Gunther and Shirley Karger Establish the IEEE Communication Society Community Leadership Award
Founding Members of IEEE Communications Society (COMSOC October 9,1963) Gunther Karger elected Chairman of the Cape Canaveral, Florida Section
Gunther Karger, Senior Life Member of IEEE, first became obsessed with engineering, communications, and space through a science fiction comic strip popular in Sweden, where he lived from the ages of 6 to 13.
“I wanted to become an engineer who created some of the things talked about in those comic strips,” reminisces Gunther. “So, yes, I became an electrical engineer, but I continued reading the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, and others. To me, engineering is not only learning how to create systems based on present knowledge, but also extending what we know today into the future.”
Gunther (pronounced Günter) and his wife Shirley also extend their philanthropic impact into the future. At ages 90 and 89, respectively, they hope to leave a legacy that allows others to carry on their work beyond them. The Gunther and Shirley Karger IEEE Communication Society Community Leadership Award encourages members to reach out beyond the engineering and technology community to educate the world about the impact of our community’s work.
Gunther was born in Germany in 1933, and the award is also a remembrance of his entire family that perished during the Holocaust. He shares that his parents had the courage and foresight to send him, at just six years old, to Sweden. Without their courage, Gunther nor this award would exist.
After his time in Sweden, Gunther would go on to live in the United States, first with a foster family in Florida, and then with a distant uncle in New Jersey. He would graduate valedictorian from his high school, then earn his electrical engineering degree with a major in communications and mathematics from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, USA, after a stint in the United States Air Force.
During this time, he met his lifelong partner, Shirley, and they married in 1954.
“We have been married 69 years, and have always done things together,” explains Gunther. “Shirley is my partner in work and life, serving as a meeting hostess and coordinating activities. I could not have achieved what we did without her.”
Together, they would embark on a lifelong career in engineering and communications. Gunther was hired to work for Boeing developing missiles before moving to 29 Palms Marine Corps desert training as an instructor. He and Shirley would eventually move to Northern New Jersey, where he worked at Bell Labs and ITT. During this time, he was one of the founding members of IEEE’s Communication Society (COMSOC) and served as its chair. He was also selected to serve on President John F. Kennedy’s National Security team for post-nuclear attack communications during the Cold War.
Eventually, Gunther and Shirley moved with their two sons to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he worked on the Apollo Moon project communications systems. He also, somehow, found time to chair the local IEEE group!
Gunther and Shirley wrote books on Wall Street fraud, such as Thieves on Wall Street and gave lectures on major cruise lines about the topic. Gunther would serve as a certified arbitrator, settling investor complaints, and eventually as a special adviser to the Chairman of the SEC for fraud matters during the financial crisis of 2008.
During all these moves and career stages, Shirley served as his steadfast partner while also building a prominent doll collection featured at the Louisiana State University Museum for a decade. Together, they hope this award, in a sense, becomes the grandchildren they were never blessed with so that their life’s work will be remembered and carried on.
“We, in effect, are returning to our roots in science, technology, and communications with this award as we wind down our journey on this planet,” shares Gunther. “This award is named for both of us, so we are remembered together for our contributions.”
The Kargers were generous enough to establish an award that would support upcoming generations of technologists in achieving their full potential and advancing the crucial importance of communication technology in the world. They recognized the significance of this vital step and utilized it as a meeting point between technology and philanthropy. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the IEEE Foundation’s Ways to Give page to find the most impactful giving method for you!