IEEE Heritage Circle – Celebrating & Highlighting the Diversity of Our History & Donors

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The IEEE Foundation highlights our honored philanthropists recognized in the IEEE Heritage Circle.  Their loyalty and charitable efforts make a positive impact and transform lives worldwide. The IEEE Heritage Circle, the cumulative giving donor recognition program of IEEE, acknowledges the philanthropic spirit of those who have given back to IEEE throughout their career and lifetime. These honored philanthropists are recognized for their ongoing and generous support of IEEE programs.

As part of the 50th Anniversary, a special initiative expanded the Heritage Circle levels and namesakes for giving. Six new levels were added, celebrating a diverse set of innovators : Hertha Ayrton, Lewis Latimer, Marie Sklodowska Curie, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Alan Turing, and Edith Clarke.

Calling attention to the wide range of backgrounds and people who have been previously underrepresented hopefully encourages acknowledgment of the diversity within our profession, drives excitement to learn more about their accomplishments, and spurs participation through making donations this year and beyond. 

The IEEE Foundation is proud to celebrate six members of the IEEE Heritage Circle: Nita Patel, Maxine Cohen, Asad Madni, Nim Cheung, and Tina Mertel – as well as John Impagliazzo, who created the idea of the IEEE Heritage Circle.

Nim Cheung

Dr. Nim Cheung is Chairman and CEO of AIphotonics Limited, a technology company that he founded at the Hong Kong Science Park specializing in 3D photography, LIDAR, and artificial intelligence. He is Life Fellow of IEEE and Telcordia Technologies, and has received numerous awards and honors. Nim is also the 2023 IEEE Awards Board Chair & current IEEE Foundation Director.

Nim decided to make IEEE and the IEEE Foundation his charitable priority after completing a 20-year pledge to his alma mater.

“It was a perfect time to turn my attention to IEEE, which is my professional home,” comments Nim. “My career has greatly benefited from being an IEEE member and an IEEE volunteer leader.  It is time for me to pay back to IEEE, both monetarily and by offering my services to help the younger generations.” This year marks Nim as a new Heritage Circle member at the Nikola Tesla Level.  Reflecting on the new initiatives for the Heritage Circle, Nim remarked, “It is timely for the IEEE Foundation to recognize engineers and technologists from underrepresented groups… As chair of the IEEE Awards Board, I am pleased to note that of the 4 IEEE President’s Awards ever presented, 2 were presented to women. (Katherine G. Johnson 2019, Doreen Bogdan-Martin 2022). More women and other minority groups are winning IEEE’s highest level of awards (Medals, Recognitions and Technical Field Awards).” Nim encourages fellow engineers and technologists to become involved in philanthropy.

Maxine Cohen

Maxine S. Cohen has been involved with computer science and computing technology for more than 50 years. She worked at Binghamton University as well as IBM Endicott, NY and Boca Raton, FL, before retiring from Nova Southeastern University after almost 20 years. Notably, Maxine was a co-author on Designing the User Interface, a classic Human-Computer Interaction textbook. Since retirement, Maxine has become a very active volunteer. Her IEEE involvement primarily relates to the IEEE Life Member’s Committee (LMC), where she served two years as Vice-Chair. She has also served for the last two years as a member of the IEEE Awards Board—Presentation and Publicity, elected to the SSIT Board in 2022, and in 2023 asked to be a member of the MGA Member Benefits Portfolio Advisory Committee (MBPAC). In addition, Maxine is an IEEE Life Senior Member.

Maxine is an IEEE Heritage Circle member at the Nikola Tesla Level. She remarked, “I liked how IEEE offered me the opportunity to make a commitment over several years instead of at one time. It is easier to budget for and keeps me involved in IEEE now that I have retired.” While most of her IEEE efforts are focused on the LMC, She also supports the IEEE History Center and Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), as it “is an important part of our connected world and it doesn’t get as much exposure as it should”. Maxine says, “I think it is good that IEEE is paying special attention to diversity and inclusion. [And it’s] good that there are multiple giving opportunities.”

John Impagliazzo
John Impagliazzo is an IEEE Life Fellow and an ACM Distinguished Educator. His study and work in computing span four decades. He joined Hofstra University’s computer science department in 1984 and served as its department chair for over six years. He has authored or co-authored eighteen books and issued hundreds of publications and presentations. John has been called upon as a computing expert by different universities, governmental agencies, and institutions worldwide. He is known for developing curricular guidelines in computing and engineering.

John was an IEEE Foundation Board Member from 2013-18. He is a Heritage Circle Member at the Alexander Graham Bell Level – and he created the very idea of the Heritage Circle. John recollects, “I created the idea of the Heritage Circle in the early 2000s because many IEEE members have donated to IEEE and the Foundation for decades and never received cumulative recognition. It is gratifying to see that the Heritage Circle has grown over the years, and I expect it to expand in years to come… This reorganization of the Heritage Circle was an expectation. Its original levels were never cast in concrete. Other adjustments to the levels will likely occur in the future.” John’s giving has focused on the IEEE History Center, IEEE Historical Showcase Project, and the IEEE Global History Museum.

Asad Madni

Dr. Asad M. Madni, IEEE Life Fellow, served as President, COO & CTO of BEI Technologies Inc. from 1992 until the completion of its $600M acquisition by Schneider Electric in 2006. He led the development & commercialization of intelligent sensors, systems, and instrumentation, for which he has received worldwide acclaim. In 2019, IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) named its top award “The Asad M Madni Outstanding Technical Achievement and Excellence Award” to recognize and honor his nearly 50 years of technical and philanthropic accomplishments, and visionary leadership. Friends and family of Asad endowed the Award through donations. Asad also received IEEE’s highest honor, sponsored by the IEEE Foundation, the 2022 IEEE Medal of Honor.

Asad’s giving has been focused on IEEE HKN. When asked about his views on philanthropy, Asad replied, “I genuinely believe that a professionally successful career that does not include philanthropy is an incomplete and unsatisfying one. I never forget that achieving this privilege in my profession makes it incumbent upon me and my family to give back and help and guide the generation following us, especially the underprivileged. My wife Taj, son Jamal and I actively pursue our philanthropic goals by contributing to the IEEE, various professional societies, academies, academic institutions as well as charitable organizations.” Regarding the new initiative to be more inclusive in the Heritage Circle level naming, Asad said, “I think this was an excellent idea. The best way to instill the spirit of diversity, equity and inclusion in our society and in the younger generation is to convey to them that human achievements and successes were a result of the dedication, brilliance and contributions of various individuals from different countries, cultures, genders, ethnicity, religious beliefs and perspectives. It is important to keep stressing that “unity is the symphony of differences.” I believe that this is a good start, however, it requires constant reminding through various such initiatives to make it truly effective.” Asad belongs to the Hertha Ayrton Level of the Heritage Circle.

Tina Mertel

Tina Mertel is an IEEE donor and appreciates, “being part of the IEEE Heritage Circle, as quite fittingly, a similar word to heritage is legacy. I am choosing to create a legacy in honor of my father, Herbert Mertel, 2011 IEEE EMC Hall of Fame recipient.” She appreciates being able to pay tribute to her father in partnership with IEEE because it provides some of the same values of family among the larger community of engineering, including camaraderie, encouragement, and the assurance that hard work will be recognized and rewarded. Tina’s giving focuses on  supporting students and young professionals through  the IEEE EMC-S Herbert K. Mertel Young Professional Award and, EPICS in IEEE Fischer Mertel Community of Projects currently funding such projects as the ISort -Sort and Shredding Machine, Generating Environmentally Friendly Power while Reducing Ill-Health, and Increasing Inclusion of Visually Impaired People with a Mobile Application for English Learning.

Tina is a Heritage Circle Member at the Hertha Ayrton Level. She says changing the names of the giving levels, “brings awareness that brilliance in engineering can come from any group or background.”

Nita Patel

Nita Patel is the 2023 IEEE Computer Society President. She served as an IEEE Foundation Director from 2019 to 2022 and is active with multiple Computer Society committees, the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee, several IEEE WIE Committees, and the IEEE New Hampshire executive committee. She is also Senior Director, Engineering Lead Design Center – Farmington at Otis, leading a critical part of the global engineering development, providing a wide range of new product capabilities in connected, smart, IoT-based platforms. 

As a Member of the Heritage Circle at the Nikola Tesla Level, Nita says, “I didn’t specifically decide to join the Heritage Circle. I simply decided to increase my contribution to the IEEE Foundation. As I engaged more with the activities, I decided to support them more specifically. Also, when I was on the IEEE Foundation Board, I could better understand how programs were executed and learned important details about them. Knowing how critical donor funds are to programs, increased my level of giving. Finally, I changed jobs recently and learned that my organization matched funding. That encouraged me to give more.” Nita supports IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Student Leadership program, IEEE REACH, and IEEE Women in Engineering. About the new Heritage Circle giving levels, Nita remarked, “Recognizing a diverse group of these pioneers is essential to communicate the idea that engineering is an inclusive profession (which I truly believe). Each of us of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, has an incredible opportunity to design, develop, and advance technology to benefit humanity. I hope that showcasing a representative mix of the world will help to not only communicate our diversity but also encourage all individuals interested in creative-problem solving, impacting others, and advancing society to become an engineer.”

The IEEE Foundation applauds the continued giving of the above IEEE Heritage Circle members and encourages others to join. We appreciate the loyalty and commitment of this community toward its further development, and the way it has risen to meet the challenges of exponential growth. While we’ve highlighted the six donors above and how they have given back, there are many more ways to support the IEEE Foundation. To find your way to give, please visit our Ways to Give page. Richard Allen at the IEEE Foundation, is available to answer your questions. You can email him directly at

To stay up to date on Foundation milestones like the 50th Anniversary, we invite you to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and sign up to receive IEEE Foundation news. To learn more about the innovative initiatives that the IEEE Foundation supports, we invite you to visit our Impact page.

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