Remembering H. Kalyanasundaram

He was an active volunteer with the IEEE Madras and Bombay sections in India

22 January 2014

H. Kalyanasundaram (known as HK to his IEEE colleagues) was unique. As R. Muralidharan, past chair of the IEEE India Council and a dear friend of HK put it, “No single tribute can bring out who HK was in reality.”

When HK passed away on 5 November 2013, more than half of his 92 years had been spent as a volunteer and champion for IEEE. Tributes poured in from IEEE’s Operations Center in Piscataway, N.J., and from members of the IEEE India Council. Everyone recalled his passion for all things IEEE—especially membership development and the interests of IEEE student members. HK’s active role in nurturing student branches is legendary, especially during his years volunteering with the IEEE Madras (India) Section.  

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The IEEE Bombay Section in India had much to learn from HK once he and his family moved to Bombay from Chennai, India, which is in Madras state, around 2000. Not one to retire, HK served as past chair of the Madras Section and became active in his new section. And he continued to closely monitor the progress of IEEE in India and around the world.

When he served on the IEEE Bombay Section’s Executive Committee, he regularly asked for updates on student branch progress, advising the section to disseminate official communications on branch formations and the like. I’ll never forget how he would remind us of Robert’s Rules of Order [the recognized guide for running meetings]. I, for one, learned from HK how to interpret various IEEE reports and make the best use of SAMIEEE [a Web-based query tool that provides volunteers access to member data]. He also taught me how to discern the “health” of units by examining reports on their growth.

A visitor to Piscataway on more than one occasion, HK was on a first-name basis with many of the staff members in Piscataway, including Laura Durrett, former manager of Member and Geographic Activities (MGA) Student Services. He also spoke often of former IEEE staffer Bill Hunter, who worked in membership marketing and recruitment. Staff members regularly provided him with his voluminous store of hard-copy statistics, years before the Internet offered information and analytics at the click of a button. In his later years he put together an authoritative monograph on IEEE’s presence in India, which he presented to 2005 IEEE President W. Cleon Anderson when he visited Mumbai in January 2008. That work is still a classic.

For his contributions to IEEE, HK was one of four recipients of the 2001 Region 10 Outstanding Volunteer Award. He received several other awards from IEEE, including the 1988 Regional Activities Board (now MGA) Larry K. Wilson Transnational Award, the IEEE India Council Distinguished Volunteer Award in December 2000, and the IEEE Millennium Medal, presented in 2000.

For an in-depth portrait of HK, no one would be better than his own son, K. Muthukrishnan, to share a very personal and poignant account, excerpted below.

HK joined and retired from a single company, Best and Crompton Engineering, in Chennai. The company appreciated his efforts and made mention of his achievements in a 1969 company bulletin. He was not only involved at his place of work but also had a rich professional and social life. HK was a Fellow of several societies, including the India Institution of Engineers, a Life Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of the India’s National Institute of Quality and Reliability.

He also had a soft spot toward the poor and suffering. He was a member of the Lions Club of Madras East, a volunteer organization that works with a number of community projects, including feeding the hungry and caring for senior citizens.  HK served at several levels of the organization, including president of the Madras East chapter.

 He strongly believed and would often say, “We should be part of the change we want to see.” 

Anthony Lobo is vice chair of the IEEE Bombay Section.

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