Volunteers: A Priceless Asset

Volunteering is at the very heart of IEEE’s success

5 September 2008

Volunteering is at the very heart of IEEE’s success. Perhaps as many as 40 000 volunteers actively contribute their time, expertise, and ingenuity to our organization. Without their efforts, IEEE would be far different and less effective. Their contributions are worth tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to IEEE, but their dedication is priceless.

That dedication is prominently manifest at the triennial IEEE Sections Congress being held in Quebec City from the 19th to the 22nd of this month. With the theme of Celebrating Volunteer Achievements Worldwide, this is a spectacular meeting of IEEE section leaders, representing a mix of cultures and technical interests from around the world. The delegates will interact, exchange ideas, learn about IEEE and its plans, and bring forth recommendations and action items to help IEEE reach its Envisioned Future strategic goals.

I consider it to be good fortune that the congress takes place in 2008, my presidential year. The first Sections Congress was held in Boston in 1984, IEEE’s centennial year, with 120 attendees, all delegates from their sections. This year more than 1100 attendees are expected, including more than 600 delegates from IEEE’s 324 sections.

A highlight of the congress will be the IEEE Honors Ceremony. The presentation of the IEEE Medal of Honor and other IEEE medals and high-level awards at the ceremony recognizes exceptional contributions that have made a lasting impact on technology, society, and the engineering profession.

This is only the second time the ceremony has been held in conjunction with the Sections Congress. The Honors Ceremony is normally held during the June IEEE Board of Directors meeting, with about 
300 attendees, the award recipients, and their guests. At the Sections Congress, a much broader segment of IEEE membership will be at the ceremony and have a chance to meet the recipients.

As luck would have it, the recipient of the Medal of Honor is Gordon Moore, whom I first met in about 1960 in his Fairchild days, before he helped found Intel Corp. Gordon was a chemist and achieved instant fame with his expounding of Moore’s Law, but he was also a pioneer in the early days of integrated circuits.

A unique event at the Sections Congress will be the kickoff of IEEE’s 125th anniversary celebration. IEEE’s beginnings date back to one of its predecessor societies, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, founded in 1884 [see “IEEE to Mark 125th Anniversary,” p. 4]. The other predecessor society, the Institute of Radio Engineers, was launched in 1912, and the two merged in 1963 to form IEEE. The anniversary slogan, 125 Years of Engineering the Future, perfectly reflects the position of IEEE—proud of our past achievements while also focusing on our future. President-Elect John Vig is leading the formal program to promote IEEE worldwide in 2009.

The Sections Congress will be an exciting, stimulating, and fascinating event. I look forward to attending, meeting dedicated IEEE volunteers from around the world, and listening to their comments and suggestions. The congress is a manifestation of the rich volunteer core that serves IEEE and the profession so well.

However, the Sections Congress is just one of many important activities in which IEEE volunteers participate. I urge you to investigate opportunities to become a volunteer at any and every level of IEEE. This will enable you to hone skills and develop contacts that will help your career. You will give back to your profession and help IEEE meet its mission of advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.

I welcome your comments at terman.column@ieee.org.


Lewis Terman
IEEE President and CEO

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