In Memoriam: August 2009

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

6 August 2009

Electronics engineer
Member, 55; died 5 May

Gregory James Nesbo devoted his career to software testing and electronics engineering.

Nesbo served as a medic in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. After being discharged, he held various positions over the years, including working as a sound engineer. He switched to software testing, which he did from 1995 to 1998 for Microsoft, in Seattle. He left to join Siemens Healthcare, also in Seattle, where he was a biomedical engineer until 2001. Nesbo went on to become an electronics engineering consultant at Alpha-Omega, in Seattle, where he worked until his death. He died of respiratory failure and complications from diabetes.

Nesbo was a member of the IEEE Computer Society, as well as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society.

He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1995 from Montana State University-Northern, in Havre. Nesbo was also a certified electronics technician.


Professor, inventor
Life Fellow, 91; died 10 May

Otto J.M. Smith was an educator and inventor.

He spent most of his career as a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the school in 1947 and worked there until his death. He was named professor emeritus in 1988. Before going to UC Berkeley, Smith was a research assistant from 1938 to 1941 at the H.J. Ryan High-Voltage Laboratory at Stanford. He then worked as a test engineer at Doble Engineering Co. and as an instructor of electrical engineering at Tufts University, both in Medford, Mass. He gave up both positions in 1943 to become an assistant professor of microwaves and automatic control at the University of Denver. In 1944, he began working as a research engineer for two companies: Westinghouse Research Laboratories, in Forest Hill, Pa., and Summit Corp., in Scranton, Pa. He left in 1947 to go to UC Berkeley. Through the years, Smith also served as a consultant to hundreds of companies and several governments.

In 1957, he invented the “Smith predictor,” a type of predictive controller for systems with pure time delay.

Smith was a member of IEEE’s Control Systems, Engineering in Medicine and Biology, and Power & Energy societies.

He earned two bachelor’s degrees in 1938, one in electrical engineering, from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, and one in chemistry, from Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater. He also received a doctorate in power and high voltage from Stanford in 1941.


Department head, professor
Life Fellow, 85; died 14 May

Lawrence J. Varnerin spent his career as an electrical engineer working in industry and academia.

He started out at AT&T Bell Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J., where he remained for 30 years. Varnerin left to become a professor and head of the department of electrical engineering and computer science at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa. He retired in 1991 and was named professor emeritus of electrical engineering.

Varnerin was a member of the IEEE Electron Devices Society and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947 and a doctorate in 1949, both in physics, from MIT.


Professor, activist for underrepresented engineers
Life Member, 81; died 17 May

During her career, Betty Preece logged a number of firsts for women engineers.

She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, earning a bachelor’s in 1947. In 1950, she became the first female engineer at the Surveillance Systems section of the Air Force Missile Test Center at Patrick Air Force Base, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where she worked as project engineer.

Preece joined the Florida Institute of Technology, in Melbourne, in 1965, as an adjunct professor of graphic science. In 1972, she became a physics teacher at Melbourne High School, and she retired from there in 1990. Preece spent much of her time there encouraging female, minority, and disabled students to study engineering and science.

She was a member of the IEEE Women in Engineering group.

Preece earned a master’s degree in science education in 1974 from the Florida Institute of Technology.


EE consultant
Life Senior Member, 75; died 28 May

John Rederick Woodmansey was the founder of an engineering consulting company.

He began his career as a project engineer at Amco Electric, headquartered in Everett, Wash., for which he worked throughout the United States. He left to become a principal electrical engineer and partner at the consulting firm Associated Engineers, in Billings, Mont. In 1985, Woodmansey founded Electrical Consultants, also in Billings, which provides consulting services for electric utilities.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1957 from Montana State University, in Billings.


Utilities engineer
Life Fellow, 97; died 2 June

Anthony J. Pansini was an electric utilities expert and developed emergency procedures that are still used today.

He began working in 1926 for Consolidated Edison of New York and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1931 from The Cooper Union, in New York City. In 1941, he joined the Long Island Lighting Company, in New York City, and held various management positions, overseeing areas such as distribution engineering, construction, and maintenance. He retired in 1971 and went on to work as an engineering consultant to electric utilities in Mexico and the United States.

Throughout his career, Pansini used his engineering experience to help out in crises. Following a blackout in Manhattan in 1938, Pansini analyzed causes, recommended changes, and developed a procedure for starting up low-voltage networks. The basics of this procedure are still in use today. The emergency restoration procedures he developed after a hurricane hit Long Island in 1944 are also still used today. He also originated a plan to dam Long Island Sound and other bodies of water for potable water.

Pansini was a member of IEEE’s Oceanic Engineering and Power & Energy societies.

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