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A Fireside Chat and Q&A with President Ralph Ford and Executive Director Karen Galuchie

A Fireside Chat and Q&A with President Ralph Ford and Executive Director Karen Galuchie

On Thursday, 10 February, 2022, newly-elected IEEE Foundation President Ralph Ford and Executive Director Karen Galuchie held a “fireside chat” to discuss President Ford’s goals and vision for the IEEE Foundation. They also touched upon his history with both IEEE and the Foundation, recent IEEE program highlights, and how banana seat bicycles started his road to engineering. Donor Relations and Annual Giving Specialist Lauren Young fielded questions from the audience, which ranged from how the Foundation ensures that funds are spent judiciously, to how the Foundation has adjusted to COVID-19, to the ways in which the Foundation can support IEEE in addressing climate change. 

Watch the chat and Q&A in its entirety.
 
Introducing President Ralph Ford
 
Ralph Ford was appointed the 23rd President of the IEEE Foundation on 1 January 2022 by the Foundation’s Board of Directors. He serves as Chancellor of Pennsylvania State University Erie, The Behrend College, was a Fulbright Scholar to the Czech Republic in 2005, and is the author of more than 40 publications, including the book Design for Electrical and Computer Engineers (McGraw Hill). He joined IEEE as a student member in 1987, eager for access to IEEE’s publications and scientific materials, and has worn many IEEE hats over the past 35 years. He joined IEEE Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2017 and had a central role in the Foundation’s first fundraising campaign, which raised more than 30 million dollars. 

When asked how he became interested in engineering, he talked about taking apart and rebuilding Schwinn banana seat bicycles as a kid in the 1970s, and how that interest has been a running theme in both his professional and personal life. He still enjoys road cycling today, as well as mountain climbing and other endurance sports, which he says “unwind his mind” and help give him insight into whatever problems he’s working on professionally. 
 
The Foundation at Work
 
When asked which recent IEEE program achievements funded by the Foundation resonated with him, President Ford said he could go “on and on.” He cited the IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship Plus Initiative, which, in 2021 alone, provided scholarships to 72 undergraduates across the US, Canada and Puerto Rico who are specifically interested in power and energy engineering careers. He also spoke about the IEEE Smart Village Program, which brings electricity, education and economic development to energy-deprived communities around the world. He underscored how much Smart Village’s progress means to him and his wife, Melanie Ford (also an IEEE member, with a degree in Computer Science), as they donate to the program personally. President Ford also mentioned the IEEE History Center, which dedicated 14 milestones last year, IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu, which nurtured 270+ students in 20 different countries via a 4-day student leadership conference, and the IEEE Awards Program, which recognized Jacob Ziv with the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor for fundamental contributions to information theory and data compression technology. Both Executive Director Galuchie and President Ford emphasized that none of this work could have been done without the support of Foundation donors.

President Ford’s Vision for the Future

When asked about his vision for the future of the IEEE Foundation, President Ford answered, “My vision is the vision of the board and all who support us.” He said that he stands on the shoulders of those who have done a tremendous amount of work before him, citing former President John R. Treichler and the successful capital campaign that he oversaw. His aim for the Foundation is to be a good steward of those funds, as well as future donations, by managing them in a way that prioritizes intent and impact. He also mentioned his focus on raising the visibility of the Foundation, in the eyes of the general public, as well as through outreach to IEEE and its leadership. He is excited to work with donors to continue to explore how philanthropy can help realize IEEE visions.
 
Q&A with President Ford and Executive Director Karen Galuchie
 
During the second half of the program, Lauren Young helped field questions from the audience. IEEE Foundation events always draw well-informed participants with incisive questions and this was no exception. There were questions about the past, such as the biggest changes and challenges to the Foundation during its nearly 50-year history, as well as how the Foundation pivoted to address COVID-19. There were also questions about the future — how the Foundation uses donor funds to support IEEE in engaging high school students in engineering, in addressing climate change, and in IEEE’s mission to benefit humanity with emerging technologies globally.
 
There were also specific questions about donations, with one participant asking how donors can feel assured that their dollars will be used judiciously by the IEEE Foundation. President Ford cited the accomplished and committed people that make up the Foundation’s Board, many of them former IEEE Board Members themselves, and their deep understanding of IEEE’s mission. He also referenced the charity assessment organization Charity Navigator, which has given the IEEE Foundation the highest possible rating of 100% for its allocation of funds and transparency.
 
 
What’s Next
 
President Ford concluded the event by thanking everyone who attended, whether they were IEEE members, Foundation donors, or just people interested in learning more about the Foundation. He is honored by the appointment, and hopes he can be worthy of the work done by his predecessors. 

To watch this chat, as well as dozens of previous IEEE Foundation webinars, visit the IEEE Foundation’s Vimeo page.

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