Meet Some of the IEEE Foundation’s Top Donors

They include a Nobel laureate, a champion for female engineers, and an Emmy Award winner

5 January 2017

Isamu Akasaki, Eleanor Baum, and Victor Lawrence are three of the many IEEE members who regularly contribute to the IEEE Foundation to support its philanthropic programs. Read on to learn about their careers and what inspires them to give.

LED PIONEER

For inventing blue light–emitting diodes, IEEE Fellow Isamu Akasaki has received numerous accolades including a 2014 Nobel Prize. His diodes can be found in high-brightness displays and Blue-ray DVD players. His work with gallium nitride materials has led to high-brightness green and white LEDs and high-performance blue-violet semiconductor lasers. The LEDs now light LCD screens and other products.

Akasaki is a professor at Meiji University’s Graduate School of Science and Technology, in Japan. He also is professor emeritus at Nagoya University, also in Japan, and a research fellow at its Akasaki Institute, named in his honor. (He used the royalties earned from his patents to help pay for the center’s construction.)

He received the U.S. National Academy of Engineering’s 2015 Charles Stark Draper Prize for inventing the light-emitting diodes. Akasaki and IEEE members Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for “the invention of efficient blue light–emitting diodes—which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”

“Their inventions were revolutionary,” the Nobel Foundation said. “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.”

Akasaki’s work has been recognized by IEEE as well. In 2011 he was awarded the IEEE Edison Medal “for seminal and pioneering contributions to the development of nitride-based semiconductor materials and optoelectronic devices, including visible wavelength LEDs and lasers.” He donated the medal’s US $15,000 honorarium to the IEEE Foundation. The donation represents his commitment, he says, to inspire young researchers and others to recognize those whose power of persistence created technology to benefit humanity.

“IEEE is the foundation for engineers to work together to serve our global society,” Akasaki says.

EMPOWERING WOMEN

IEEE Life Fellow Eleanor Baum has accomplished a number of firsts. In 1984 she became the first female engineer to be named dean of an engineering college in the United States: Pratt Institute’s School of Engineering, in New York City. She was elected in 1995 as the first female president of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Baum has been a champion for female engineers and other groups underrepresented in the profession since she was a teenager. She decided on an engineering career when she was 17 years old—a rare choice for girls and women in those days. Several universities turned down her application because of her gender, she says. One school’s reason for rejection was that it didn’t have bathrooms for women. She was accepted by the City College of New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1954. She went on to earn a master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering in 1964 from Polytechnic Institute of New York (now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering), also in New York City.

After serving as dean of Pratt, she left to become dean of the School of Engineering at Cooper Union, also in New York City. She was there from 1987 to 2010 and helped increase the percentage of female students from 5 percent to 40 percent. In 2007 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Now retired, Baum is a member of the IEEE Foundation board.

She says she donates to the Foundation because it “funds projects and programs that help society, improve education, and help the general public better understand technology and its impact on our lives.”

“I have been happy to invest in its work and see the impact of my contributions,” she says.

Baum and Akasaki are members of the Foundation’s Heritage Circle. Their cumulative donations put them at its Nikola Tesla giving level, which recognizes those who have given $10,000 to $49,999.

EXPANDING INTERNET ACCESS

IEEE Fellow Victor B. Lawrence was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in May for his work in improving Internet transmission speed, making high-speed connections more widely available, and helping to spread the Internet’s global reach. In an interview with CBS News, he noted that his work has touched nearly every aspect of modern life.

Lawrence spent nearly his entire career at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., where he worked in signal processing and communications. There he paved the way for developments in broadband, digital subscriber line (DSL) and HDTV technologies, and wireless data transfer. His work led to wireless modems and other high-speed data connectivity that helped spur the Internet’s growth. Lawrence also developed the high-speed transceiver, which ushered in DSL technologies used for broadband services and high-speed access.

He received an Emmy Award in 1997 for work on the HDTV Grand Alliance Standard. The Grand Alliance was a consortium commissioned in 1993 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to develop a standard for U.S. digital television and HDTV.

Lawrence in 2004 received the IEEE Award in International Communication “for extraordinary contributions and leadership in the development of international data communication systems and standards, and for fostering international cooperation.”

He is now an associate dean, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and founding director of the Center for Intelligent Networked Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J.

Born in Ghana, Lawrence says he’s passionate about bringing Internet access to developing countries. He has been instrumental in extending high-capacity fiber-optic cable in Ghana and along Africa’s west coast.

A member of the IEEE Foundation board from 2011 to 2016, Lawrence is most interested in the Foundation’s outreach programs in developing and emerging countries, like those supported by the IEEE Foundation Funds, the IEEE Life Members Fund, and the IEEE-USA Fund.

Lawrence believes all IEEE members should support the IEEE Foundation because, he says, their support helps to “shape the scope and activities of the Foundation and creates opportunities to make an impact on the future of IEEE.”

If you’d like to join Akasaki, Baum, and Lawrence in supporting the Foundation’s mission, donate today.

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