IEEE Mourns the Loss of Director Emeritus Eric Herz

The Life Fellow was one of the organization’s most dedicated volunteers

12 December 2016

IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz was general manager and executive director of IEEE from 1979 to 1992. He was also a former president and an Eminent Member of IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), the organization’s honor society.

Herz died on 5 December at the age of 89.

AEROSPACE CAREER

Herz received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1952 from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now Polytechnic Institute of New York University), in New York City. He received an honorary doctorate in 1992 from Manhattan College, also in New York.

He began his career as a project engineer at Sperry Corp., an electronics manufacturer, in New York City, where he helped develop and perform field tests of a military radio hyperbolic navigation system, a predecessor to MIT’s Loran (long range navigation) system. In 1956 he was relocated to the island of Maui, in Hawaii, and served as lead engineer on a successful experimental system to detect and locate electromagnetic pulses from nuclear tests conducted in the Pacific Ocean.

The following year he left to join the Convair Division of General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company, in San Diego, as an engineering supervisor. There he oversaw the development and implementation of the telemetering data processing stations in San Diego and Cape Canaveral, Fla. The San Diego station was the largest of its kind, capable of converting launch and flight data from missile tests to readable engineering units within 24 hours.

In 1965 Herz was assigned chief engineer and deputy program manager for a digital position location and communication system for the U.S. Army that analyzed the maneuvers of personnel and aircraft and other vehicles. After the system was completed, he focused on avionics studies and proposals for space shuttle designs. Herz  was assigned in 1974 to be a program manager for the design and systems engineering of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile. He was also program manager for the Air Launched Cruise Missile, the primary nuclear munition of the Air Force.

Herz was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1983 “for contributions to the development and management of information systems for testing aerospace vehicles and for valuable services to the Institute.”

IEEE LEADERSHIP

In 1972 Herz was elected president of the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society. He joined the IEEE Board of Directors in 1976 and served as 1976–1977 director of Division III. In 1978 he became vice president, IEEE Technical Activities. In 1979 he joined IEEE’s staff as general manager and executive director. He retired in 1992 and was named director emeritus the following year. He also served on the board of IEEE’s philanthropic arm, the IEEE Foundation, from 1979 to 1995.

Herz served as 2003–2004 president of IEEE–HKN. In 2009 he was named an Eminent Member—the society’s highest membership classification—for contributions to the electrical and computer engineering profession through leadership roles in the society, IEEE, and related organizations.

The IEEE Board of Directors in 2005 created the annual IEEE Eric Herz Outstanding Staff Member Award as a tribute to his dedication during his time as both an IEEE staff member and volunteer. Karen Galuchie, executive director of the IEEE Foundation, was this year’s recipient.

Memorial donations may be made to the IEEE Eric Herz Memorial Fund of the IEEE Foundation.

A LASTING IMPRESSION

Tributes have been pouring in from IEEE volunteers and staff members who worked alongside Herz over the years.

“We have lost a major pillar of the IEEE—a portion of our very fabric,” IEEE President and CEO Barry Shoop says. “Eric Herz dedicated his life to our profession and our professional society, setting a standard of excellence in his commitment to IEEE. He was an advisor, confidant, role model, and mentor to many, and I count myself lucky to have called him a friend.”

“As IEEE’s general manager and executive director for more than a decade, Eric demonstrated his dedication to our professional staff through his insights, his diligence, and his sage and welcome counsel,” says E. James (Jim) Prendergast, IEEE’s executive director and chief operating officer. “Eric made significant progress in building ties with industry, reinforcing the quality and breadth of our technical offerings, and developing relationships and alliances with engineering societies in Australia, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom, further facilitating IEEE’s growth and global volunteer involvement.”

“Eric was very committed to HKN,” says Nancy Ostin, director of IEEE’s honor society. “His love and passion for our students and our program, and his desire for HKN to thrive and grow, was evident in his words and actions. He was my mentor, and I was very fortunate to know him and learn from him. I am very proud to continue the traditions he cared so much about, and the program he loved.”

“He really was a larger-than-life figure,” recalls Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum. “He was a character, and a very good leader. Thirty years ago, when most of the IEEE staff was located at its headquarters in New York City, Eric knew every single person at Spectrum by name. He would talk to anybody and everybody, and clearly enjoyed it. And he would also listen to what everyone had to say.”

“I had the opportunity to work with Eric many times during my tenure in IEEE Member and Geographic Activities,” says Jamie Moesch, who is now managing director of IEEE Educational Activities. “He had such a passion for IEEE, it came across in every conversation I had with him. While Eric always pushed hard, it was because he expected us to bring our ‘A’ game every day for the members and volunteers of IEEE.

“The other core memory I will never forget of Eric is that he had a mind like a steel trap. He could recall conversations from 40 years ago, or 40 days ago, with unrivaled levels of detail. I will miss him.”

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