In Memoriam: May 2015

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

26 May 2015

Lawrence Leonard Borden

Electrical engineer

Life Member, 97; died 1 November

Borden was an electrical engineer at General Electric. He joined the company’s Schenectady, N.Y., facility in 1943 and transferred in 1958 to Pittsfield, Mass. Borden worked in GE’s Naval Ordinance Division from 1958 until he retired in 1979.

Borden volunteered at Pittsfield’s St. Joseph Soup Kitchen as well as for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for people in need. He enjoyed traveling, hiking, photography, skiing, and sailing.

Borden earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Washington State College (now Washington State University), in Pullman.


Lawrence K. Saunders

Computer consultant

Member, 72; died 21 November

Saunders was a consultant for Nete Solutions, an IT management firm, in McLean, Va.

He began his career at U.S. Steel Corp.’s Sparrows Point Plant, in Bethlehem, Pa., where he designed the computer system for the plant’s basic oxygen furnace. Saunders was later promoted to lead control engineer in charge of development at other plant facilities.

In 1986 Saunders left to join Digital Equipment Corp., a computer manufacturer (now defunct) in Washington, D.C. He also wrote curricula and taught for Project Masters, a management consultant, in Columbia, Md. Saunders left Digital Equipment in 2007 and joined Nete Solutions. He was working part-time for Nete when he died.

Saunders was a member of the Woodbrook Players, a theatrical group affiliated with the Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church, in Baltimore. Recently he managed the light and sound for the musical “Man of La Mancha.”

He was a member of the IEEE Industry Applications Society.

Saunders received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University, also in Baltimore.


Robert Joseph Domenico

Computer engineer

Life Member, 88; died 21 January

Domenico was a computer engineer at IBM.

In 1951 he joined the Advanced Computing Team at the company’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y., facility. He transferred in 1965 to San Jose, Calif., where he helped develop IBM’s System 360 mainframe computer. The coinventor of a thin-film decoupling capacitor, Domenico was also a consultant and a venture capitalist. He retired in 2000.

Domenico received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, in New York.


Walter J. Sarjeant

Professor of energy systems

Fellow, 70; died 2 April

Sarjeant was a professor and director of the Energy Systems Institute at the University of Buffalo, in New York.

He was a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1978 to 1981 before leaving to join the university. There, he developed and received a patent for the fastest high-voltage probe in existence.

He was also a scientific advisor to IBM, the U.S. military, and the National Academy of Sciences, in Washington, D.C.  In 1991 he was named to the standing committee for the Space Station Freedom Project, a NASA project to build a permanently manned Earth-orbiting space station, which evolved into the International Space Station.

Sarjeant was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1989 for “contributions to high-voltage pulsed power systems and devices.”

He earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Western Ontario in 1966, 1967, and 1971.


Joel S. Spira

Inventor of the lighting dimmer switch for the home

Life Member, 88; died 8 April

Spira was founder and chairman of Lutron Electronics, in Coopersburg, Pa. The company sells the light dimmer switch he invented and other lighting control systems.

At the age of 18 and with World War II under way, he put his studies on hold at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., and enlisted in the Navy. Spira was recruited to work on a secret project that used radar to detect enemy troops. The project exposed him to electronics and designing large, complex systems. It also introduced him to technologies that Lutron would later use in its motion-sensing light switches.

Following the war, Spira returned to Purdue and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics. He then worked for various companies on defense projects, including guided missiles and nuclear war planning.

Spira got the idea for his dimmer switch while working on a fuse mechanism for atomic bombs. He worked with semiconductors to control large amounts of energy. As a photographer fascinated with light manipulation, he wondered if he could design a similar product to control lights. Previous dimmers were large and expensive, limiting their use mostly to businesses instead of the home. They dimmed lights by absorbing energy, which generated a lot of heat. Spira developed a switch that interrupted the energy flowing to the lights. The result was a smaller switch that not only used less energy but fit in a standard wall box.

 In 1961 he founded Lutron in Allentown, Pa. The company relocated to Cooperstown in 1970 and became a leader in lighting controls.

Spira was elevated to Fellow in 2012 for “leadership in developing and commercializing light control technologies.” He was a member of the IEEE Industrial Electronics and Professional Communication societies.

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