more on geographic location than gender or minorities. You got to change things one step at a time, and until you actually get globalized you can’t really do these other things as well as you should.

### President and Professor and Later Activities

Hochheiser:

Considering the demands on your time as IEEE president, to what extent were you able to maintain your activities as a professor? To what extent did you have to do so?

Nagle:

Well, I was quite lucky. At my university, the chancellor, Larry Monteith, had been an ECE department head, and dean of engineering, so he greatly appreciated the advantage to the university, to North Carolina State University, to have our faculty members in leadership positions of the IEEE. So when I was asked by the nominations and appointments committee if I would be a candidate, then I went with my department head up to the chancellor’s office and asked if he would endorse or support my being a candidate, and he says, yes, we will do that. And what he said he would do is provide \$30,000 per year for three years to the department so they could hire adjunct faculty and teaching assistants to help cover the activities that I would normally do. And so that allowed me to become a candidate. And when I was elected, then he provided that funding, which was very good for my department.

Hochheiser:

So you finish up as president, you finish up as past president, now after many years you’re no longer on the IEEE board.

Nagle:

That’s right. I haven’t been on the IEEE board since 1995, so it’s almost 14 years.

Hochheiser:

In what ways have you maintained activity in IEEE since completing your term as one of the national leaders?

Nagle:

One of the areas that past presidents get involved in with the Institute is the awards system, so I was vice chairman of the awards board, then chairman of the awards board, for a while. And then more recently I’ve been working with the IEEE Sensors Council. That was formed around 2000, so I was the editor in chief of the Sensors journal for six years, and more recently I’m working with the Sensors Council in the conferences arena, trying to set a course for the IEEE SENSORS conference to make it grow from around 500 people up to around 1,000 over the next three years.

### IEEE Changes

Hochheiser:

Thinking back over your many years of involvement with IEEE, in what ways has IEEE evolved or changed over the years going back into the sixties when you first joined as a student?

Nagle:

Back in the early days, IEEE, from my perspective as a student, was a publisher of really good technical information. And it provided, as an early member, really good insurance, and a way for me as a young faculty member to publish and to get volunteer experience. In a sense, you take a job with the IEEE, if you do a good job, then you’re rewarded. If somehow you do a bad job, you get your hand slapped, and you just don’t get asked to do that again. You don’t actually lose your paycheck and get thrown out the door. So it’s a way for people to actually experience and learn new skills dealing with people in a very forgiving environment. IEEE today has a lot more electronic web access to all of the journals and so forth, so now it’s much harder for us to convince people, especially students and faculty from universities, to be members when they can get access through their libraries to the information that they need. So it’s going to be very challenging for our member activities groups to keep activities that will be attractive for the young people, to get them in and keep them as members, so they’ll be volunteers. It’s extremely challenging.

Hochheiser:

Well, as you can see, my—as I promised, my cards are now all face down, so at this point is there anything you would like to add, anything that I should’ve asked you about that I didn’t know to ask you?

Nagle:

Well, you had a lot of really comprehensive questions. I would just say that IEEE has been a very good platform for me for professional development, and a way for me to not only learn new skills for dealing with people, but it’s also been a way for me to improve the profession and to offer my energy and ideas, and bring some of them into practice, and to help guide the IEEE, in some ways, to go where it is today. One effort that we had when I was president-elect and president was we developed a strategic plan. The IEEE does this, has a long-term planning or a strategic planning every three to five years, and that was a very interesting exercise. It involved a lot of people across the IEEE and a lot of the ideas that were injected that helped guide the IEEE for the next half-dozen years. So that, all that experience has been very good for me, and I highly recommend IEEE to the potential new members. If you get involved you will benefit!

Hochheiser:

Well, thank you very much for your time.

Nagle:

Thank you. It has been a pleasure.