Honoring the Past While Encouraging the Future Through Memorial Giving

J. Baillieul

John Baillieul is an IEEE Life Fellow and an IEEE Millennium Medal Award winner. He has held several leadership positions with IEEE TAB (Technical Activities Board) and IEEE Publication Services and Products and is the Past President of the IEEE Control Systems Society. During the many years John has been an involved and dedicated IEEE member, he was unaware of the philanthropic impact of the IEEE Foundation until his long-time friend, Roberto Tempo, passed away.

“There was a great outpouring of support for setting up a memorial for Roberto, and several of us were involved in establishing an endowment with the IEEE Foundation, to help manage and support the Tempo Fund. The IEEE Control Systems Society and Tempo’s family would help get the funding underway,” recounts John. “I was in a position at the time that I could work with the Control Systems Society and the TAB Awards and Recognitions Committee to establish the endowed Roberto Tempo Best CDC Paper Award.”

Recently, John has repeated history by helping to establish another fund with the IEEE Foundation, honoring a great mentor and friend, the IEEE Roger Brockett Memorial Fund. Dr. Roger Brockett, who passed away in 2023, guided John, and dozens of other Ph.D. students, at Harvard University over the course of five decades, starting in the mid-1970s. The Brockett Memorial Fund will provide long-term support for scholarly activities in the field of control systems, which Roger deemed important during his lifetime. These supported activities will nurture, encourage, and celebrate innovators in the field of control systems.

I was a relatively early product of Roger’s guidance, and it is interesting — and a bit humbling — to look back at the cohort I was in and realize the extent to which my peers from that period have gone on to high-profile careers,” remembers John. Dr. Brockett mentored many individuals, including John, many of whom became distinguished and award-winning professors with storied academic careers that led to well-appointed positions.

John graduated from Harvard University in 1975 with his Ph.D. and moved on to a short stint as an Assistant Professor of math at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Eventually, he returned to Boston, where he was a distinguished professor at Boston University’s College of Engineering. While in Boston, his and Brockett’s families would have frequent social get-togethers. 

During the later part of Dr. Roger Brockett’s life, John would often talk to Roger and became a conduit of information to familiar friends, colleagues, and former students. He kept in constant contact with Carolann Brockett, Roger’s wife of 62 years, who would be the impetus for the Memorial Fund.

“Carolann called me about a week after Roger’s funeral and said she wanted to start a memorial endowment, and could I communicate this to the people on my list,” explains John. “She said that Roger had valued the professional interactions he had had through the IEEE, and she wanted to do something to honor this.” John worked with the IEEE Control Systems Society again, and current IEEE Foundation president Ralph Ford and executive director Karen Galuchie to launch the IEEE Roger Brockett Memorial Fund.

The Fund is a partnership between the IEEE Control Systems Society, the IEEE Foundation, and generous donors like John. The donated resources will provide long-term support for scholarly activities in the field of systems and control, which Roger deemed important during his lifetime. Activities supported by the Brockett Memorial Fund will nurture, encourage, and celebrate innovators in the field.

“The response of friends and family to the idea of a Brockett Memorial Fund has been heartwarming. According to John, “Roger Brockett’s life impacted many people, and in many cases, people wanted a way to show their gratitude and affection. Perhaps the most important thing that Roger imparted to me, and his other students was that intellectual and technological change is eternal, and we should embrace technological change and intellectual growth – at the same time, sustaining and growing personal connections,” John fondly remembers.

Join John and others in supporting the Roger Brockett Memorial Fund

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