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Inspiring the Future

2020 Donor Profiles

  
Alex Acero

Alex Acero, Ph.D.
MEMBER GRADE: Fellow

‘Speaking Volumes’ for the Next Generation


Dr. Acero was excited to join the IEEE as a master’s engineering student in the 1980s, but he didn’t stop there; during the next three decades, he served as President of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, received their highest award for "contributions to speech technology and leadership in the signal processing community," and served on the IEEE Board in 2018-2019. “IEEE has helped my career tremendously, so I’ve been delighted to volunteer and give back to the community,” said Dr. Acero, who joined the IEEE Foundation Board in 2021.

After co-authoring a textbook on spoken language processing in the late 1990s to help students learn about that rapidly-developing field, “my co-authors and I decided to donate the book's royalties to fund student travel grants to attend IEEE’s International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) for students with an accepted paper,” Dr. Acero said. “We all learned a lot about the field by attending ICASSP in our student days and wanted the next generation of students to benefit as well. Establishing a fund through the IEEE Foundation was an easy way for this to happen, as the staff oversees the processing of all of the funds while the Speech Technical Committee of the IEEE Signal Processing Society selects the winners,” he said of a positive and productive process that has occurred annually since 2002.

While the field has made tremendous progress in the last decade, “a lot more is required,” Dr. Acero confirmed. “Our Spoken Language Grant is a baby step that encourages students to help us achieve my lifelong dream of having an intelligent digital assistant.”

Overall, “IEEE is a fantastic catalyst for advancing technology,” Dr. Acero said. “I hope that many professionals who have benefitted from IEEE can find a cause they’re passionate about and work with the IEEE Foundation to help drive it.”



Loretta Arellano

Loretta Arellano
MEMBER GRADE: Senior Member

On the MOVE with IEEE


IEEE has played an important role in Loretta Arellano’s life and career, from student through retirement. Professionally, “IEEE helped me build my network, stay current with technology, and gain the management skills I’ve used throughout my career,” she said. According to Arellano, whose various positions have included serving on the IEEE Board as well as the IEEE Technical Activities (TAB), Member and Geographic Activities (MGA), and USA Boards, IEEE also offered her the opportunity to not only participate in established activities but to create new ones. “For example, working with some great volunteers and staff, we created the Volunteer Leadership Training (VOLT) program, which has trained many leaders within IEEE,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding to see the positive impact it’s had on volunteers and IEEE as a whole.”

Since her retirement in 2016, Arellano, 2018 winner of the IEEE Foundation-sponsored IEEE Haraden Pratt Award for outstanding volunteer service to IEEE, has begun capitalizing on opportunities to engage with areas of IEEE beyond her own field. Among them, “I became involved with the ‘IEEE-USA Community Outreach MOVE’ initiative in 2018 and quickly found a new group of inspired people,” she said of MOVE, an emergency relief program committed to assisting victims of natural disasters with short-term communications, computer, and power solutions. “Since MOVE primarily functions on the east coast of the United States and I'm on the west coast, I didn't think I could contribute much, but I quickly found that I could participate as the communication lead. MOVE is doing great things by supporting hard-hit areas ravaged by hurricanes and I look forward to engaging more in 2021.”

“One of the nice things about IEEE is that there are so many areas to get involved with,” said Arellano, who’s been inspired by the breadth of IEEE’s impact. “I believe it’s important to give back to an organization that’s given me so much over the years and that’s why I actively engage in many areas of IEEE.”



Lyle Feisel

Lyle Feisel, Ph.D.
MEMBER GRADE: Life Fellow
Harnessing Strength in Numbers


As a member of both the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) and The Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) – parent organizations which ultimately evolved into IEEE in 1963 -- Dr. Lyle Feisel has enjoyed the benefits of his IEEE affiliation for more than 60 years.

“The student branch gave us opportunities to socialize with faculty and other students and gain insight into the actual practice of engineering, and the networking and technical information I received were so helpful,” he said. “The camaraderie and friendships that developed over the years are some of my fondest memories of being an IEEE member.”

Dr. Feisel attributes his decision to donate to such IEEE initiatives as the IEEE Foundation Fund, IEEE History Center Fund, IEEE Life Members Fund, and IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Fund to “the recognition that there are many needs out there and that our contributions can help meet them,” he said. “My wife and I have also included the IEEE Foundation in our estate plan because you can’t take it with you, so why not have it used for something you believe in? The IEEE Foundation is a very efficient and effective charity that will make good use of any bequest.”

“The critical function of the IEEE Foundation – or any charity -- is that it lets you help accomplish a goal that you could never achieve by yourself,” Dr. Feisel explained. “Acting alone, we could never put a girl through high school in Guatemala, teach a class in New Jersey about the history of engineering, illuminate a light bulb in Haiti, or take a kid for a ride on a replica sailing ship. By giving to the IEEE Foundation and other charities,” he said, “we’re able to help do all of those things.”



Jason Fritz

Jason Fritz
MEMBER GRADE: Senior Member

Supporting Next-Generation Professionals


I joined IEEE as a freshman at the University of Dayton, FL, USA in order to learn more about the engineering field and, since then, IEEE has provided opportunities to learn and network through various IEEE publications and local activities as well as participate in technical conferences,” said Jason Fritz, who served as Chapter Chair of IEEE’s Signal Processing Society (SPS).

Fritz has donated to EPICS in IEEE “because of its mission of giving students a platform to work with engineering professionals to develop solutions that transform communities across the globe,” he said. “It’s at the community level where impact really happens and at the student level where IEEE can help foster the ingenuity of the next generation of electrical engineers to benefit humanity by contributing directly. I’m hoping that my donation can provide some resources to directly support student projects and help students see the benefits of the Electrical Engineering field and eventually transition after graduation,” he said.

“While technology holds great promise to help people in developing regions of the world, that technology doesn’t develop itself – it requires men and women from around the world and from all walks of life to contribute, innovate and deliver the technological process that has transformed our planet,” Fritz said. “IEEE plays a central role in developing current and next-generation professionals in order to continue this pursuit, and contributing to IEEE financially and/or by volunteering will help the organization achieve those goals.”



Ruomei Li

Ruomei Li, Ph.D.
MEMBER GRADE: Senior Member
Empowering Women in Power & Energy

Dr. Ruomei Li, 2020 Chair of IEEE Women in Power (WIP) and former Secretary General of the Chinese Society for Electrical Engineering (CSEE), can’t say enough about the impact IEEE has had on her life and career since attending her first IEEE conference 22 years ago.

“By participating in IEEE activities and reading IEEE publications over the years, I’ve obtained a lot of useful technical information on current and future trends in my field of interest,” shared Dr. Li. “In addition, as a Ph.D. student, my paper was recognized as “the best presented and discussed paper" at the IEEE Budapest Power Tech ‘99 Conference, which was a boost to my self-confidence, and my experience as an IEEE volunteer further enhanced my organizational and leadership skills.”

As the recipient of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Wanda Reder Pioneer in Power Award in 2019, “I’m very grateful to IEEE PES for recognizing my 37 years of work and research in the power engineering field and I hope that more outstanding female volunteers in IEEE Power and Energy will have the same opportunity to receive awards and recognition,” Dr. Li said. As the main initiator of the IEEE PES CSEE Yu-Hsiu Ku Award, which has become one of the most influential awards in the power engineering field in China, and through her recent donations to the IEEE Foundation as well as her regifting of her honorarium to the PES Women in Power Award Fund, Dr. Li hopes to extend that life-changing experience to fellow colleagues and forge a path for others to follow.

“Although the amount of money donated by any one individual may be limited, when more and more people join the effort, it can change the world,” Dr. Li said of the power of donations to IEEE. “By establishing new awards, I’m excited to help provide opportunities to others, encourage and inspire their contributions to society, and ultimately help more people around the world.”



Burns & McDonnell

Burns & McDonnell

Capitalizing on IEEE’s Strength in Recruiting

As a full-service engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting solutions firm based in Kansas City, MO, USA, Burns & McDonnell has been a generous supporter of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus Initiative for nearly a decade.

“We donate to IEEE not only to support their commitment to technology advancements, but to be involved on a more personal level with educators, students and peers in the industry,” shared Burns & McDonnell’s Stephen Brogan, PE, Asst. Substation Department Manager, Transmission & Distribution Group. “The PES Scholarship Plus Initiative represents a commitment to the future of the power industry and helps connect students with resources that can help them jump-start their careers. Without the connections to the program that have come about because of our support of PES+, our company would potentially have missed adding these highly talented people to our organization.”

Former IEEE John W. Estey Scholar Samantha McPeak -- now a Staff Electrical Engineer, Transmission & Distribution Group at Burns & McDonnell -- can attest to that. Thanks to the support she received from IEEE to attend the PES General Meeting in 2016, “networking opportunities at that conference led me to meet Stephen Brogan and begin my fulfilling career with Burns & McDonnell as a substation engineer,” she said. “I’m proud that Burns & McDonnell continues to support the scholarship and the many new students who are applying.”

“IEEE’s PES S+ Program checked every box for us in terms of the kind of newly-graduated engineers we needed,” confirmed John Olander, Chief Operating Officer and President of the Transmission & Distribution Group at Burns & McDonnell. “We were impressed with the quality of the program, which has given us the ability to connect with high-achieving students who have really demonstrated leadership potential. We now have 73 interns and full-time employees who have graduated from the program and this will be a long-term commitment for Burns & McDonnell.”



Howard Michel

Howard Michel, Ph.D.
MEMBER GRADE: Life Senior Member and IEEE 2015 President

Paying It Forward Through the IEEE Foundation

As a proud IEEE Senior Member for decades as well as a past IEEE President and chair of IEEE’s Public Visibility Committee when IEEE’s "Advancing Technology for Humanity" tagline was first created, Dr. Howard Michel can’t say enough about the positive role IEEE has played in his life, both personally and professionally. “By enhancing my understanding of technology and affording me the opportunity to volunteer at the Section, Region, Member & Geographic Activities, and IEEE President levels, I was able to develop leadership skills across IEEE's geographic regions which opened doors for me that otherwise would have been closed,” he said. “I'd like to make those kinds of opportunities available to the next generation of technologists and the IEEE Foundation supports that hope.”

In donating to IEEE, Dr. Michel elected not to designate his contribution to a particular fund or destination but rather to entrust the professionals at the IEEE Foundation with decisions regarding the best use of his funds. “The IEEE Foundation supports immediate needs with programs such as EPICS in IEEE and longer-range goals with initiatives like the TryEngineering Summer Institute,” he explained. “I believe that the IEEE Foundation volunteer Board members will use my donation in the most appropriate ways to support IEEE and its mission of advancing technology for humanity.”

Throughout his longtime association, Dr. Michel has remained excited about the technical diversity IEEE represents. “We advance technology to support the human good and make the world a better place; IEEE facilitates this goal and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Dr. Michel said. “I think that it’s our duty to lead by example and help others follow in our footsteps to improve people's lives through technology,” he added of the importance of giving back. “IEEE and the IEEE Foundation do that, but they need our support to continue.”



John Nelson

John Nelson
MEMBER GRADE: Life Fellow

Putting Award Money to “Greater Use”

For John Nelson, the rewards of giving back to his field began early in his career. As a student in the early 1970s, “my role as the Denver Section Student Activities Chair showed me that I could make a difference in student lives and the advancement of electrical engineering,” he said. “My continued experience in IEEE allowed me to meet many people, forge numerous friendships, and gain technical knowledge and opportunities that I most likely would never have experienced.”

Though he admits that he hasn’t historically contributed financially to many organizations, Nelson felt differently about IEEE. After receiving $10,000 from the IEEE Richard Harold Kaufmann Award and $5,000 from the IEEE Industry Applications Society’s (IAS) Outstanding Service Award, “I believed that there was a better use and greater need for that money,” Nelson explained. He contributed to the IEEE Foundation’s IAS Petroleum and Chemical Industry Eugene J. Fagan Fund, which aligned with areas he’d supported over the years. In June 2020, “I became the President of IEEE Smart Village (ISV) and met fabulous people around the world, including ISV founders Ray Larsen and Robin Podmore. I subsequently worked closely with the IEEE Foundation to set up the new ‘IEEE Smart Village Hall of Honor Fund’ in recognition of Ray and Robin, which will be formally introduced in 2021 to advance ISV Entrepreneurs through educational opportunities.”

With nearly one billion people around the world having little or no access to electricity, “my contributions support ISV’s mission to provide energy, education and entrepreneurship opportunities to empower people in developing countries and I believe that contributing to ISV is one of the best decisions a person could make,” Nelson said. “IEEE Smart Village isn’t providing a fish – we’re providing the fishing pole,” he said, noting that contributions to ISV, the IEEE Foundation or other initiatives don’t need to be large. Concluded Nelson, “the feeling from making any size donation is great!”



Louis Vacca

Louis Vacca
MEMBER GRADE: Member/Employee

Off and Running to Support ISV

As Manager of Manufacturing, Distribution & Reprints, IEEE-Publishing Operations in Piscataway, NJ, USA, Lou Vacca’s work with IEEE Foundation’s publications, such as the Foundation Focus newsletter and Annual Reports, piqued his interest in the mission and inspired him to help those in need around the world.

“As an IEEE employee, who better to support than the IEEE Foundation right within our own walls?” he said. Though he’d been aware of IEEE’s services and global impact since joining the organization in 2008, “it wasn’t until participating in an outside running event with fellow staff members that it occurred to me to leverage that camaraderie and support the IEEE’s fundraising efforts in some way,” he said. “The IEEE Smart Village initiative really resonated with me because it can lead to incredibly impactful outcomes for an individual or community -- including improved medical attention/service, economic resilience, self-sufficiency, education, labor development, security/safety, and, most importantly, the hope for a better tomorrow for so many.”

Vacca is excited that his donations to IEEE Smart Village can help provide citizens worldwide with access to electricity and entrepreneurial opportunities. “Renewable, clean electricity can drive so many benefits for its users and it’s gratifying to support IEEE Smart Village based on its far-reaching impact and contribution to the creation of stronger global communities,” he said.

“Whether supporting engineering scholarships, raising awareness for engineering in classrooms, providing renewable electricity, or supporting volunteers and local underserved community programs, many key programs need our support,” Vacca confirmed of the value of donating to IEEE. “The IEEE Foundation offers many programs that benefit education and advance technology and it's important and rewarding to become a participant/ambassador to our IEEE community.”



David Ziskind

David Ziskind
MEMBER GRADE: Senior Member

Leveraging Matching Gift Opportunities Now in his 21st year as an IEEE member, David Ziskind appreciates the role IEEE has played in his life and career. “I enjoy connecting with other members and keeping up-to-date technically through IEEE Spectrum magazine, IEEE emails and local IEEE events,” he said. “The world is accelerating and IEEE provides the tools to help stay abreast of important changes.”

“Engineering (especially electrical engineering!) is critical to the continued advancement of humanity, and my company (Black & Veatch) recently expanded its matching gift program to include an additional match specifically for COVID-19-focused donations, so it was a no-brainer to me to donate to IEEE and leverage the company match opportunity,” Ziskind explained of his recent donation to the IEEE Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund. “I’m fortunate to be in a position (and pleased to be able) to support the IEEE Foundation in its continued mission, and in particular to help continue to advance engineering while we cope with this global pandemic.” Ziskind hopes that his and other donations can help the IEEE Foundation continue to provide individual and institutional support for engineering as well as to support ongoing outreach efforts to help the general public understand and appreciate the impact that engineering can have on addressing COVID-19.

“IEEE membership is an important starting point for electrical engineers and anyone interested in joining the field and I encourage members who are in a position to support IEEE beyond membership to do so,” he confirmed of the value of donating to the organization. “The cost of an annual membership is far outweighed by the benefits you receive, and providing an additional donation is an opportunity to give back to the field which has encouraged and supported so many of us.”



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