A Note from the Chair, Dennis Leitterman

Welcome to the first HKN Alumni eNewsletter! We hope you will find this a quick and easy read that informs and inspires.  

There are currently four Alumni-specific IEEE-HKN chapters: Los Angeles, San Francisco,  Southeastern Michigan and Greater New York, led by John DeGraw, Dennis Leitterman, Don Bramlet, and Charles Rubenstein, respectively.  These four chapter leaders comprise the HKN Alumni Committee, which I chair.

In our first edition we are showcasing the Los Angeles Chapter with two articles: One provides a general overview of the chapter; the second, written by one of its members, Jim Huff, vividly and wittily recalls his initiation into HKN as a student in Iowa 58 years ago. We hope it will spark fond memories of your own college experience.

In broader HKN news, I give my personal take on the recent IEEE-HKN Pathways to Industry Workshop for students, in which I participated on a panel of professionals who discussed “The Next Big Things.”

Connecting with students as I did through this workshop is just one way to make a difference as an HKN Alumnus. There are many other options for getting involved, several of which are highlighted here. Please take a look.

Yet another article in this edition calls attention to a new HKN award that will be awarded for the first time next year.  

Also, don’t forget to read the latest issue of HKN’s award-winning magazine, “The Bridge” to find out about the many other things going on throughout the honor society.

Thanks for reading. We welcome your suggestions for future editions. Feel free to contact me with your ideas and questions at: dennis.leitterman@yahoo.com.

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Share your Passion for HKN: Volunteer!

Your lifetime HKN designation puts you in the unique position to help define the success of the Honor Society and its members. 

There are a number of volunteer options for you depending on your schedule, location and passion, including:

  • Engaging with a local chapter or your chapter of induction.
  • Speaking at a chapter on a technical or professional development topic.
  • Giving or arranging a tour of a company facility.

Providing inspiration to college chapters and their members is very rewarding.

Take a look at the ways you can “Make An Impact,” by visiting the HKN website.

Should you have any questions about volunteering with HKN, please contact our Director, Nancy Ostin, at n.ostin@ieee.org. Additional information is available on our Alumni page.

Also, the Alumni Committee could use some help with defining needs and researching solutions for the Alumni Volunteer Network. If you are interested in this activity and would like to become a corresponding member of the Alumni Committee, please contact Dennis Leitterman at dennis.leitterman@yahoo.com.

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Help Us Build the Ideal Alumni Program

A project to map the ideal alumni member experience is planned for fall 2019, and you can be a part of it.

The outcome will be used to make improvements to our Alumni program and outreach. A similar project was completed for faculty advisors, and the result was better resources, that are now available for them to help maintain and grow their chapters.

This alumni project is planned to be accomplished via 1-hour-long teleconference collaboration meetings held on the same day and time for eight consecutive weeks.  IEEE-HKN Treasurer and longtime IEEE member and volunteer Ron Jensen will lead the project team as chair of the Journey Mapping Ad-Hoc Committee. If you are interested in participating or have questions, please send an email to Dennis Leitterman at dennis.leitterman@yahoo.com.

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An HKN Love Story

Sparks flew early for lab partners and Chapter Officers, who are now married.

Li and Liana met freshman year of college at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign while living on different floors of the same dorm hall. Both in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program, they kept seeing each other in classes, and Li kept mysteriously finding excuses to be wherever Liana was outside of class. Eventually, Liana caught on that he might kinda like her, and they started dating. Lab partners for most of their major classes, the couple supported each other through their difficult engineering curriculum.

One day, they received an email announcing that HKN was looking for new initiates. Always the more ambitious of the two, Liana persuaded Li that it would be good for their resumes to do it — and hey, it might even be a little fun!

They went through initiation together and became board members the very next semester. The following year, they decided to step up their game and run for President and Vice President. Both distinctly remember having to abstain from voting for each other citing conflict of interest! As new leaders of Alpha 

Chapter, Li made it his mission to make for more effective board meetings, while Liana worked to improve the chapter’s relations with the department.

Five years later, Li and Liana are happily married living in Austin, Texas, both working in the semiconductor industry at Arm, Inc. They still look back fondly on the time they spent with their fellow board members making HKN Alpha Chapter better than ever!

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Share Your Artifacts

If you are downsizing and planning to part with some of your HKN items, such as a Bridge Plaque, don’t toss ’em, send them to us.


2018 IEEE President Jim Jefferies talks about his beginnings with IEEE-HKN in this IEEE Young Professionals TechFlash video.

You’ll see a close-up of Jim’s Bridge Plaque here and in the video.

So if you would like to donate your Bridge Plaque, a paddle, a bronze casting, photos or other memorabilia, send it to:

IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu

Attn: Nancy Ostin

 445 Hoes Lane

Piscataway, NJ 08854

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IEEE-HKN Names Its Top Award for Visionary Leader and Pioneer

The Asad M. Madni Outstanding Technical Achievement and Excellence Award recognizes and honors his nearly 50 years of technical and philanthropic accomplishments, and visionary leadership.

The Award will be presented annually beginning in 2020 to a practitioner in the IEEE technical fields of interest who has distinguished himself or herself through an invention, development or innovation that has had worldwide impact.



Read more about the award and Dr. Madni  (pictured with his son, Jamal), by clicking here.  

You may also donate a gift to honor Dr. Madni by clicking here.

The list of established IEEE-HKN Awards and Recognitions can be viewed on the HKN website.  

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A Tale of Two Initiations

LA Alumni Chapter Member Jimmy Huff still breaks into a cold sweat when remembering his Informal Initiation. The Formal initiation was much more to his liking.

I have been informed by John DeGraw, President of the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter of HKN, that I am the chapter member who has been an HKN member the longest. He asked me to write a brief paper about my initiation into HKN in February 1961 at the Beta Iota Chapter of HKN at the University of Iowa.

That initiation was such that, even today, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about it. There was a lot more to that initiation than I have seen at local student chapters in the last few decades. Those were different times.

It started with my receiving a letter telling me that, being in the top 15% of my Junior Class or top 25% of the Senior EE Class had made me eligible for membership in this national EE honor society. We were invited to a meeting where we were told that the initiation would consist of two parts: an Informal Initiation and a Formal Initiation.

At that meeting we were told that the Informal Initiation would be held on a coming Saturday in a lower lab in the main engineering building. It would require us to pass a written test and also an oral one. We were told we could bring any reference books we desired to use in the written test. We were also told we would be required to make an HKN “Key” that evening and to bring three feet of AWG 6 gauge solid copper wire and a soldering iron.

All of us potential members showed up that day carrying one or two large boxes of various engineering and math books. The two-hour written test started at 4:00 that afternoon. You had to work on your own and could not ask help from other potential members. We were tacitly led to understand that becoming an HKN Member would depend on how well we did on the tests that evening. Choke!

The written test would have brought tears to the eyes of Nikolai Tesla and Gustav Kirchhoff. I did my best but saw my chance of becoming a member of HKN fading fast.

After the test, we were given a plan for the “Key.” The work was to be done in a neat and professional manner. No cold solder joints would be accepted. With solder irons in hand, we all started making our key, which consisted of a diamond shape with the letters HKN on the inside, a loop at the top and a straight wire sticking out the bottom

While making our keys, we were taken one at a time to another room in which we saw most of our professors looking quite sober. On the surrounding black boards were six problems. We were each asked to solve one of the problems while our professors watched. These would have finally made Tesla have a nervous breakdown. With a lot of help from our professors, we finally solved the problem we were assigned and allowed to return to work on our keys.

We finally finished our keys and, with a few cold solder joints corrected, had them pass the visual inspection. We were done. “But Wait,” as the man on TV would say while he sells his Smokeless ashtrays and Salad Shooters. “There is more.” We were now told our keys had to pass a couple of “Integrity” tests.

The first of these tests was to throw our keys like a dagger and stick them in a cardboard box on a stand against the cement block wall of the lab. Of course, if you missed the box and hit the wall, the key would suffer some damage and require repairs before retesting. After that, the second test required you to throw the key over your shoulder and have it land in one piece in an area formed by a set of arm-chair desks arranged in a square on the cement floor. That test also often required some repairs.

We were finally told we had all passed our tests. The written tests had been graded while we made our keys. I had the best score, I am proud to say, by answering 27% of the questions successfully. For that, I received a $20 gift certificate at the local student book store. I still have the book of engineering and math tables I got with that award.

The Formal Initiation was held at the Ox Yoke Inn at the Amana Colonies west of Iowa City. We all wore suits to that initiation and managed to eat copious quantities of prime rib, schnitzel, ham and myriad delicious side dishes. We were sworn in as life-time HKN members that night. We had passed the test.

I would love to go to that Formal Initiation again. As far as the Informal Initiation, I would rather slide down a razor blade into a bucket of turpentine than go through that again.


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Make Your Impact at the 2019 Student Leadership Conference

Your donation can help send a deserving student to IEEE-HKN’s premier event for professional development, leadership training, and networking.

Each year, hundreds of IEEE-HKN students from around the world gather at the HKN Student Leadership Conference to share best practices from their chapters, engage in professional development sessions, and explore technical topics impacting our industry.

This opportunity is available to a number of deserving students thanks to the generosity of donors, like you. For US$135 you can underwrite the cost for one student to attend this year’s conference in Boston. A US$250 donation provides a travel stipend for one chapter. Click here to make your gift.

If you are in the Boston area, HKN alumni are invited to attend the dinner on Saturday night. Tickets are US$75 per person. Click here for details and to reserve your spot.

IEEE-HKN Student Leadership Conference at ASU

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Born to Be Eta Kappa Nu

Check out these cuties: Dorian Watkins with proud grandfather, IEEE-HKN Past President Steve Watklns, and Lark Jones, daughter of Amy Jones and B.J. Jones and granddaughter of Robert Perrey. Steve, Amy and Robert are proud Gamma Thetas!

Have a baby? We will send you a baby bib! If you have a happy life event, please share the news with us! Send photos and notes to info@hkn.org

Spotlight On: The Los Angeles Alumni Chapter

Formed in 1937 and producing some of HKN’s most prominent members, the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter is the longest continually active alumni chapter in HKN.

The Los Angeles area has an extremely large footprint of HKN Student Chapters, with nine chapters (University of Southern California; University California, Los Angeles; University of California, Irvine; University California, Riverside; Cal State Northridge; Cal State Fullerton; Cal State Los Angeles; Long Beach State; and Cal Tech) all within a 50-mile radius. Our primary focus is the honoring and support of these Universities, their respective HKN chapters, and students.

Our lifetime membership roster includes three Eminent Members (Marcus Dodson, Steven Sample, and William E. Murray); three Distinguished Service Award winners (Tom Rothwell, Marcus Dodson and Alan Willson); three past National Presidents (William E. Murray, Tom Rothwell, and Marcus Dodson); numerous past members of the HKN Board of Governors, and current HKN Governor John DeGraw. Our current active members have 400 years-plus of active involvement with HKN.

Additionally, we administer The Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Student Award. This award was conceived in 1964 by the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter of HKN and first awarded in 1965. The members of the award committee have over 150 years of combined experience administering this award. Current members are Dick Cockrum, John DeGraw, Barbara Guerrero, Jimmie Huff, Don Stoica, Art Sutton, and Alan Willson.

Since 1965 there have been 58 recipients, representing 40 HKN Chapters and their respective Universities. Six times in the history of this award multiple recipients (1979, 1986, 1987, 2001, 2004, 2017) have been recognized.

This year’s recipient is Ramandeep Vilkhu representing the Gamma Chapter and Ohio State University.

The Gamma Theta Chapter at Missouri University of Science and Technology, formerly The University of Missouri Rolla, has nominated six recipients, and the Mu Chapter at the University of California Berkeley and the Delta Omega Chapter at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have nominated four each. We strongly encourage each chapter to honor their own student of the year and nominate that student for The Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Student Award.

Currently we are in the process of developing an award to be given to a local student in memory of “MR. HKN” Tom Rothwell (center in the photo below). This award will be solely funded by the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter. This is a great way to interact with local chapters.

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Setting A Course for Life after College

IEEE-HKN’s ‘Pathways To Industry’ workshop helped students prepare for the transition from scholar to professional. 

IEEE-HKN’s “Pathways to Industry” workshop brought together students and professionals to discuss personal career paths and share hard-earned insights, and offered practical advice for the attendees. It was held in partnership with ECEDHA on March 24 in Tucson during ECEDHA’s annual conference.

Dr. Karen Panetta, 2019 IEEE-HKN President, kicked-off the event with welcome remarks and introductions. She then led a Graduate Program Panel Discussion. Sessions included: “Building Effective Communications and Relationships,” “What They Did Not Teach You in Engineering School and “Why Professionals Need a Professional Association.” A moderated panel discussion on “Industry Forecast: The Next Big Things” rounded out the workshop. Panelists included Doug Baney of Keysight Technologies, Doug Phillips of Texas Instruments, Dennis Leitterman, retired from Hewlitt Packard, and April Zhao of Qualcomm.

The workshop was organized by Nancy Ostin, Director, IEEE-HKN. The students asked excellent questions, and came away much better prepared to make the transition to industry. If you would like to know more about opportunities to like Pathways, please contact info@hkn.org

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