A Note from the Chair, Dennis Leitterman

I am thrilled to be able to tell you of the many great things going on with IEEE-HKN and, more importantly, to thank you for your support throughout 2019.

In this, our third edition of the eNewsletter, we share photos of activities happening throughout the HKN Alumni universe and share news about ways to give back to HKN, the formation of the Seattle Alumni Chapter and learn about the life and achievements of Dr. Alan Willson, Professor Emeritus at UCLA.

I am excited to tell you that we will be publishing four issues of this eNewsletter in 2020. We welcome your suggestions for future editions. Feel free to contact me with your ideas and questions at: dennis.leitterman@yahoo.com.

It is with much gratitude that I thank you for sharing your time, talents and treasure with HKN in 2019 and look forward to growing our community and impact in 2020.

Alumnus Spotlight: Alan Willson

Professor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles
Founder, Iota Gamma Chapter, UCLA

Alan Willson, a native of Baltimore, MD, graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic (Poly) Institute in 1957. Long before the concept of “Advanced Placement” courses came into existence, Poly had an accelerated course, which permitted its highest-ranking students to be admitted to most East Coast engineering colleges as sophomores. Alan did this and he graduated from Georgia Tech, receiving his B.E.E. in 1961. (It took Alan 4 years to earn his B.S., even with “skipping the freshman year,” because he went to college on the “co-op plan,” which normally is a 5-year program, due to the significant amount of time spent each year working at a company. In Alan’s case, this company was the B&O Railroad.)

Upon graduation, Alan took a job at IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY, where an added benefit was that IBM had arranged for professors from Syracuse University to come to Poughkeepsie once a week to teach their graduate EE classes to “IBMers.” The work Alan was doing at IBM would eventually be referred to as “computer-aided circuit design.” Within a year he was asked to create and teach a course in computer programming to other IBM engineers. (In the early 1960s, engineering colleges had not yet begun to teach computer programming. It happened that Alan had learned it at his B&O co-op job.) While he’d never considered a university career (being the first in his family to attend college) Alan had now learned, at IBM, that he loved teaching!

He received his M.S. from Syracuse in 1965 and immediately took a leave of absence from IBM to attend Syracuse full-time to earn a Ph.D. (His new career goal was to become a university professor!) He obtained his doctorate in 1967, and had several offers of university appointments from which to choose. However, he was surprised one day to receive a phone call from the world-famous network theorist, Sid Darlington, who wanted Alan to join his research group in the Bell Labs Research Division at Murray Hill, NJ, where he would be allowed to work on “whatever he wanted!” Unable to pass up this dream opportunity, Alan thought he’d spend a couple of years at Bell Labs then move on to a university position.  During his time at Bell Labs, he learned many new things (i.e. digital signal processing), and he learned them from giants in the field, such as his colleagues Jim Kaiser and Dick Hamming. One day Alan realized that six years had passed, and although he loved research, he knew he still wanted to teach, so in 1973 Alan came to California to begin a 43-year career as a UCLA electrical engineering professor.

For almost a half century Alan, (now Professor Willson) has been one of the most influential leaders in the field of Circuits and Systems. His contributions in both research and education have been highly significant.

During his tenure at UCLA, he created the first Digital Signal Processing courses in the early 1970s. In 1984 he founded the UCLA chapter of Eta Kappa Nu and continued as its faculty advisor for 30 years. From 1987 to 2001 he also served as Associate Dean of the UCLA Engineering School. In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, he was editor-in- chief of the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems (1977-79) and in 1984 was president of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society (CAS). His 1974 IEEE Press book Nonlinear Networks: Theory and Analysis was a landmark publication that had a major impact in research and education in the area of nonlinear circuits. He taught courses at UCLA in both circuits and digital signal processing.

In 1991 Alan founded Pentomics, Inc., a start-up to which 21 US patents have now been issued, and through which nine of Willson’s Ph.D. students and another three of his M.S. advisees have learned to become inventors and create patents. Moreover, through Pentomics, several patents have been licensed to industry. Pentomics inventions have played a major role in improving various products that have been brought to market.

In 2014 Alan received Eta Kappa Nu’s Distinguished Service Award.

His contributions to education have been recognized by his winning major teaching awards, such as the 1982 George Westinghouse Award of the ASEE, the 1982 Distinguished Faculty Award of the UCLA Engineering Alumni Association, the 2010 IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Graduate Teaching Award and the Engineers Council’s 2015 John J. Guarrera Engineering Educator of the Year Award.

His scholarly awards include the 1978 and 1994 Guillemin–Cauer (best paper) Awards of the IEEE CAS; the 1985 and 1994 W.R.G. Baker Awards of the IEEE (for the most outstanding paper reporting original work published in all Transactions, Journals, and Magazines of the IEEE Societies or in the Proceedings of the IEEE); and the 2003 Mac VanValkenburg Award (for outstanding technical achievement) and the 2013 Vitold Belevitch Award (for fundamental contributions in the field of circuits and systems), both from the IEEE CAS Society. In 2014, his achievements were honored by his peers with his election to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. In 2018 he received the IEEE Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Award.

Even though Alan is now Professor Emeritus, he is still pursuing research projects, and these include the patenting of useful results. Alan and his wife, Ricki, live in Pasadena, CA.


Read more

Spotlight On: The Seattle Alumni Chapter

Vansh Khanna, an alumnus of the Alpha Chapter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who currently works at AWS as a Software Engineer in Seattle, and several other HKN alumni contacted HKN headquarters for assistance in forming a Seattle-area Alumni Chapter. Their objective was to connect with other area alumni and students of nearby universities.

So far, the group has held several gatherings of students and alumni, and looks forward to growing the network. The group’s ultimate goal is to mentor current students and give back to the community, living up to their pledge of serving others.

For more information or to get involved with the Seattle Alumni Chapter, please contact n.ostin@ieee.org.



Clockwise from left are: Dathan Wong, alumnus of Delta Mu Chapter at Villanova University; a student from the Mu Zeta Chapter at Western Washington University; Sam Condon, a student from the Mu Zeta Chapter; Nicholas Falco, and Alumnus of Kappa Omicron Chapter at the State University of New York at New Paltz; Vansh Khanna, and Anna Koch, an alumna of Pi Chapter at Oregon State University.

HKN’s Next Generation

“Smart and Cute” little ones are popping up all over! Our latest class includes Gavin McDonald, son of Kelly Shuster, Rho Chapter; and Samantha Antoinette Martin, granddaughter of Bernard Sander, Delta Psi Chapter and IEEE-HKN Secretary.

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.

Your Support is Greatly Appreciated


Our HKN alumni are a generous lot, and we are thankful for your gifts of time and talent. Please consider another avenue of support: Donations to support our operation. 

One way to support IEEE-HKN is through IRA Charitable Rollover Gifts from your Individual Retirement Account.

Individuals may make direct charitable distributions of up to US$100,000 from their traditional, Roth, or rollover IRAs without including such distributions in their gross income, given they meet the following requirements:

  • A donor must be at least 70 1/2 years of age at the time of the transaction
  • The funds must pass directly from the donor’s IRA to IEEE. This provision applies only to:
    • IRAs and Roth IRAs (SEP or Simple IRAs, 403(b)s, 401(k)s, and pension plans are not eligible)
    • Outright gifts (distributions cannot be used to fund life income gifts, such as charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts). The gift may satisfy a donor’s IRA required minimum distribution for the year. Since the amount of the direct charitable distribution can be excluded from the donor’s gross income, there is no federal income tax deduction available for such gifts.

The IEEE Foundation is a qualifying 501(c)(3) institution (EIN # 23-7310664). As with any considerations regarding your estate planning, the IEEE Foundation suggests you consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor to make sure this vehicle makes sense given your personal circumstances.

For questions about how to make a gift from your IRA, contact Nancy Ostin at n.ostin@ieee.org or Rich Allen at Richard.allen@ieee.org

To make a direct donation, please go to: https://www.ieeefoundation.org/ieee_hkn

Artifacts, Personal Memorabilia Keep HKN History Alive

By John DeGraw, Upsilon Chapter
IEEE-HKN Governor At-Large

Whether we refer to them as artifacts, memorabilia, keepsakes or souvenirs objects that we preserve are extremely important personally and professionally. These objects provoke long-term memories and emotional reactions. Additionally, these items serve as historical documentation of individuals and organizations.

My years of membership and service with Eta Kappa Nu have afforded me great opportunities, memories and access to many of these types of items.

On a personal level, I am sure that we all have our induction certificate somewhere (mine is framed in my office), and when you look at it, you wonder where the years went. I also have my pledge key and graduation cord and stole.

Pictured above is the key from Tom Rothwell’s induction (courtesy Tom Rothwell family) into the Upsilon Chapter at the University of Southern California in April of 1953. This is a great piece of history not only for Tom personally but for the Upsilon Chapter as well. The key is handmade and is signed by all of his fellow inductees.

Tom and I are both Past Presidents of the Upsilon chapter. While I was president, Tom allowed me to use the gavel (picture below) his father-in-law made for him while Tom was President in 1954. I was extremely pleased when my faculty advisor, Dr. Aluizio Prada, presented me with my own gavel commemorating my service as Chapter President.

The Los Angeles Alumni Chapter maintains its own historical records.

These wonderful documents trace the history of this Chapter back to its inception in 1937 and are quite entertaining to read. A few highlights:

  •         23 July, 1937 Inspection of the L.A. Brewery, Eastside Beer
  •         24 February, 1938 NBC Broadcast at the El Capitan Theatre
  •       25 May, 1939 Dinner Dance at Florentine Gardens, US$1.00 per couple
  •       1950 Christmas party
  •       3 May, 1951 meeting with National President F. E. Sanford
  •       12 April, 1958 Eta Kappa Nu dance at the Hollywood Palladium
  •       9 October, 1963 Schlitz Brewery Party
  •       20 August, 1969 Eminent Member induction, San Francisco Hilton

These records include pages from the 1947 Bridge, programs from award ceremonies, receipts and sign-in sheets. These records are a great history of how a Chapter remains viable and successful for an extended period.

My personal collection includes an original copy of A History of Dedicated Service and High Professional Standards by Larry Down. This book is considered the official record of the history of Eta Kappa Nu from inception through 1975.

This book details the history of The Bridge dating to 1904, a synopsis of the annual conventions (1905-1933), a biography of Carl T. Koerner (for whom the Outstanding Student Award is named), a proposed Eta Kappa Nu song by Vladimir Karapetoff, an article by HKN Founder M. L. Carr, and much more.

Do you have artifacts or memorabilia relating to HKN?  Please send me a picture and a brief description, and we will include it in a future newsletter. I may be reached at DeGraw@pacbell.net

Read more

Largest-Ever Student Leadership Conference Held in Boston

More than 225 students, faculty advisors, alumni, speakers and sponsors gathered at Tufts University in Medford, MA for the 2019 IEEE-HKN Student Leadership Conference. A special thanks goes to all alumni from the Boston Section and other Sections and Regions who presented sessions, were part of a panel, or attended the conference or the awards banquet. Our current students were thrilled to meet and receive advice from you!