Three New Directors to Start the New Year

Three New Directors

As we start a new year, the IEEE Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary and the addition of three new Directors to help guide the efforts of the Foundation in the years to come. For the last 50 years, the IEEE Foundation Board of Directors have worked side by side with the volunteers, staff, donors and IEEE Organizational Units to unleash exciting, thoughtful and impactful programming that advances technology for the benefit of humanity. 

The Board of Directors oversees the management and direction of the Foundation’s important work – to connect 250+ IEEE member-led initiatives with financing, expertise and oversight. The Foundation Board plays a unique and vital role within the IEEE community by leveraging philanthropic giving to drive innovation, workforce development, social development and global problem solving. More than 110 members of IEEE have served as IEEE Foundation Directors since its founding in 1973 and helped to build a culture of philanthropy at IEEE.

The three new Directors began their terms on 1 January 2022. Join us in learning more about and celebrating the addition of:  Karen Panetta, Stephen Phillips and Tomy Sebastian. 

Karen Panetta

Panetta joined IEEE as an undergraduate student and her early experiences with IEEE made her devoted to the organization. Karen says, “The IEEE volunteer Jim Watson traveled from Ohio to Boston to visit and speak to IEEE students in my chapter. He was so empowering and inspiring that it gave so many of us hope and courage to continue on in our engineering studies. He assured us we would be successful. He was the first person who gave us positive feedback. Back in my undergraduate days, we watched our peers drop out of engineering in large numbers. Our goal was to weed out to survive to graduation and hope to find a job. That one defining moment made me want to stay a member of IEEE and give back to help others.” 

Karen went on to a career in computer engineering where she co-invented the first digital twin of an entire computer at Digital Equipment Corp and then moved to academia as the first female electrical and computer engineering professor at Tufts School of Engineering. Karen’s history with IEEE is vast and includes acting as the Vice-President of the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society (IEEE SMC) and the 2021 IEEE Awards Board Chair. She was the 2019 IEEE-HKN (Eta Kappa Nu) President. Also, Karen was the 2014 IEEE-USA Vice President of Communications and Public Awareness, and is the current editor-in-chief of the IEEE WIE Magazine and an active IEEE Fellow. When asked about the impact of the IEEE Foundation, Karen states, “The IEEE Foundation has established and helped sustain so many wonderful impactful humanitarian projects around the world. While we may all have great ideas, the Foundation provides the development and investment expertise to make the projects a reality. This enables volunteers to focus on developing the technology and build strong partnerships with the communities they serve, all while learning how to financially sustain and maximize impact.”

Stephen Phillips

Phillips served on the faculty of Case Western Reserve University before joining Arizona State University where he is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. He led a faculty team in the development and launch of the world’s first fully online bachelor’s degree in engineering to be recognized with ABET accreditation in 2013. That experience deepened his engagement with the IEEE committees involved with program accreditation, engineering pedagogy and STEM outreach. Stephen joined IEEE in leadership roles such as IEEE Vice President –Educational Activities and IEEE Board of Directors.

When asked about the impact of the IEEE Foundation, he replied, “​​Through leadership in IEEE Educational Activities I came to know of the significant support from the IEEE Foundation in supporting programs such IEEE -Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN), Try Engineering Summer Institutes (TESI) and IEEE’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). IEEE Foundation support has enabled Educational Activities to greatly extend its reach and impact.” Stephen is enthusiastic about helping to identify, articulate and promote the outcomes of Foundation-supported programs. He notes the longstanding support and impact that the IEEE Foundation has had on the IEEE Awards program and The History Center, and how, “more recently, establishing permanent funding to bring Eta Kappa Nu into the IEEE has furthered the recognition of the academic accomplishments of our students and has encouraged their ongoing participation in IEEE.”

Tomy Sebastian

Sebastian is the Director of Motor Drive Systems at HL Mechatronics in Bay City, Michigan USA. In 2017-2018, he served as the President of the IEEE Industry Applications Society (IAS). Reflecting on how he came to be involved with the IEEE Foundation, Tomy wrote, “When I was the Chair of the Industrial Power Conversion Department of IEEE IAS, I worked with the Foundation in establishing the IEEE IAS Industrial Power Conversion Systems Gerald Kliman Award. During the same period, I was instrumental in establishing the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition (ECCE). I chaired the first ECCE in 2009 in San Jose, CA.” He later became a Society President and was involved in revitalizing the Myron Zucker Student-Faculty Grant program, serving on the selection committee for several cycles.

“I am excited to join the Foundation leadership at this exciting time. This is a time to celebrate the accomplishments over the last 50 years and to look forward and plan for the next 50 years. The Foundation has done an excellent job in inspiring philanthropic investments in IEEE. The Foundation has invested in excellent programs such as “IEEE Smart Village”, EPICS in IEEE, IEEE History Center etc. These are just a few examples of its success,” added Tomy Sebastian. He considers joining the IEEE Foundation leadership team an honor and vows, “to work hard to make contributions through various committees and to set the future direction for the Foundation”.

To learn more about the IEEE Foundation’s Board of Directors, visit our Board of Directors page.  Explore the Board of Directors rosters to discover the names of the people who tirelessly shared their time, talent and treasure to advance IEEE philanthropic programming. To stay up to date on Foundation milestones like the upcoming 50th Anniversary, and to help welcome our new 2023 Board of Directors, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. To learn more about the innovative programming that the IEEE Foundation supports, we invite you to visit our website.

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