Since its launch in 1973, the IEEE Foundation has raised more than US $135 million for more than 250 IEEE programs that improve access to technology, enhance technological literacy, and support education.
IEEE’s philanthropic partner is celebrating its 50th anniversary with several events that showcase the profound impact donors around the world have made. It also has introduced new ways to recognize its donors and has added a focus area where contributions will be directed.
“As the IEEE Foundation marks its 50-year anniversary, the global need for sustainable development, Internet access, STEM education and inspiring a new, diverse generation of technologists to take up such worthy endeavors has never been greater,” Ralph Ford, the Foundation’s president, said in a news release about the anniversary. “Generous donors and members are the lifeblood fueling the IEEE Foundation’s world-changing initiatives, which have positively impacted thousands of communities.”
Here is a look at some of the events and a number of the programs that have benefited from donors’ generosity.
Celebrating with tech pioneers
The celebrations kicked off in February with an event held at the Sheraton New York hotel in Times Square.
“Over the past 50 years, IEEE Foundation leaders, volunteers, and donors have impacted the lives of so many throughout the world,” John McDonald, chair of the 50th-anniversary celebration committee, said during his welcoming remarks. He and his wife have been donors for decades. “I have personally witnessed how these contributions have made a meaningful and lasting impact. I look forward to working with all of you to increase our impact, expand our network, and establish even more partnerships with IEEE members, volunteers, and philanthropists.”
“I look forward to partnering with the IEEE Foundation to make meaningful philanthropic investments that encourage comprehensive and intelligent ways of using technology to improve conditions for people around the world,” added Saifur Rahman, IEEE president. “As we continue these pursuits, we will create a larger spectrum of technological possibilities and continue to address global challenges.”
In one of the event highlights, actors posing as engineering pioneers Marie Curie, Thomas Alva Edison, Lewis Latimer, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse mingled with attendees and talked about how the technologists’ inventions changed the world.
Curie, Tesla, and Westinghouse made another appearance on 1 March during a virtual celebration hosted by McDonald, Rahman, and Ford.
“Generous donors and members are the lifeblood fueling the IEEE Foundation’s world-changing initiatives, which have positively impacted thousands of communities.”
Rahman and Tesla discussed IEEE Foundation–supported programs that have improved living conditions. “Contributing to IEEE and the IEEE Foundation extends our possibilities beyond our own beliefs and enhances people’s lives, both professionally and personally,” Rahman said.
Ford and Curie talked about the important contributions made by the Nobel laureate and other female engineers. Ford mentioned IEEE Women in Engineering and how the IEEE Foundation supports the program and funds its scholarships.
“We are inspiring girls around the world to follow their academic interests to careers in engineering, computer science, technology, and related technical fields,” Ford said. “We want to do more and take bold steps to help WIE members with families advance their careers, and to ensure women studying these fields find meaningful careers.”
Other celebratory events and activities are scheduled throughout the year, according to the Foundation’s executive director, Karen A. Galuchie.
The anniversary of the Foundation, which initially was established to accept and manage donations in support of the IEEE Awards Program, will be highlighted throughout the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit and Honors Ceremony, officials say.
During the IEEE Power & Energy Society General Meeting, the Foundation plans to feature the success of the PES Scholarship Plus Initiative and IEEE Smart Village and to host an estate-planning session for attendees.
The Foundation plans to continue its proud history of investing in IEEE’s grassroots leadership by sponsoring the IEEE Sections Congress in August. The Foundation is set to host a reception after the opening ceremony, lead sessions on philanthropy, and spotlight its 50-year history in an exhibit.
Thanks to donations made to the IEEE Smart Village program, IEEE Senior Member Chief Tunde Salihu [third from left] and his employees were able to install a microgrid at a medical facility in Illorin, Kwara, Nigeria. SHAYBIS NIGERIA LTD
New donor recognition programs
During the 1 March virtual event, Ford also announced that the Foundation had added six giving levels to the IEEE Heritage Circle, including one named in Curie’s honor. The cumulative-giving donor-recognition program has various giving levels named for innovators in the fields of science and technology. The Curie level honors members who give $150,000 to $249,999. The other five new levels reflect groundbreaking engineering work by women, people of color, and members of the LGBT+ community: Hertha Ayrton ($25,000 to $49,999), Jagadish Chandra Bose ($750,000 to $999,999), Edith Clarke ($5 million or more), Lewis Latimer ($75,000 to $99,999), and Alan Turing ($2.5 million to $4,999,999).
Another way the Foundation marked its anniversary was to add a fifth area, a pillar, to help guide the philanthropic focus. One example, known as the future pillar, will fund educational, inspirational, and foundational programs for upcoming generations, the Foundation said. The other four pillars are designated illuminate, educate, engage, and energize.
Supporting women and teaching STEM
Generous donors support these current programs:
- IEEE History Center. In 1979 the center was one of the earliest programs to partner with the newly established IEEE Foundation. The center, which was set up in preparation to celebrate IEEE’s centennial in 1984, preserves and promotes the history of technology, the engineering profession, and IEEE. Donations have funded oral histories of nearly 1,000 technology icons; more than 200 Milestones, which honor significant technical achievements worldwide; and more than 5,000 articles published on the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.
- IEEE Life Members Fund. This program, which predates the IEEE Foundation, was one of the first funds added to the Foundation in 1979. It supports lifetime members, as well as scholarships and fellowships for students.
- IEEE Women in Engineering. This global network is dedicated to promoting female engineers and scientists, and to inspiring girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM. WIE has 30,000 members, including men, in more than 100 countries and 950local groups worldwide.
- IEEE Try Engineering. This STEM outreach program is designed to empower the next generation of technology innovators. Donations support the IEEE TryEngineering portal, which provides educators and students with free resources, 135 lesson plans, and STEM-centered hands-on activities. More than 562,000 people use the portal each year.
- IEEE Smart Village.ISV supports business-development projects that integrate renewable energy, educational opportunities, and entrepreneurship development to empower energy-impoverished communities around the world. With nearly 200 projects established across sub-Saharan Africa, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, the program has benefited more than 1.4 million people.
- IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu.This honor society has received Foundation support since it merged with IEEE in 2010. More than 200,000 electrical engineers, computer engineers, computer scientists, and other professionals and students in allied fields are members. It has more than 250 student and alumni chapters in 29 countries.
- IEEE SIGHT.Members of the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology partner with communities to share ideas, gain experiences, and implement technology projects to tackle local problems. The initiative has 18,000 members from more than 130 countries.
“Technology has and will continue to benefit humanity, and this is the mission IEEE embraces,” Rahman said in a news release about the anniversary. “Making our world more equitable, sustainable, and resilient is critical for every community.
“The five decades of generous support from donors … have been invaluable to under-resourced communities globally.”
This article appears in the September 2023 print issue.
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Kathy Pretz is editor in chief for The Institute, which covers all aspects of IEEE, its members, and the technology they're involved in. She has a bachelor's degree in applied communication from Rider University, in Lawrenceville, N.J., and holds a master's degree in corporate and public communication from Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, N.J.