Getting to Know Day and Lillie

Learn about the personal sides of the candidates for president-elect

7 June 2010
day GORDON W. DAY

Knowing where the candidates for 2011 president-elect stand on IEEE issues is vital to deciding who you’ll vote for when you receive your ballot in August for the annual IEEE election. But there’s much more to the two candidates—Gordon W. Day and Joseph V. Lillie—than their positions on serious topics. Before we cover those in our September issue, here’s a look at their personal sides. You might be surprised to learn what they have in common and what you, too, might share with them.

Day, a Life Fellow and the 2009 IEEE-USA president, was a researcher and manager at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Boulder, Colo., for 33 years before retiring in 2003. His research focused on optoelectronics, including fundamental physical measurements, standards for optical fiber, and the development of new types of instrumentation. In 1994 he founded and became the first chief of the NIST Optoelectronics Division. After leaving NIST, he served as science adviser to Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on an IEEE-USA congressional fellowship and later as director of government relations for the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association. He also worked as a consultant, specializing in optoelectronics technology and science policy. Day, the 2000 president of the IEEE Photonics Society, has held numerous other IEEE positions.

day JOSEPH V. LILLIE

Lillie, a senior member, has 37 years of experience in telecommunications engineering and management. He held a number of positions at BellSouth Telecommunications facilities in Louisiana from 1973 to 2002, including design engineer, planner, planning manager, district support manager, and engineering manager. When he retired from the company in 2002, he was a member of the Louisiana BellSouth state staff, providing engineering and construction support. In 2003 he joined NorthStar Communications Group in Birmingham, Ala., as director of corporate quality, and in 2005 he returned to BellSouth (now AT&T) to work on restoration projects following Hurricane Katrina. He continues to provide part-time engineering support to AT&T in Louisiana. He has held various IEEE positions, including vice president of Member and Geographic Activities in 2008 and 2009 and director of the IEEE Foundation. Lillie was the runner-up in the election for 2010 IEEE president-elect.

IF YOU WEREN’T AN ENGINEER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

Day: I always wanted to be a philanthropist but lacked a key qualification. Realistically, I think I was destined to be some kind of technologist. My parents told me that I began building things and taking things apart when I was very young. I chose electrical engineering for its breadth, but I think I could have been happy as a civil or mechanical engineer.

Lillie: Early in my college days I considered changing my major to accounting but never did. As a kid I always wanted to know how things worked. I would tear them apart to see what was inside, so becoming an engineer was a given.

WHAT GADGET OR TECHNOLOGY CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

iph

Lillie: My favorite gadget is my iPhone. I used a BlackBerry for many years and only recently changed to the iPhone. It still amazes me the way technology has progressed over the years.

elect

Day: That’s an easy one. Most of the things that contribute to our quality of life are powered, or otherwise enabled, by electricity. It should remind us that one of the most effective things we can do to improve the quality of life in less developed parts of the world is to provide greater access to electricity. It doesn’t have to be large projects but could be small-scale solar, wind, or hydro.

fo

HOW DO YOU FEEL ENGINEERS’ WORK BENEFITS HUMANITY?

Day: It’s hard to think of anything that has improved our quality of life in the past century or so that wasn’t developed by applied technologists. I like the famous quote from Theodore von Kármán, an early 20th-century rocket scientist: “…engineers create a world that has never before existed.” More than most professions, applied technologists create jobs and increase prosperity.

Lillie: IEEE’s mission is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. As IEEE members, we work together to accomplish this mission, creating new technologies and then sharing them with the world.

HOW WAS YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE AND WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A STUDENT?

Lillie: College was a lot of fun. I lived in a dorm while attending the University of Southwestern Louisiana [now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette]—which allowed me to become good friends with the students living there, participate together in activities, and study with them. I was involved in numerous campus activities even though I always held a part-time job. I also attended all the school’s sports events.

Day: Any of my classmates who read this would probably say that I was a classic nerd. I did enjoy some of my non-technical elective classes, though, including one in art history that led to a lifelong interest in art 
and artistic crafts.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLLEGE MEMORY?

lib

Day: Visiting the engineering library to talk to the librarian (I married her).

Lillie: Serving as the college of engineering’s representative on the student government association. The experience taught me a lot about listening to the views of others and the need to work toward shared accomplishments.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT?

Lillie: Home in Lafayette, La. I enjoy the time I spend with family and friends.

Day: Many of our vacations have been to visit family. Right now we’re looking forward to visiting our two oldest grandsons and their parents. As for travel destinations, I’m always happy to return to Japan, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and Australia.

FAVORITE THING TO DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

bowl

Day: Since I was young, I’ve liked working with wood. I’ve done some large projects, but over the past few years I’ve mostly focused on using a lathe to turn small objects, such as bowls, plates, and pens.

Lillie: Playing with my five grandchildren. My wife and I have a lot of fun with them. They are very creative and may even be future IEEE members.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE IEEE EVENT?

Lillie: I have always enjoyed the IEEE Honors ceremonies. We honor the best of the best and get to meet those who have contributed so much to the development of products that benefit humanity.

Day: The opportunity to work as a science adviser to a U.S. senator as an IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow provided lots of memorable experiences: learning how the legislative process works (or doesn’t); meeting the decision makers, including then-Senator Barack Obama; sitting on the Senate floor watching debates; crafting language that appeared in legislation or the Congressional Record; and many others.

WHAT LESSON HAVE YOU LEARNED THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PASS ON TO OTHERS?

Day: I tell young engineers and scientists that their professional success is not their employer’s responsibility but their own. It’s a much more important concept now than when I was young. Today’s technologists will hold many jobs. The extent to which they maintain and expand their skills will determine how well they succeed.

Lillie: Develop your nontechnical skills. Technical skills are important, but nontechnical skills can help you better utilize your technical capabilities.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC?

cow

Lillie: Country and Western.

orch

Day: My wife and I often attend classical concerts—orchestral, chamber, and choral—and our CD collection is mostly classical. While working at 
my computer, I frequently stream jazz or folk tunes from the 1960s and ’70s.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING MOMENT OR PROJECT OF YOUR CAREER?

NO

Lillie: Shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area [above], I was asked to return to BellSouth to assist in the restoration efforts. It was a very challenging time, especially knowing that so many families were depending on us to get their lives back together. Working as a team, we were able to make a difference.

Day: Perhaps it was the very first step, making the transition from a high school class of 50 (I don’t think any of us had ever met a practicing engineer) to a highly competitive university environment where there were over 30 000 students.

WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL, AND WHY?

Day: As I get older, I increasingly recognize the impact my father had on my life—the skills and attitudes he passed along. I often catch myself behaving as I think he would have. In a broader perspective, I’ve always admired Thomas Jefferson’s vision and eloquence, his interest in applying technology to everyday tasks, and his global view. I recommend visiting Monticello, his home in Virginia.

Lillie: My father. He taught me that the key to success was to respect others.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FEARS?

tabasco

Lillie: My greatest fear is having to eat a meal without Tabasco sauce.

puma

Day: The mountain lions (cougars) that have been turning up in my Boulder, Colo., neighborhood make me a little nervous. See: The Beast in the Garden, a book by David Baron.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

Day: “Make yourself indispensable,” said to me by my first boss, when I asked him about turning my then-temporary job into a permanent one.

Lillie: My parents always stressed the need for education, and over the years I have passed this on to others.

FAVORITE TV SHOW?

Lillie: “The Big Bang Theory.”

Day: I watch quite a bit of television news, mostly time-shifted. When channel-surfing, I tend to land on documentaries or sports events.

Photos from top: Barbara Colombo; Grant Oakes; Tor Lindqvist/iStockphoto; Apple; Jason Reekie/iStockphoto  Viorika Prikhodko/iStockphoto; Mario Tama/Getty Images; Eric Isselée/iStockphoto; Jean Schweitzer/iStockphoto; Malera Paso/iStockphoto; Brandy Sites/iStockphoto; Andrew Dunn

 

Learn More