A Note from the Chair, Dennis Leitterman

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

There currently are 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, of which I am chair.

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In our second edition, we share photos of activities happening throughout the HKN Alumni universe and share news about Founders Day and the Student Leadership Conference. We also are showcasing the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

We have a follow-up article by Jim Huff. You may have read the trials and tribulations of his induction into HKN in our previous issue. This is what followed that honor.

There is a note about the Installation of the IEEE-HKN Student Chapter at UC Santa Cruz.I share some experiences from a career panel discussion at the IEEE-HKN Student Chapter at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

 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 .

Tradition Runs Deep with 115-Year-Old Eta Kappa Nu

In a shady spot under a large cottonwood, on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, our founders saw the need for an honor society – one that by invitation would recognize scholarship, attitude, and character. The vision was to promote the highest ideals of the engineering profession and form an organization where professionals and students help each other.

28 October 2019 marks the 115th anniversary of the founding of Eta Kappa Nu. It’s the perfect time to raise awareness of the value that an IEEE-HKN Chapter brings to a University, show the many ways a chapter serves fellow students and the community, and encourage industry to support us. Today’s IEEE-HKN students are the leaders of tomorrow.

Chapters throughout the world are planning Founders Day events to mark this auspicious occasion. Some will hold social gatherings,  participate in a community service event, or they may tour the workplace of an alum to see what opportunities they may have. While others still will invite alumni to campus to discuss career paths, professional development and the things they don’t teach you in engineering school.

If you are interested in helping your chapter or a chapter near year celebrate, please fill out the Alumni Reconnect Form on the HKN website. Your support just may be the one thing a student needs to envision a successful future. So this Founders Day, give back if you can. Once HKN, always HKN.

Tom Rothwell, right, President of the Upsilon Chapter in 1954, devoted vast amounts of time and energy to Eta Kappa Nu for decades before his death a few years ago. Fondly remembered by all who knew him, Tom is shown here with an HKN Pledge Key and current HKN Governor At-Large John DeGraw, another devoted alum. The Key, the Crest, the Wheatstone Bridge and the Induction Pledge are traditions that are part of the fiber of HKN and remain strong symbols of the Honor Society 115 years into its existence. 

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Alum Profile All in the Family

Brian M. Chandler, Xi Chapter of HKN

General Manager of Utilities, City of Troy, Alabama

Growing up, I remember two things hanging on the wall in my dad’s office – his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree and his Eta Kappa Nu membership certificate. My dad told me about his experiences to earn both achievements and what they meant to him. My goal was to one day have both on my wall with my name on them. The standard of excellence for HKN motivated me throughout my academic endeavors and continues to motivate me during my engineering career. My own HKN certificate from Xi Chapter (Auburn University) hangs in a place of honor on my wall along with my Electrical Engineering degree.


Spotlight On: The San Francisco Bay Area Alumni Chapter

Established in 2017, the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) Alumni Chapter re-energized and expanded the reach of the former San Francisco Alumni Chapter. 

The San Francisco Alumni Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu was active from 1926 to 1957. In September 2017, Tom Coughlin led the effort to organize an IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Alumni Chapter for the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA). The first meeting of the group was held at San Jose State University on 27 September 2017. Officer elections were held, and future meeting plans were discussed.  Election results were:

Chair Dennis Leitterman, HP (retired)

Vice-Chair Pranav Kachhwaha, Microsoft

Secretary        Varun Sampath, NVIDIA

Treasurer        Sriram Radhakrishnan, Achronix

Advisor Tom Coughlin, Coughlin Associates and 2019 IEEE-USA President

There are about 550 HKN members in the SFBA. More than 50 percent are in the Santa Clara Valley; less than 40 percent are in the Oakland-East Bay, and less than 10 percent are in San Francisco. Within the SFBA, there are IEEE-HKN Student Chapters at the University of California, Berkeley; San Jose State University (SJSU); Santa Clara University; University of California, Santa Cruz; the Naval Postgraduate School, and California State University, Fresno.

Additional HKN Student Chapters (within driving distance) include University of the Pacific and California State University – Chico. Also, interest has been expressed in forming an IEEE-HKN Student Chapter at California State University – Sacramento.

The primary focus of the IEEE SFBA HKN Alumni Chapter is to provide support to the student chapters at these universities. Examples of support include a Career Panel Presentation at SJSU, assisting with Professional Member initiations by the IEEE-HKN SJSU Student Chapter, arranging guest speakers, and participating in the installation of a new IEEE-HKN Student Chapter at UC Santa Cruz. Future activities include more career panels and an SFBA Alumni Social Event.

For more information or to get involved, email dennis.leitterman@yahoo.com

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IEEE-HKN Student Chapter Installed at UC Santa Cruz

On 3 October 2018, a new IEEE-HKN Student Chapter was installed at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). This chapter, Mu Phi, became the 261st Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu.

2018 IEEE-HKN President Steve Watkins was in San Jose for the 2018 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, and drove to Santa Cruz to preside over the installation and induction ceremony. Marco Rolandi, ECE Department Chair, and nine students were inducted. I spoke during the ceremony, and signed the chapter journal. After the ceremony at UCSC, we had dinner at the West End Tap and Kitchen.

The IEEE San Francisco Bay Area HKN Alumni Chapter is planning to present a career panel discussion at UCSC in the coming months.

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Inspire and Be Inspired by HKN Students at the 2019 Student Leadership Conference

Join us at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA from 1-3 November for the 2019 Student Leadership Conference. Hands-on workshops, career and professional development sessions, an awards dinner overlooking Boston Harbor and a human levitation device will be part of the program.

IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu has a special rate for alumni and guests who wish to join us and meet tomorrow’s engineering leaders: US$75 per person for the conference, US$75 per person for dinner or US$150 per person for the dinner and conference.

If you are unable to attend the conference or dinner but wish to support our students, you may underwrite the cost of a student’s attendance or consider sponsorship opportunities. To donate to the IEEE-HKN Student Leadership Conference Fund, click this link and choose this fund from the dropdown menu. For a list of sponsorship opportunities, review our prospectus or contact info@hkn.org for more information.

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Baby, It’s You … And Eta Kappa Nu

Check out these cuties: Claire Leigh Kaber, daughter of David Kaber of the Eta Chapter, and Spencer Nagel, son of Jacquelyn Nagel, a Gamma Theta member.

Have a baby in your life? 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.

Who Will Be the 2019 HKN Outstanding Student?

Members of the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu pour over nominations for the 2019 Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Student Award. It’s a true labor of love for this Alumni Chapter, who

administers the program, to identify the top HKN student worldwide for this prestigious award. The 2019 award winner will be announced this fall, and the award will be presented at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA)  conference in March 2020. Clockwise from far left: Dick Cockrum, Don Stoica, Jimmie Huff, Alan Willson, Barbara Guerrero and Art Sutton.

The Next Step: Graduate School

After LA Alumni Chapter Member Jimmy Huff was inducted into HKN, the fun really began – landing a US$1-an-hour job at his graduate school, playing a honky-tonk piano at a pizza joint and getting his first big break. 

You may have read the trials and tribulations of my induction into HKN in a previous issue. This is what followed that honor.

I received my B.S. in Electrical Engineering in June 1962. Having become a member of HKN, my self-confidence was bolstered to the limit, so I decided to continue my education and earn an M.S. in my chosen field.

A couple weeks before I started graduate school at the dear old University of Iowa, I got married. At that point, I knew my new wife and I would be on our own financially. The night of the wedding, we moved into our basement apartment, and I went out the next morning and found a job helping design an FSK communication system for one of the Injun-series satellites under Dr. James Van Allen. In fact, the lab I worked in was exactly four floors under the office of that noted early space explorer.

The University’s EE Department had bestowed an $1,800-per-year Teaching Assistant grant on me previously, so we were on our way to fame and fortune. That job at the Physics Department paid the exalted sum of $1 per hour, the same pay that a student brain surgeon earned in those days.

The second semester, I also got a great job playing New Orleans Jazz on a honky-tonk piano in a large pizza garden/beer joint in town from 8 p.m. until 1:45 a.m., three nights a week. That paid almost $7 an hour. We were rolling in the dough!

Things got even better at the start of my second semester of grad school. I was handing out IBM cards at registration that semester when I saw the Dean of Engineering talking to all the regular EE professors. Each one was shaking their head “no” to him. He finally got down to me, the “low man on the EE totem pole.” He took a different tact with me by asking me if I would like my assistantship doubled.

It turns out that the department had hired a Ph.D. from Turkey to come to teach classes in Electrical Machinery, but at the last minute, that man’s wife’s student visa was cancelled so he decided to return to Turkey. The department had no one to teach DC and AC machinery, two required EE undergraduate core courses.

Now machinery was the unloved child on the EE curriculum, and none of the regular professors wanted a thing to do with those courses. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I agreed to teach those classes. If the Dean of Engineering had checked the records, he would have seen that machinery was the only EE class in which I had ever received a grade of “C.” He probably would not have cared, even if he had checked.

As a result, I was promoted to “three-quarter time instructor” and given a second course that also had a lab to teach. My assistantship was more than doubled to about $400 per month. The other course was called Elements of Applied Electronics, and it had a lab. That course was required for Ph.D. candidates. Now that was funny as hell: I was a first-year EE grad student teaching a bunch of Ph.D. candidates!

I took it upon myself to change the machinery course contents. The first course became DC and AC machines using the previous text by Kingsley and Fitzgerald that taught the student such modern EE knowledge as how to design a motor rotor to minimize slot effects. Somehow, I could not see myself ending a 40-year career someday at Joe’s Motor Shop and Drill and Dredge Co. as a Senior SEE (Slot Effect Engineer).

Thus, the second semester I changed the course name to Energy Conversion and taught such topics as Fuel Cells, Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), Thermionic Converters, etc. The EE professors didn’t really care what I taught in electrical machinery as long as they didn’t have to have anything to do with it. Learning about MHD really saved my bacon when I had to take my Oral Exam to complete the work for my M.S.E.E. a year later. (To us literary mavens that last statement is known as foreshadowing.)

In the last paragraph, I promised you, the suffering reader, that I would relate how my knowledge of MHD was a blessing when I took my Oral Exam. To begin, the Oral Exam did not have that great of an effect upon satisfying the M.S.E.E. requirements for graduation. First you had to pass an eight-hour written exam, given on a Saturday. That was the toughie! One of the Profs told me that the Oral Exam generally was only significant if that student had done a marginal job on the written exam.

Thus, I wasn’t too worried that afternoon when I went to take my Oral Exam. It was held in one of the regular classrooms and all the EE professors were there. Bill Wade, my graduate study advisor, started the proceedings by asking Dr. Ware if he had any questions for me. He shook his head to the negative, and Dr. Wade went down the line of the other professors and received the same responses. It looked to me like this was going to be easy.

Finally, Dr. Wade asked me a relatively simple question on coding theory. I easily answered this. Dr. Ware then asked me a question about something I had no idea about. I won’t bore you, dear reader, with the topic but it was on an extremely arcane effect to do with electrical transmission lines. All the other professors were just as puzzled about it as me. A great argument arose between the professors.

Dr. Ware finally coaxed me along writing some equations on the black board with the result that the answer to his question was finally unearthed, much to the elucidation of the other professors. I could see now that they were going to have fun at my expense for the rest of the three hours. Then, to my delight, Professor Alton, a non-PhD instructor said to me, “Jim, take as long as you need to tell me all you know about – you guessed it – magnetohydrodynamics.” I was sure he knew nothing at all about the topic and had just seen the word in some technical magazine.

Take all the time you need. I decided I could parrot back the lectures I had recently given on the topic, so I started on the left side of the black board writing equations and telling about their significance. I figured I could fill the rest of the three hours allotted for my Oral. About 10 minutes into my “lecture,” I heard a chair shuffle. Professor Alton left the room. He was soon followed by all of the other professors until my advisor — Dr. Wade — and I were the only two left in the room.

Dr. Wade stood up, told me have fun and erase the blackboard when I was done. He left me alone in the room. Then, Dr. Ware stuck his head back in the door and said, “Jim, your only chance of passing this exam is to be at Smith’s Cafe across the street in less than five minutes to buy coffee for everyone.” I did so and passed the exam. The other Profs were at the café giving Professor Alton what for about screwing up the fun they were intending to have at my discomfort and expense. Thanks, Professor Alton!

I bought the coffee that day and was told I had passed the last hurdle in earning my M.S. I had several job interviews in Southern California where most engineers went in the mid-1960s to grow old. After less than a year in my new job at General Dynamics, I faced another rude awakening. More about that in another paper I must write. More foreshadowing. Stay tuned.

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Alum Profile: Where Is He Now?

Andrew Sears, Gamma Theta Chapter of HKN

President of City Vision University and co-founder of the Christian Higher Education Innovation Alliance

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!

Dr. Andrew Sears, the Alton B. Zerby Award from Eta Kappa Nu in 1995, has spent the last 20 years living and working among the poor in Christian ministries focused on educating underserved populations. He is the founder of the nonprofit TechMission, which developed a network of more than 500 ministries using technology for education for the poor (www.techmission.org).

Dr. Sears was inducted into the Gamma Theta Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu and graduated from the Missouri University of Science and Technology with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering. He went on to receive an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and an M.S. in Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, he co-founded MIT’s Internet Telephony Consortium with David Clark (who is considered one of the fathers of the Internet). Dr. Sears has consulted many Internet startups and helped Sprint launch its first voiceover IP product.

He received his Doctorate in Transformational Leadership from Bakke University in 2014, where his dissertation was on Disruptive Innovation in Christian Higher Education and the Poor.

He is president of City Vision University, an accredited Christian university focused on providing radically affordable online education to those serving the poor, addicted and underserved (www.cityvision.edu). He also is the co-founder of the Christian Higher Education Innovation Alliance, a group of leaders with the vision of expanding Christian higher education to the poor and majority world (www.cheia.org).

 He has presented numerous workshops and published articles. Most recently, he published three Massive Open Online Courses on Instructional Design, Program Design and Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education that have had over 7,000 students.

 Dr. Sears can be contacted at andrew@cityvision.edu or at www.linkedin.com/in/andrewsears 

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Alumni in the Hot Seat

The questions kept rolling in at a Career Panel held for the IEEE-HKN Gamma Theta Student Chapter at Missouri University of Science and Technology in April 2019. 

Four alumni made presentations and participated in the Q&A:

  • Leonard Laskowski, Emerson Automation Solutions
  • Sharon Beermann-Curtin, Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO)
  • Dennis Leitterman, Hewlett-Packard Company (retired)
  • Thomas Dalton, KB Electronics, Inc.

The event was attended by 19 students, 13 alumni, and two faculty members. The chapter sent personal notes to thank the panelists for taking the time to present and visit with the students. They appreciated hearing the career stories, reflected upon what was said, and wrote they hoped to see the panelists at next year’s alumni panel. The event was scheduled for two hours, but the informative Q&A was rolling so well that the event ran three hours.

The following day, the Academy of Electrical and Computer Engineering (AECE) at Missouri S&T had its annual membership meeting. The AECE functions as an advisory board to the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department Chair. The organization provides recognition of its members’ professional accomplishments, and provides opportunities for members to share financial wealth and personal time to support Missouri S&T. Many of the AECE members are HKN members.

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