Foundation for the Future – IEEE Foundation Then and Now


The IEEE Foundation is coming up on a big anniversary. With that on the horizon, we want to take a moment to reflect on how the Foundation came to be. 

It all started with the founding of IEEE in 1884 when electricity first became a major influence in society. There was one established electrical industry, the telegraph, which since the 1840s had come to connect the world with a data communications system faster than the speed of transportation. The American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) was founded, and twenty-eight years later, in 1912, the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) was founded as the radio industry grew. What was originally called “wireless” telegraphy became radio with the electrical amplification possibilities inherent in vacuum tubes. 

In 1963, AIEE and IRE merged to become the IEEE we know today. This unique organization has as its mission to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. 

Ten years later, in 1973, IEEE founded the IEEE Foundation to further the scientific and educational purposes of IEEE. Initially, the IEEE Foundation’s role was to accept and administer charitable donations for IEEE Awards. As the generosity of IEEE members increased, so did the scope of the IEEE Foundation’s work. The IEEE Foundation began partnering with donors, members and IEEE volunteers to support worthy programs and projects that are exciting, thoughtful, and impactfully advance technology for the benefit of humanity. 

After a few years, Foundation programming expanded to include preserving the history of technology. In preparation for the IEEE Centennial, IEEE created the Center for History of Electrical Engineering and a Fund within the IEEE Foundation was established to accept donations in support of the Center’s work.

In the 1980’s the Foundation expanded into educational programming, and the IEEE Foundation stepped in to support IEEE scholarships, fellowships, travel grants and STEM initiatives. By the early 2000’s humanitarian technology programming became a mainstay of the IEEE Foundation. Today, the IEEE Foundation is where technology and philanthropy intersect and where 50 years of collective impact come together.

As the philanthropic partner of IEEE, the IEEE Foundation translates the values of our members and donors into social impact. In collaboration with IEEE, the Foundation connects 250 member-led initiatives with financing, expertise and philanthropic guidance. Thanks to donors and the funds raised in cooperation with IEEE Organizational Units, the IEEE Foundation works across IEEE to invest in IEEE programs that bring the promise of technology and the knowledge to use it to the world. 

Looking Ahead

Despite extraordinary advances in medicine, education, communications, transportation and more, the ability to truly benefit the whole of humanity remains elusive, making the IEEE more relevant than ever. IEEE and its members –  today’s technological luminaries – stand poised to deliver exciting solutions through education, access and partnership.

Beginning in February, the IEEE Foundation will celebrate 50 years of working together with IEEE to deliver opportunity, innovation and impact across the globe through the power of technology and education.

Thanks to the thousands of supporters, leaders and partners across the decades, we are proud to celebrate our golden anniversary by collaborating with IEEE programs that are working to improve access to technology, enhance technological literacy and support education.

“Our 50th anniversary is more than a celebration and retrospective; it’s a chance for the IEEE Foundation to bring together philanthropists to build a brighter future for IEEE, IEEE members and IEEE partners and the world we share. I hope you will join me,” said John McDonald, Chair, IEEE Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

“As we look to the future, we know technology will play an ever critical, central and complex role in people’s lives around the world. Investment in programs that support the scientists, engineers, leaders and the technical professionals we need to solve the world’s most pressing problems for the benefit of humanity has never been more important.” – Karen Galuchie, Executive Director, IEEE Foundation

Having laid a substantial foundation over the last 50 years, we invite you to follow the IEEE Foundation as we look to the future and plan our impact moving forward. We are dedicated to working together with our donors and IEEE to deliver opportunity, innovation and impact across the globe. To stay up to date on Foundation milestones and initiatives, join us on LinkedIn. To learn more about the innovative programming that the IEEE Foundation supports, we invite you to visit our website

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