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Oral-History:James Thomas Cain

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About James Thomas Cain

James Thomas Cain was born and raised in Pittsburgh and grew up with an interest in electronics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for undergraduate and graduate study, working summers at Bell of Pennsylvania and Westinghouse, and writing his dissertation on control systems. After graduating with his doctorate, the University of Pittsburgh offered Cain a position on their faculty, a position he held throughout his career teaching a wide variety of topics, and is currently a professor emeritus. Cain’s involvement in the IEEE began in his student days when he joined the AIEE and IRE student branches. He became involved with the Computer Society and later the larger Institute on issues such as education and international status. Cain was involved in various groups and committees like the IEEE Educational Activities Board, First Vice President of the Computer Society, Division Director, Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Cain served as IEEE President in 1995, and was later on the Nominations and Appointments Committee, Awards Board, and is still on the Computer Society’s Editorial Board.

In this interview Cain discusses his career as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, but the majority is about his involvement in the IEEE. Beginning with his work in the AIEE and IRE student branches, Cain chronicles his many activities in societies and the larger Institute. He discusses his involvement in education, from his early work with instructional materials, model curriculums and later accreditation and CSAB, an accrediting body, in the 1980s. Cain talks about the many committees and positions he held, and the various issues each body encountered. His term as President in 1995 is covered in detail, including his campaigning and later work as President. He also talks about his work with publications in the Computer Society, and the role of societies like the Computer Society in the IEEE. Cain also discusses various colleagues at the IEEE such as Phyllis Hall, Dick Schwartz, Eric Herz, Troy Nagle and Wally Read.

About the Interview

JAMES THOMAS CAIN: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 15 October 2009

Interview #520 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

James Thomas Cain, an oral history conducted in 2009 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: James Thomas Cain

Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser

Date: 15 October 2009

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Education and Joining IEEE

Hochheiser:

This is the 15th of October, 2009. This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center. I am here at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh with Tom Cain, past president of IEEE.

Cain:

Good afternoon.

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Good afternoon, sir.

Cain:

Good afternoon. Welcome to Pittsburgh and the University.

Hochheiser:

Oh, thank you. I’m delighted to be here. So if we could start with a little background. Where were you born and raised?

Cain:

Born and raised here in Pittsburgh. Born in Mercy Hospital just a little bit down the road, and have been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh with the exception of what we talked about at lunch, my brief stay at Bell Telephone Laboratories, and two different periods as a visiting professor at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany.

Hochheiser:

What did your parents do?

Cain:

My mother, as most mothers at that time, was a stay-at-home mom, and took care of us. My father spent a fair number of years as a salesman and district manager in the food industry, and finished out his career as supervisor of food procurement for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Hochheiser:

Were you interested in technology and science as a youth?

Cain:

Yes, from very, very early I was interested in it. I mean even starting out with things like Erector Sets and that type of thing. Moved on to—got interested in electronics. Read a lot, and built my own crystal set radio, and eventually before actually finishing high school, built a simple vacuum tube radio. Was always interested in math, science, etcetera, but was also interested in languages, and actually considered studying linguistics, as well as engineering.

Hochheiser:

Did you consider anyplace other than the University of Pittsburgh for your college education?

Cain:

Yes. My first choice growing up, I guess, as a Catholic was to go to Notre Dame. They did offer me a part scholarship, but Pitt offered me for at least the first year a full scholarship, and I was working part time at Carnegie Library here in Oakland to work my way through it, so straight economics had me come here to the University of Pittsburgh.

Hochheiser:

Well, at least you had a good school down the street to go to. [Laughter]

Cain:

Exactly.

Hochheiser:

Which isn’t something that everyone has.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Did you come here with a specific plan of education in mind? Particular subjects?

Cain:

I was very much interested in electronics, so very much with the intention of studying electrical engineering.

Hochheiser:

What was your undergraduate curriculum and training like here?

Cain:

I think I got an excellent education in electrical engineering. Happened to be going through electrical engineering when there was a transition from the vacuum tube to the transistor, so I have lived through the integrated circuit age. That is for sure.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] And probably one of the last groups to have studied the vacuum tube.

Cain:

Oh yes. I think the class behind me, in fact, was the first one that essentially only studied the transistor.

Hochheiser:

Yeah. My transition--being just enough later I was one of the very last people to use a slide rule.

Cain:

Okay. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] Did you join IEEE or one of its predecessors while you were a student?

Cain:

Oh yes, I joined—I think I joined both the AIEE and the IRE in 1962, and of course by 1963 I was only a member of a single society called the IEEE.

Hochheiser:

Were you active in the student branch here?

Cain:

Yes, from the time I joined I was active in that, and got my volunteer career started. I was the chairman of the student branch when I was a senior, and was also president of the Eta Kappa Nu chapter, so got my introduction to volunteer work pretty early.

Hochheiser:

What did being [in] the student branch chapter involve?

Cain:

At the student branch chapter here at the University, there’s a weekly seminar for each of the engineering disciplines, but for electrical engineering in particular, and it was our responsibility to arrange the program and any other activities that were associated with it.

Hochheiser:

How large and active was the student branch? Just a ballpark figure will do.

Cain:

Ballpark? There probably were 400 students, and from junior year on, a vast majority of the students were members.

Hochheiser:

Looking back, how would you say that contributed to your education, the IEEE student branch activities?

Cain:

Oh, I think very much. For the non-technical stuff as well. I certainly got an introduction to developing leadership skills, and honing my communication skills, if you will. Because, as we were discussing at lunch, you can have the best ideas in the world, but you have to be able to communicate them, and certainly that played a significant role in that part of my development.

Hochheiser:

What led you to proceed directly from finishing your undergraduate degree into graduate school here?

Cain:

By the time I finished, I was convinced that I wanted to go into academia and be a professor. I got my first taste of teaching. We had transfer students come in who had not been introduced to programming at that time, and as president of the Eta Kappa Nu chapter, I organized, and we taught programming to these people on Saturdays, I think it was, over a five-week period or something like that. Once I did that I thought that was pretty neat and I’m going to try graduate school. I finished undergraduate school in December, so it wasn’t convenient to try and go elsewhere, and it was convenient to go straight here in the graduate school. At that time I thought, oh, I’ll get my master’s and then probably go elsewhere, but one thing led to another and here I am.

Hochheiser:

Did you remain active in IEEE while you were a graduate student?

Cain:

Yes, I was active in the Pittsburgh Section. I chaired the SMC Chapter at one time, and the—

Hochheiser:

SMC?

Cain:

Systems, Man, Cybernetics Society Chapter, and the Computer Society Chapter at a different point in time, and then participated in the Pittsburgh Section too.

Hochheiser:

What was the relationship between the chapters, the Pittsburgh chapters of those two societies and the overall section?

Cain:

Probably typical of the other ones, that the monthly program for the Pittsburgh Section, at least at that time, was given to be the responsibility of one of the chapters, so that there was a variety of topics brought to the membership, and then there were certain meetings, certain meetings in certain months that the officers of the section itself organized the program.

Hochheiser:

Mm-hmm. Who were the key professors that you studied with in your career as a student here?

Cain:

Okay. One is still one of my colleagues, or since I’m now emeritus, technically ex-colleagues, is Professor Mickle, who’s been a professor here. He was my co-advisor for my PhD, and we did a lot of work together during my years here. He has more longevity than I have. He’s still here, and here I am emeritus professor.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] Any others?

Cain:

Let’s see, Professor Sze was a professor here then, served as associate dean for research and whatnot. He was a significant mentor going through. Professor Vogt who’s now also retired, he was my co-advisor for the PhD. Those, I think, were probably the big three anyway that really were my closest mentors.

Hochheiser:

Mm-hmm. What was your dissertation subject?

Cain:

Control systems. Essentially fuel optimal control for systems. Been a long time since I addressed that topic.

Hochheiser:

I suspect that’s true for most people. [Laughter] That’s certainly true for mine. And I noted that while you were a graduate student you held several summer jobs elsewhere?

Cain:

Yes. Let’s see, even after my junior year I worked for the summer for what at that time was Bell of Pennsylvania, the forerunner of Verizon.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

I graduated in December, so in April of that year, after one semester as a graduate student I worked for Bell Labs in Holmdel. I worked summers and actually consulted one day a week for Westinghouse Electric Corporation while I was in graduate school.

Hochheiser:

Was there a relation between the work you did in these jobs and your studies?

Cain:

Yeah. Certainly Bell Telephone Company was the old crossbars and panel-switching units, and step-by-step switching units, but certainly that was state-of-the-art at that time. At Bell Labs I worked in the group that was designing and implementing the Number 2 ESS unit, the second one to go into operation.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

Westinghouse, it was process control type of thing, so.

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] So it fit nicely in with the subjects?

Cain:

[Interposing] In with each of those, yeah.

Hochheiser:

That you were studying. Anything else about your student days before we move on?

Cain:

No, I don’t think so. I continued to be active in, as we already discussed, the Pittsburgh Section of the IEEE.

University of Pittsburgh Faculty Member

Hochheiser:

How did you manage to go directly from being a graduate student here to being a member of the faculty?

Cain:

Well, actually, with the growth in—essentially still the continued growth in the post-Sputnik era, by the time I finished my master’s degree, things had grown to the point that they couldn’t grow the faculty fast enough, and I actually switched to teaching full time as an assistant instructor when I was working in the final stages of my PhD. And much to my surprise, they offered me a position, tenure-stream position as an assistant professor when I finished up. Lots of times institutions don’t want to hire their own graduates, but I felt good in that they made an exception and offered me the position.

Hochheiser:

And you accepted and—

Cain:

I accepted, and have been here ever since, except for the 1974-75 academic year I think it was, I took a leave of absence from here. Westinghouse Nuclear Systems at that time were in critical stages, and of course at that time, industry was afraid of being accused of robbing faculty, so I wasn’t a Westinghouse employee, but I was a full time consultant for Westinghouse for a year, doing some developments with their nuclear units.

Hochheiser:

What subjects did you teach when you joined the faculty?

Cain:

Oh boy, I’ve done everything I guess. Digital systems, computer organization, computer architecture, software engineering, circuits, control, senior design type of things, pretty much a broad spectrum. I’d have to cheat and go look to get a full listing of—

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] I think that the answer is a broad spectrum of things across the discipline.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Rather than focus on a fairly narrow subject. .

Cain:

Yes, as I say, I have varied. I’ve [taught] control systems, power systems, computer-oriented stuff, depends on what was most interesting at the time. Literally, that is what I did.

Hochheiser:

And would a similar sort of breadth characterize the research you’ve done over the years?

Cain:

Yes. If you look through that vitae I gave you, there’s a wide variety of funding sources and topics that were in there.

Involvement in Computer Society

Hochheiser:

What led you to a broader level of involvement with the Computer Society, going from the Pittsburgh Chapter to more national things?

Cain:

Well, as I said, I had been an officer in the student branch chapter.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

I started out in the Systems, Man, and Cybernetics AdCom for a while. Then myself and a colleague had a contract, an NSF contract to, with the introduction of the microprocessor, develop some instructional materials, and that got me—I think it was somebody in the Computer Society, they were working on a model curriculum project, and I got involved in that, and never left. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Cain:

Same as with the other thing, you say I’ve held a variety of positions in the Computer Society as well as the Institute itself.

Hochheiser:

So your first involvement was dealing with the model curriculum?

Cain:

Model curriculum, yes.

Hochheiser:

So what was this, a group of—?

Cain:

A group of volunteers, a committee of the Educational Activities Board of the Computer Society. We undertook to come up with…At that time computer engineering was a relatively new discipline, and when we looked at what various universities around the country and around the world were offering in computer engineering, we thought, well, let’s take advantage of the expertise that exists within the Computer Society of the IEEE and see what recommendations we can come up with in the way of what would constitute good material for a curriculum. Not to be saying this is the curriculum and the only curriculum that exists, but here are building blocks for it. That was in ’74 I think, that project started. I’ve been involved, or was involved in two subsequent model curriculum things, and one update—don’t hold me on the dates. I think the early eighties, and the last one that I was involved with was from the late eighties into the early nineties. The Computer Society has continued that. I haven’t been involved in the recent ones.

Hochheiser:

That was your first—

Cain:

First position in the Computer Society at large, if you will, or at the international level.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Cain:

Institute level.

Computer Science Education Activities

Hochheiser:

Right. And then where did that lead you as far as IEEE activities?

Cain:

I held a variety of positions within the Computer Society and that led me to the interface into the activities at the Institute level. I believe my first real activity at the Institute level was with the IEEE Educational Activities Board.

Hochheiser:

Okay. Let’s talk about how you got there. I’m looking at your CV, [and] I noticed that in ’84 you became the vice president for education in the Computer Society.

Cain:

Right.

Hochheiser:

So I guess how did you get to that position?

Cain:

Oh, just with things like the model curriculum activities, and a variety of activities. And ’84 you said? That sounds about right.

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Well, I just pulled that off your CV.

Cain:

You have the advantage of having looked at the CV.

Hochheiser:

I asked for it.

Cain:

I was vice president of that for a couple—or vice-chair first, and then vice president. It was when I was vice chair that I got involved in the joint ACM/IEEE Computer Society task force to look at—I had helped come up with the criteria for computer engineering accreditation within ABET but there certainly were a lot of computer science programs around the country and around the world. ABET didn’t have accreditation of computer science in its program, and nobody did. So the two organizations put together this task force that I chaired, and eventually we came to the conclusion yes, accreditation would be of benefit. We came up with a set of criteria and interacted with as much of the profession - academia and industry - as possible. And it was by 1984 that we came to the conclusion yes, there should be an accrediting body. At that point ABET—I joke that some members of ABET weren’t sure that electrical engineering was real, let alone computer engineering, let alone computer science. So the only choice was to try and develop a separate organization, and we put together what became known as the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board or CSAB. We accredited our first programs in the ’84-’85 cycle, I believe, and certainly it—I went on and did serve as vice president and president of CSAB itself.

Eventually CSAB merged with ABET, and what was the Computer Science Accreditation Commission of CSAB became the new Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. And ABET really changed its name, kept ABET as its title but said ABET was the accrediting body for applied sciences, computing, engineering, and technology. I was certainly very happy with my involvement in that activity. Certainly it wasn’t just me; there were an awful lot of other volunteers. I led the effort, but an awful lot of other volunteers led to the creation of CSAB, and I think we had a significant impact on the computing profession, the academic stuff, and preparing graduates so that they are ready to enter the computing profession. After the merger Computer engineering is accredited under the Engineering Accreditation Commission, computer science, information science, and now information technology are accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, and I think it has served the profession well, and served the students and the graduates well.

Hochheiser:

How did this lead to your becoming the chair and then vice president of education? Is that an appointed or an elected position?

Cain:

Well, when we started the effort, the late Taylor Booth of the University of Connecticut was the vice president for education for the Computer Society. He and I had worked together on a number of different things, and he asked me to serve as his vice chair, and then we came to the conclusion that yes, we needed to explore whether or not accreditation of computer science programs was a wise idea. He asked me to head the effort. In order to gain the confidence of all the computer science programs, we thought it was best to see if ACM was interested in pursuing the idea also, and they were. I ended up, as I said, chairing the joint task force. Taylor stepped down; the Computer Society has had a history, you serve in any position, vice presidential position anyway, for two years at most. When he stepped down, I was elected, appointed, I guess it was. I forget how the Computer Society worked at that time, but I was appointed as his successor as the Society’s vice president of education.

Hochheiser:

Were there other issues besides the accreditation issue that you worked on as vice president for education for Computer Society?

Cain:

Right about the same time there was another one of the model curriculum efforts, and I participated in that also. It overlapped with when I was VP, but I don’t remember the exact dates.

IEEE Educational Activities Board

Hochheiser:

Am I correct that being vice president of educational activities for the Computer Society put you on the IEEE EAB ?

Cain:

No, that was a separate position. The Educational Activities Board of the Institute, the IEEE EAB didn’t have a bylaws position for somebody from the Computer Society, but because of the activities that were ongoing I was invited to participate and then became a member of the IEEE EAB.

Hochheiser:

Do you recall any particular issues that were facing the Institute’s EAB in the mid-eighties when you were on that board?

Cain:

They were interested in the model curriculum activities that were going on. At that time, they decided that certainly electrical engineering was well enough established that they didn’t have to do it, but they appreciated what we had done. A big effort of the Institute EAB was accreditation. The Institute was a critical player, and is a critical player in ABET. A good part of their activities centered around that. There were committees to essentially interface with that; the IEEE was one of the first member societies of ABET that had their own training program for volunteers from the Institute that were going to be program evaluators. So it consumed a fair amount of the resources of the Institute EAB as well as the time.

Hochheiser:

Was this your first exposure to overall international Institute activities?

Cain:

At the Institute level, yes. But because the Computer Society being part of the Institute, I had been involved in international activities. I can remember being invited to give presentations down in Australia and whatnot, because model curricula was of interest anywhere, and for that matter accreditation anywhere was of interest to the Society and the Institute as well as organizations in different countries.

Society Vice President and Acting President

Hochheiser:

Is there any way you can characterize the relationship in this period between the IEEE Computer Society and the overall Institute?

Cain:

Probably not any different than any of the other societies or technical councils, particularly at that time. I mean, yes, the Computer Society then as it is now, was the largest of the societies— it started a little bit before I became involved —were the first to develop their own staff.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

That eventually grew into a sizeable staff. I think they probably peaked at about 100 staff members. So in that sense, a lot of societies now have their own staff, but I don’t think any have a staff approaching that size.

Hochheiser:

The Computer Society’s by such a large margin the largest of 38 societies.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

The next question I have: in 1986 you became first vice president and vice president for publications of the Computer Society?

Cain:

Yes. They have, or did have, I’m not sure now, six vice presidents. Two of them were elected by the populace at large. The first vice president and the second vice president, and then they assumed a portfolio. That year I assumed the publications portfolio. Then the board of governors of the Society elected and hence appointed the remaining four vice presidents to the other positions.

Hochheiser:

If this was an elected position, was it a contested election?

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So therefore, you needed to decide to run.

Cain:

I was asked and it seemed to be okay.

Hochheiser:

So the Board of Governors of the Society asked you to run?

Cain:

They have a nominating committee that—

Hochheiser:

So you were asked by the nominating committee.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Now, did you need to do any campaigning for the contested election? Or how does one campaign for an office like this, if at all?

Cain:

[Laughter] I think that the total campaigning amounted to—I think we were limited to a 150 word statement, and, I don’t know, a hundred word bio or something like that that went in the brochure that went out with the ballot. That was pretty much the extent of the campaigning.

Hochheiser:

And what were your responsibilities as vice president for publications?

Cain:

Well, the Computer Society had been the first one to develop a magazine versus a transactions. The Publications Board, and the VP of publications was the chair of that board, was responsible for all of the publications of the Society at that time, which did include, I think there were four transactions at that time, and three magazines, Computer Magazine was the first one in the Institute, so we were responsible for that. And like with IEEE Press, they had a Computer Society Press that went after books and similar type of publications.

Hochheiser:

Were there any particular issues or problems?

Cain:

[Interposing] Not problems, but it was an interesting time. Now we’re in the mid-eighties, the PC had become more than a nice oddity type of thing.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

And the first of the programs that could put together a document came on board. And I pushed and got the Publications Board to go along, and then the Board of Governors, and—as an experiment we decided to prepare Computer Magazine completely for publication with the tools that were available in the PCs at that time. That was the first one in the Institute, and naturally very quickly spread to the rest of the publications of the Society, and very quickly to the Institute at large. Still when telling of my time as VP of publications for the—no, that was—I’m sorry, I was jumping ahead. I was going to talk about my time as VP for publications at the Institute, but let’s finish out your questions on—

Acting President of Computer Society

Hochheiser:

Okay. Well, I noticed that, I guess as a result of being first vice president you were acting president of the Computer Society?

Cain:

Yeah. Roy Russo was the president at the time, and ended up having to have heart surgery. So I got to do double duty. First vice president and then acting president. It was certainly an interesting time.

Hochheiser:

It was.

Cain:

[Laughter] Well, just, the demands to try and do both. I actually turned over most of the vice president duties to another volunteer. But there just seemed to be a lot of issues, a lot of staff turnover and whatnot during that four-month interval. To the point that after that was over, they asked me if I would be a candidate for president of the Society, and I decided I didn’t think I could possibly do it. So I turned them down. But continued volunteer activities.

Hochheiser:

But not that.

Cain:

Not that way.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] So the biggest problems during that period were…?

Cain:

Yes. There were the continual demands for, and opportunities for expanded publications and whatnot. That type of thing. But it just seemed that during that four-month interval, there were budget crunches and staffing turnover that took a lot of my time, yeah. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

Did that also, as acting president, did that also put you on—

Cain:

TAB, Yes. But by that time there was only one meeting left. The Board of Directors at that time met four times a year, but by the time I got appointed it was down to just the one.

Hochheiser:

Did you attend that one meeting?

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Have any recollections of it? I guess that must’ve been your first Institute board meeting.

Cain:

Yes, and I don’t remember any of the details of that one. It might be jumping ahead in your notes, I don’t know, but—

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Well that’s okay, it’s not necessary to be exactly linear.

Cain:

Okay. Well, as I said, I decided that I couldn’t be—didn’t want to be a candidate for president of the Society. Roy Russo went on and was elected as a division director to the IEEE Board of Directors, and in 1990 he ran into heart trouble again, and the board of directors, I guess it probably was the assembly, had a special election and Oscar Garcia and I were the candidates to be his official stand-in for the division director slot. They elected me. It started me on the path to where I eventually ended up as president of the Institute.

Hochheiser:

Backing up, now, after your four months as acting president, then you reverted to becoming vice president of pubs at the Computer Society again.

Cain:

Right.

Hochheiser:

Were you back then also on the EAB?

Cain:

I think I used to sit in on the meetings. I wasn’t an official candidate. Pretty much in parallel with that period CSAB had started, and I think during that same interval that you’re talking about, I was president of CSAB or the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, and between the two positions it kept me out of trouble. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

But of course alongside that you also had your teaching responsibilities.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

And your research activities.

Cain:

Yes. As I say, it kept me off the streets, and out of trouble. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

Okay. Did these various pieces fit together?

Cain:

Yes. I think the—certainly the interaction with the other professionals in the Institute and within the Society certainly helped in a lot of the educational and/or research activities that I was going through.

Division Director, Board Member and Publications

Hochheiser:

Okay. So now we can go back to 1990 when you become the division director.

Cain:

Okay.

Hochheiser:

Okay. So now you’re a division director. You’re on the Institute board.

Hochheiser:

Right. I guess I’m a little confused, so since Dr. Russo had to step down, the assembly nominated you and Oscar Garcia?

Cain:

I think actually the board of directors was able to—had an election between the two of us, that was it, and on the board election I, quote, won and was appointed division director. In order to be the delegate to the assembly at that time, I had to be essentially seconded or approved by the membership at large, so they—

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Right.

Cain:

—in conjunction with the normal election at that time, they had a ballot that the membership approved me to be a member of the assembly also.

Hochheiser:

That’s why we got confused because I knew you can only be on the assembly if you’re elected by the membership.

Cain:

Right.

Hochheiser:

Thank you for straightening that out.

Cain:

Okay.

Hochheiser:

So now you’re a member of the Institute Board.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

What were the issues facing the board at the beginning of the nineties?

Cain:

They were worried about publications, that type of thing, and since I had that background, I did then stand for election and was elected in the regular fashion to the Board for the next two-year term. And publications were growing, and lots of questions about how proceeds should be divided up, and that type of thing. So the assembly in 1990—I forget which year, but I was elected the VP of publications for the Institute. And probably the primary issue at the time was that negotiations had started between what was the IEE in the UK at that time, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the IEEE, and University Microfilms Incorporated to come up with what turned out to be really the predecessor of Xplore, but it was going to be a CD-based system at that time.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Cain:

But they couldn’t come to an agreement. It was hung up. Somebody, and it was a previous staff member of the Institute, had proposed that University Microfilms Incorporated get 50% of the proceeds and that the IEE and the IEEE split the remaining on a 25/25 basis. And it was a deadlock, and I managed to get the language in the agreement changed. In the agreement that had been drawn up at that time, there were significant penalties if either the IEE or the IEEE pulled out early. But I worked with the president of University Microfilms, and got it put in that a decision not to renew wasn’t covered by this, and then managed to convince first TAB and then the Board of Directors that we really didn’t have the staffing at that time with the background to do this on our own. So I thought that this was a way we wanted to get into that field as quickly as possible, and a way to do it was to live with this agreement until such time as we would be able to do it ourselves. And a couple years later we had built up the staff. I was president, I guess, by the time that came to pass, and when we informed University Microfilms we weren’t going to renew, all of a sudden their attorneys came back and said, oh no, you’re covered by this clause, this other clause in the contract. And I said, no it isn’t. Here’s the clause that says decision not to renew isn’t covered there. And the individual—not the same general counsel as exists now for the Institute, but the general counsel who had drawn up our side of the contract, said, oh yeah, you’re probably stuck. And I said, I explicitly told you, you were supposed to write it so that—he said, no, the language is too nebulous. And I said, you were supposed to protect us. And I decided to go ahead and told University Microfilms no, we’re not covered, and thank god they backed off, and then we brought it in house as still as a CD-based system.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

And kept working to build up our staff so that we then took and converted it into what eventually became Xplore.

Hochheiser:

How successful was the CD system?

Cain:

There were a significant number of sales. The Institute and TAB in particular got nice revenues out of it.

Hochheiser:

So it brought in additional revenues beyond what pubs had been getting through print alone.

Cain:

Yes. A significant number of libraries recognized what was happening, and many of them in addition to their hard copy subscriptions to all IEEE publications had a subscription first to the CD based system and then on into Xplore. Now I’m out of date, so how many libraries still have a subscription to the hard copy as well as Xplore, I have no idea.

Hochheiser:

Neither do I.

Cain:

Okay.

Hochheiser:

I certainly know that Xplore is enormous.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

You talked a few minutes ago about the use of electronics in the publishing process. Had that spread much further by the time you were VP of publications?

Cain:

Yeah. The publishing operation in what at that time was East 45th Street in New York had pretty much switched almost everything to using the same type of packages. I forget what they were called at that time, but predecessors to the publishing packages. It saved the Institute and the societies a considerable amount of money, because before that everything had to go through the organization that did the typesetting and whatnot, and here the staff that existed essentially took over the publication. So it saved a lot of money.

Hochheiser:

And I suspect a lot of time as well. You cut out a whole time-consuming step of the process.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Do you recall whether in the early nineties if computerization had spread at all to other parts of the Institute’s operations besides pubs?

Cain:

A good portion of the staff operations then centered around the staff having their own PC. We weren’t, I didn’t think, keeping up with the expansion quickly enough. I know at the time when the Awards Board—I can’t remember the volunteer’s name. It’s not fair to him. But he was a, probably a colleague of yours at that time with AT&T, and AT&T bought the first PCs for the staff that supported the Awards Board. But it was that type of thing that was growing. All functions were gradually moving to that.

Hochheiser:

Do you recall what were the issues facing the overall board beyond publications during the early nineties? Do you recall any?

Cain:

Two things, I think. Attempts at really living up to our international status. To try and come up with ways of involving the volunteers from the other parts of the world, in a greater fashion, as well as trying to do a better job of delivering our various products to various parts of the world. Some of the mail delays of stuff that was printed and then mailed to various parts of the world were significant. Once we finally got to the predecessor of Xplore, that was a tremendous step forward, because if those people’s institutions or their companies had subscriptions to what, as I say, became Xplore, those people had immediate access to the stuff, and that could make a month’s difference in time. But in the short term, we were trying different packages to be able to get mailing costs down so that we could afford to get it there in a quicker fashion.

Executive Committee

Hochheiser:

And now as vice president for pubs, did that also put you on the Executive Committee as well as the Board?

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Now what was the relationship between the Executive Committee and the bigger board in this period?

Cain:

The Executive Committee—let’s see, the board at that time was meeting four times a year. I believe the Executive Committee met three times a year in between those meetings, and primarily just try to do operational stuff to keep up with making sure the Institute operated. Anything in terms of policy was done by the Board at large. This, as I say, was just to address the operational aspects.

Hochheiser:

One thing that makes me curious is, as you may know, the Board of Directors eliminated the Executive Committee.

Cain:

[Interposing] I was surprised. I was [in] Piscataway when they were meeting, and when I heard that I have to admit I was surprised. Where the conflict arose or what the issue was, I have never heard.

Hochheiser:

I was curious as to what the Executive Committee did that it existed for all these many years, but the board now could decide it was—

Cain:

Yes. And particularly the Board only meets three times a year now too, so things happen. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Cain:

In those intervals, so I’m not sure what arrangements they made to handle that.

Hochheiser:

Before I move on to the presidency, can you think of anything else from your IEEE activities up through the early nineties that we didn’t cover?

Cain:

No, I think you’ve hit pretty much—as you saw from the résumé that I sent you, there were a lot of other committees that I served on, but most of them centered around educational activities or publications related activities.

Hochheiser:

If there were any specific activities involving you that we have not covered, I’d certainly be happy to hear about it.

Cain:

No, I think we went through the fact that there was a whole succession and model curriculum reports beyond what I did. I think that, like accreditation, has been a tremendous service on the part of the Institute to the profession and to academia. Certainly the evolution in publications has been significant also, so I think that the model curriculum stuff, the EAB stuff in general, we did put together a film sequence, again back in the dark ages when the microprocessor first came out—

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] Right.

Cain:

—that it was available, that type of thing. And, but I think most of my activities related one way or the other to those two parts of the Institute, both at the Society level and at the Institute level.

Nominated for IEEE President

Hochheiser:

How and when did you decide that you were interested in being the president of the Institute?

Cain:

Well, to be honest with you, the first time someone suggested it, very much like in the days of the Computer Society. I said I don’t see how I could possibly do it. But then I was approached again, for, the same cycle, the election that made me president elect in ’94, and the second time I said okay, let me go back and talk to the administration back at the University.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

I said, because I can see that the demands are going to be the—I’m not sure what the impact would be on teaching, let alone research. And I came back to the University and the chairman at that time, and the dean supported it. They decided that I would not have to do regular classroom teaching. I had a bunch of senior design projects, and a bunch of committee assignments sort of to make up for it, but it meant at least if I had to travel, I wasn’t missing classes. So I came back and said okay, I’ll give it a try. And sure enough, in that election in the fall of ’93 I was elected, and did serve as president-elect in ’94 and president in ’95, and past president in ’96.

Hochheiser:

So you were nominated by the Board.

Cain:

Yeah. I forget which meeting, the nominating committee brought forth a slate to the board, and the board would then formally nominate either that entire slate or a subset, or whatever, and then there could be petition candidates too. But there have been other years where the board has put forth three candidates.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Cain:

And there were a number of years back then, particularly in the early nineties that I remember there was a petition candidate just about every year I believe.

Hochheiser:

Yeah. And many years it was the same one.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So how did you campaign for president? There were two of you nominated by the Board, so it’s a contested election.

Cain:

Yes. Wasn’t as much in the way of campaigning as it appears there is now. I swear the primary thing that gave you exposure to the entire membership was maybe a 250-word statement that went out with the election material, and a bio. The Philadelphia section then, as now, would invite the candidates to a debate. And that gave you some. But it was only the Philadelphia section at that point. It was not published like they publish the results of it now. There were no interviews on the part of the Institute or anything like it. IEEE USA at that time the, U.S. Activities Board, did invite us to come and essentially make an appearance before their Board, called it a debate. It was sort of a debate, but more an appearance, question/answer session. What was interesting at that time was they didn’t have the budget to fund us out there. Both of us funded ourselves to go, I forget where it was, someplace on the West Coast, and so that gave an exposure too, but much, much less than opportunity. And Luchi and I within the constraints that we had, did our damnedest to bring—I don’t think we were anything like bitter rivals, but we tried to bring what we thought were the issues of the day to the board members, but there wasn’t as much of an opportunity.

Cain's Issues during Campaign

Hochheiser:

Well, what were the issues that you wished to bring to the Board? Things that you—when you were running you saw as your priorities and you expressed in these forums that were available?

Cain:

Okay. Part of what I thought was that we had to do a better job for the industry sector of the profession. And actually beginning in Troy Nagle’s term - he preceded me directly - we started a sequence where we held an Executive Committee meeting outside of the U.S. each year. In Troy’s year we held it in Europe, and while we were over there we met with the executives of as many companies as we could line up, trying to make them aware of what all the Institute was involved in, what we perceived as the benefits for their employees to be members and whatnot, and looking for joint activities. In my year we went to Australia and New Zealand. In Wally Read’s (who succeeded me) year, it was South America. And I think that one of the strongest things that we tried to do was to get industry more involved, because then, as I’m sure now, with the financial crisis that most of the world is facing, a lot of companies were hesitant to let their employees participate as volunteers in the Institute, and really weren’t aware of what the benefits just in general membership were for them.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Cain:

And I think we definitely got through in some of the cases. But it was an interesting time. The other stuff that would still continue as always was the educational activities. What we could do to help academia? Accreditation started to become more of an issue outside of the U.S. too. I think I was at least past president before it, but as a result of the trip to South America, where meeting with industry was our primary goal, and naturally we also met with some academics. As a result of that I met an individual in Peru by the name of Jose Valdez, who is a fantastic entrepreneur and individual, but at his invitation I have worked with him and have helped form an accrediting body for engineering and technology programs there in Peru. Its initials are ICACIT. My Spanish isn’t good enough for me to tell you—

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Cain:

In English it’s the Institute for Quality in Accreditation of—they call them Careers in Engineering and in Technology. And they have begun—it was a long process to start- but they have begun accrediting programs there in Peru.

Also as a result of my activities there and with forming CSAB, at about that time, the folks in India were forming what became their National Board of Accreditation (NBA), and I was invited a couple of times to participate there, addressing meetings of the heads of the universities, first in the South where you’re down in Chennai and then up in a place called Kurachetra. I probably murder the pronunciation there. Addressing the heads of the universities in the North, and then interacted with the officers of the All-India—AICTE, Council for Technical Education. It is the parent body of the NBA, and they then got the NBA started into doing accreditation of programs. And talk about challenges! When we formed CSAB we had 30 or 35, I forget which now, programs that were accredited the first year. We had more programs that had applied but we only accepted 35 programs to make sure we could do a good job. At the time I was going through this with the NBA over there, there was, on the average, one new engineering college per week coming into existence! So they had a tremendous challenge to try and gear up fast enough to satisfy and serve that part of the profession.

President-Elect

Hochheiser:

So you win the election. Now you’re president-elect. We’ve discussed some of the activities. What were the other issues facing the three Ps, and facing the Board at that time?

Cain:

How to grow membership, and particularly in industry. One of the hard issues: I joke all the time that it’s safer to discuss religion in the IEEE than it is membership. One of the membership categories, not true membership that still comes up is the affiliate membership where someone’s a member of a society but not the Institute. The Computer Society had and still has the largest number of them.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

That was debated and debated, like, oh, they’re not true members of the Institute and they’re stealing those people [who] would be members if… So there’s less members of the Institute. I actually chaired a committee in the late 90’s that did a study and showed that it was, in fact, a positive. For in recruiting full members that significantly more affiliate members—at least this was back in the nineties now, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t still be true-more affiliates once they got involved with the Institute as an affiliate member of a society became full members of the Institute, than the relatively few members that went the other way, i.e. people who had been full members of the Institute that switched to affiliate status. So I always promoted it as a membership recruiting tool. But as I say, it’s safer to discuss religion than it is membership in the Institute. Heated discussions always take place whenever that discussion comes up.

[End of Tape 1; beginning of Tape 2]

John Powers and Executive Director Issues

Hochheiser:

One thing that I know happened while you were president was John Powers left as executive director.

Cain:

Made my life extra interesting, certainly.

Hochheiser:

[Interposing] I imagine it did.

Cain:

Yes, he resigned at the November Board meeting when I was president-elect.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

And Troy Nagle and I then scrambled, naturally. We got Dick Schwartz to agree to be acting executive director. There was a meeting in the first week in January, the first week that I was president, and Dick didn’t show up. He had had a heart attack. So we basically appointed an acting acting executive director, but it meant that I, by default, assumed a good part of the duties that ordinarily were done by the executive director. The president’s supposed to be president and CEO. The executive director’s supposed to be the COO. I sort of got to do a good part of the COO job the year I was president, as well. And of course a big activity in there was getting things organized and appointing a search committee to search for the eventual replacement for him. I spent a lot more time in Piscataway probably than any president before or since, even if there were some who lived pretty close, I know. Thank God I didn’t count until the year was up and I was going through a summary for some reason or other. I was gone from Pittsburgh all or part of 255 of the 365 days, and a lot of the time it was the 6:30 a.m. flight to Newark and the 8:00 flight back in the evening type of thing. But it made for very interesting and very rewarding time for what we went through.

Hochheiser:

So what sort of things did you need to do because there was no executive director?

Cain:

I somewhat joke, and it wasn’t really a joke- in the renewal cycle for 1995, when the renewal notices went out in August or September, things were pretty much a mess. IT wasn’t able to keep up with it, and no matter where I would go in the world, literally, I would walk into a room, and I swear, half the room would come up to tell me about the problems they had renewing their membership. I had to essentially eliminate the position of IT director, and I formed a committee, and we essentially ran IT for a better part of ’95. ‘95 was a reasonably tight budget year, but I think it was by the June board series, I had to convince the Board that I needed an extra $10 million to bring in a consulting firm, Transition Partners, the same one that they brought in last year. The ’95 renewal cycle went much smoother, because we had gotten things back in line. But, as I say, it was amazing, anywhere in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, all I heard was the problems.

Hochheiser:

What can you tell me about John Powers? It is always curious when you see someone be in a position like that for such a short period of time.

Cain:

John had a background that you would’ve thought made him ideal for that position. But it appeared, and Troy and I were – tried - to be involved enough as [we] became aware there were more problems. And we had interacted with him, but he didn’t seem—this is an external view now—he didn’t seem to participate much with the rest of the staff, that he was sort of alone giving directives, maybe, but didn’t—even though he was a very personable individual. The same thing with the volunteers. But Troy and I were both surprised by it - maybe because we were concentrating on what we perceived as the problem with staff- but the volunteers were—the Board were very upset with him. And only at that meeting in November did we find out how much. In fact, Troy and I went to attend a meeting of TAB, and they didn’t want us to come in, and it turns out that’s what they were discussing. So I think it’s fair to predict that John was wise in resigning. I had a feeling the Board was going to be after him. And it’s just one of those unfortunate things. His positions that he had before seemed that he had an ideal background for it. But it did make life interesting, yes. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

I guess the other side of the question is, how did IEEE come to select Dan Senese as the next executive director?

Cain:

Well, I appointed a search committee. We put out the ads and whatnot. They went through a significant number of résumés and applications that had come in, interviewed in-depth a fair number of them, and narrowed it down, I think, at the end to one of two candidates, Dan being one of them. The search committee reported back to the Executive Committee. It was one of the things the Executive Committee was charged with. It was they who hired an executive director. They reported back and they gave a presentation to the Executive Committee. I had appointed Wally Reed, eventually my successor as a member of the search committee, and he said Dan did a tremendous sell job on them. He said the other candidate that they had, that they were seriously considering, was excellent, but Dan in his final presentation just overwhelmed them, so that it was essentially unanimous on the part of the search committee. The vote in the Executive Committee wasn’t quite unanimous but damn near unanimous that he be the executive director. Dan’s untimely leaving this Earth was certainly not good.

Hochheiser:

Yes. But certainly by everything I’ve seen his tenure as the executive director was a successful one.

Cain:

Yes. He made many contributions.

IEEE Internationally

Hochheiser:

Were there other things that you hoped to accomplish as president?

Cain:

Again the two things, and particularly as I traveled, certainly, more internationally as president-elect, I came to discover that we needed to do more to engage the rest of the world.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

And I think the combination of me and the Board at that time can’t take credit for it completely, but during that time we grew the international percentage of the overall membership to be from outside of North America, that is, Regions 1 through 7, but I think part of it might’ve been from our efforts that we undertook. And the volunteers I think became more involved. There were more meetings of various parts of the Institute held outside of the U.S. I had always claimed that it wasn’t going to be more expensive if you did it at least at the right time of year to go to Europe. If you don’t go during the peak season you can hold a meeting in Western Europe almost as cheap as you can anywhere in the U.S. in terms of total travel cost. Not so if you go to the Far East in terms of the rules or the budget crunch. Nobody was supposed to fly business class, I guess. The rules now are if it’s over eight hours, I guess, in the air, that you can travel business class. So by definition to go to the Pacific Rim you encountered that. So, yeah, a meeting over there is more expensive, but still it’s important that some activities of the Institute take place around the world. I have pushed in the time when I was officially a member of the Fellow Committee and the past two years now as a consultant to the committee that, if possible, we should meet outside of the U.S. Now, we just did a month ago, or less than a month ago, I guess it. It was just up in Canada. In Vancouver, but at least it was outside of the U.S.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

I’d like to see the Board and the N&A Committee as they constitute the Fellow Committee try to make sure that all parts of the world are represented, and represented significantly, as much as the diversity in terms of the technical spectrum of the Institute. A substantial portion of the Fellow Committee reside outside of the U.S. anyway, so I think at least one of these years it’s going to turn out that we can hold the committee meeting that’s generally held the last week in September or the first week in October, outside of the U.S. on essentially a break-even basis. And then I think other activities will follow. It’s important to do that. Certainly now since the mid-nineties in particular, a substantial number of the conferences sponsored by various parts of the Institute Societies, Sections, Regions, etcetera, are certainly held outside of the U.S. And I think that’s good for an organization that is a global organization.

Balance and Diversity

Hochheiser:

Yes. There’s a couple of issues that I know have shown up multiple times over the years, and I don’t know whether they showed up in particular during your term. The balance between technical activities and professional activities?

Cain:

Yes, that’s why there are ten regional directors—and ten divisional directors. In fact the Computer Society by virtue of the size of membership has the two divisions.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Cain:

And I think part of the decision was in recognition of that fact, the size of the membership. But part of the decision was for whatever reason, I forget which was expanding, but the Regions were going up to ten. It was important to have ten Division Directors too.

Hochheiser:

There was a period when there were ten regions and only eight divisions.

Cain:

Yes. And that was part of the reason that I’m sure that the Board went along with that. At times there’s been, just like the Republicans and Democrats, I guess, sharp divisions. During my year as president, I think because of what we were going through, maybe, more than anything else, I don’t recall any severe head butting between the two parts of the organization. There were enough things for us to worry about [Laughter] that I think that might’ve been part of it. But at other times, certainly, I’ve experienced where there’s been an us-versus-them attitude, and I guess it’s the nature of any organization when you have a matrix organization like that, you’re going to have some degree of differences of opinion, let’s call it.

Hochheiser:

Diversity. Women, minorities, underrepresented groups in engineering.

Cain:

Certainly in any part of any activity that I’ve participated in, I myself and most people have tried to gain diversity. I think the interesting one that I’m not sure, because I’m removed from it, but the Women in Engineering Committee, or Council it might be now called, I’m not sure. I think it was a great idea. But things, again, like the Fellow Committee, and N&A try to make sure that there’s appropriate women representation on the committee. Doris Carver has been the chair of the Fellow Committee for the past two years. I think we’re still probably down around less than 10% or somewhere around 10% of the membership are women. But that’s the issue we also face here in academia. 10% of our electrical and computer engineering student body is about the highest we’ve been in—particularly in recent years—in terms of women participation. For the good of the world and the good of this country, we better figure out a way to improve that, and the Institute has to do whatever it can to help that, also. And the same thing with any sorts of minority. The international dimension helps in some sense there because different parts of the world, obviously, are different from white. So that, as we increase the international membership, that helps. And there’s been every indication in terms of anything in the way of committee assignments or anything, people, I have witnessed, try to be for diversity in terms of race, and color also. But it is a challenge for the profession and hence for the Institute, and still for the world.

Presidential Travel

Hochheiser:

Beyond your many, many trips to Piscataway how much travel did you do as president?

Cain:

Well, as I said I was gone from Pittsburgh 255 of the 365 days, and it was all Institute activity. We held the Executive Committee meeting in Australia and New Zealand. There still were various causes for me to be in various parts of Europe and a number of times in India.

India made my wife and I true jet-setters. When I was president-elect, we started negotiations with the Institution of Engineers in India for a joint agreement. Well, by the time we came to an agreement I was president, and they said, oh, you must come to Delhi for a signing ceremony. I said, fly halfway around the world just to sign my name well, let me see what I can do. I had to attend the Region 10 meeting, and it was in Thailand, Phuket Island, Thailand. I said to the folks in India, let me check if it isn’t too much more expensive, I will continue around the world and I’ll stop there and we can have the signing ceremony. Well, it turns out, crazy airline fares, crazier then than now, I think it turned out to be $1,500 cheaper to keep on going than to turn around and come back. But I had a time constraint. I left Phuket Island on Saturday night after the Region 10 meetings. There was a final session on Sunday, but I was going to miss it. I flew back to Bangkok, and was going to fly into Delhi for the ceremony. Problem is, I had to be the next morning in Piscataway for a meeting. So we flew from Bangkok to Nepal. Someone who was with me, the fellow who was the Division Director from Region 10, was from India. He spoke enough of the language that we talked ourselves into a five dollar visa. We toured Katmandu for an hour and a half and then back on the plane. They met us at the airport in Delhi. We went to their engineering center. We changed into dress clothes, went to the, quote, ‘the signing ceremony.” I gave a talk, signed my name, and participated in cocktail hour. They all sat down to dinner. We went back to the airport, because we were catching a flight to Piscataway.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Cain:

The immigration officer was sleepy and he just stamped my passport and didn’t make any comment. He opened my wife’s and said, when did you arrive in Delhi? My wife said, oh, I think it’s about three hours ago. And he said, you came to Delhi for three hours? Why? She said, well, you see, we had to go to this dinner, and his eyes got about that big, and he said, you flew to Delhi for dinner?

Hochheiser:

[Laughter]

Cain:

He probably still tells stories about these crazy Americans that flew to Delhi for dinner and turned around and went home. Because he didn’t know where we came from, just that [Laughter] our passport had these stamps three hours apart.

Hochheiser:

[Laughter] Well, that certainly qualifies as a notable trip.

Cain:

Made us the jet-setters of all time in this guy’s eyes.

Staff and Management

Hochheiser:

There any particular staff members you recall working closely with since you had this greater involvement because you were without an executive director? [Laughter]

Cain:

Oh certainly. Phyllis Hall, who became acting acting executive director, and I had worked closely when I was with pubs. Certainly I worked pretty closely, once he came back, with Dick [Schwartz]. Eric Herz because of all the years that he was here. I had worked closely with— the one who had been director of pubs before Phyllis. But he passed away. I can’t think of his name now, but certainly for a year and a half I worked very closely with him.

Hochheiser:

How does one, or to what extent can a president manage an organization as large and complicated as IEEE?

Cain:

Well, like any other organization, he better be surrounded by good people, and thank God I was surrounded by good people both on the volunteer side, and on the staff side. Jeanie Smith was the secretary to the executive director and also prime support for the three Ps at that point. And thank God she was. [Laughter] I should’ve put her on the list. I worked, certainly, very closely with her. She kept me from drowning in Institute activities. But you know, the various vice presidents, the board members, and throughout my career, I worked with an infinite number of very, very capable people, very dedicated people both on the volunteer side, and on the staff side.

Hochheiser:

How closely did you work with your predecessor and successor, with Troy and with Wally?

Cain:

Oh, very closely. The three of us worked extremely well together. Same with when Troy’s year—the three of us worked together. It didn’t work quite as well in Wally’s year. He and I still worked closely together, but the third member wasn’t of the mind to work together as much as we had previously.

Hochheiser:

I guess either the three people are on similar wavelengths or they aren’t.

Cain:

But with the size of the organization and with it being nominally, or definitely volunteer and nominally part time, to do the job you need the three people at least closely coordinating. You really are in a large sense president for three years if you have a cohesive group like we did, and it enables more things to get done, because then people would take on different responsibilities, and help and make sure things get done.

IEEE-USA

Hochheiser:

Can you think of any more of those things that we have not yet covered?

Cain:

In terms of—?

Hochheiser:

Activities during your term, and the year after and the year preceding?

Cain:

Well, during that time’s when USAB, the U.S. Activities Board became IEEE-USA.

Hochheiser:

That’s right.

Cain:

And that was basically the primary thing that came out of an effort that started during my term and ended in—president-elect, I guess, there was essentially a yearlong study: was the present organization the best for the Institute? And there were things [proposed] like to go to more of an organization similar to ACM, where the SIGs, Special Interest Groups in ACM have a larger degree of autonomy than the societies do. And that was under consideration, to go to a more confederation model. Eventually what came down was pretty much [to] keep the organization as it was, but USAB wanted, and the board went along with it, that there should be more of an identity for USA, since other countries had agreements with national societies. In the U.S. there was the Institute and what was a U.S. Activities Board, but that didn’t sound like IEEE-USA. The structure is still largely the same. In a sense it was only a name change. It was more than that, not only a name change, but it gave the U.S. members more of an identity for it.

Somewhat independent of the re-organization, but during my year we made another change. In terms of the U.S. tax laws, the Institute is now a 501(c)3. Up until that time the Institute was a 501(c)6. This gives you more of an opportunity to do lobbying, and we had IEEE-USA doing lobbying. It turns out the maximum amount of lobbying IEEE-USA could do or would do was far below what the cutoff was for a 501(c)3, so we started the operation to go 501(c)3. Then it became clear that at least one of the reasons for the IEEE Foundation was that it was a (c)3 when the Institute itself was a (c)6. Then there were people who said okay, we’re a (c)3 now, do we need the Foundation? Well, to keep the focus on what the Foundation does, the decision eventually was, no, keep it as a separate entity. Keep the relationship between the Institute as a corporation and the Foundation as a corporation as it had been. It used to be that the three Ps were automatically members of the Foundation. Then we changed that so that there had to be an election of members to the Foundation. Sometimes a past president now will be on it, but at least not while you’re president-elect and president, and that’s better. There’s enough things to do worrying about the Institute itself, let alone the parallel activities of the Foundation. So I think that reorganization was to the benefit of both.

Hochheiser:

Anything else from your years?

Cain:

I think those are the ones that jump most to mind. In terms of that debate, the ongoing debate over that potential reorganization of the Institute consumed an awful lot of time whenever the Board met. And when the different committees were meeting—or the committee that was studying it, and then they had offshoot committees, too, that were doing it. It took a lot of volunteer resources.

Post-President IEEE Activity

Hochheiser:

Mm-hmm. In what ways and roles have you remained active in IEEE since your years as president?

Cain:

At the Institute level, I was on the Nominations and Appointments Committee by virtue of position for a while. I had been interested in the Awards Board activities, and trying to get it more prominence. So I became active with the Awards Board for a number of years. I was a member-at-large for a while. I was the vice chair for a while. I was on the Awards Board Policy and Procedures Committee for a while. I participated in some of the workshops that they held to change their direction. I did that I think, one or two years. I was a vice-chair for the Medals Council, the sub-entity that worries about the medals.

Within the Computer Society, I became a member of the Computer Editorial Board actually late in the year when I was past president, I think. Ed Parrish recruited me to that position, and I’m still a member of the Computer’s Editorial Board and a member of their subgroup that worries about what gets published as a Computing Practices or a Perspectives piece. Up until the current year and last year when they were really cutting back because of the financial issues, that subgroup used to meet two additional times a year, again, not policy or procedure, but the operational aspects, sort of like the Executive Committee used to. The full Editorial Board meets once a year.

I became involved with what the Computer Society called their Conferences and Tutorials Board, and particularly with an activity of trying to assess—they ran about 150 conferences a year, and the question was, what’s the cost-benefit analysis? I spent a lot of time doing that. Last year they merged that Board, C and T, Conference and Tutorials Board with the Technical Activities Board, and now they have a Technical and Conference Activities Board. Last year I was one of the vice chairs of that board, and tried to help with the transition of merging two entities together. I started out this year as a vice chair again, but on January 14th of this year I had quadruple bypass heart surgery. I tried to keep up with it for a while, but eventually decided I wasn’t doing what I considered my job, so I resigned to allow the chair to get somebody else in so he wouldn’t lose a whole year of activities.

For a while, the Computer Society had a Latin American Activities Committee to try and build their membership and find out what sort of services they could provide down there. And I was a member of that for a couple years. They have an award called the Taylor Booth Award. Taylor Booth, I mentioned, was the vice president for education of the Society when I got involved in that activity. He unfortunately passed away back in the mid-eighties. They named an award after him. I was fortunate enough to be named a recipient of it at one point. I chaired the selection committee one year for that too. I think that’s pretty much all that I can think of, now, in terms of activities since the service as president.

Leadership and the Computer Society

Hochheiser:

How has your IEEE activities fit within your long overall career?

Cain:

Oh, I think it’s obviously been a significant part, time-wise, but I think it has contributed to my career. Certainly when we were having the meetings with corporate executives, I would argue that there can’t be a cheaper way to give their engineers valuable training in running an organization. From the local activities, small, local activities, to major conferences, just in terms of what you learn from a leadership point of view, what you learn from a financial point of view, whatever it is, of running within costs, and leadership ability is very valuable. The ability to work with people, and to gain an understanding of what it takes to lead people is also learned. As I have said, leaderships in a faculty - chairmanships or deanships or whatever. Trying to lead faculty is like herding cats. Well, it’s one step worse with volunteers, because you don’t even have salary to hold over their head. Hence you learn to be able to put forth good arguments and be a leader to get things done. Which, to me, is very valuable within the university, and very valuable for people in industry too. I think that’s reason for anybody to participate in the Institute.

Hochheiser:

One thing that struck me as I’ve been going through doing these interviews is how few Institute leaders come out of the Computer Society, particularly relative to the size of the Computer Society—

Cain:

Yeah. In terms of presidents I guess there was Martha Sloan, Troy Nagle, and myself. There have been a number of vice presidents. Ron Hoelzeman, who I introduced you to, came out of the Computer Society. He was a Computer Society president, but he was vice president for educational activities for the Institute also. Helen Wood was vice president for publications at the Institute level for one period. I think there [has] been others, but I’d have to wrack my brain a little bit more.

Hochheiser:

This is not a statistical study, but the Computer Society is somewhere on the nature of, what, a quarter of the total membership?

Cain:

Yeah, probably in that range. Of course, a lot of our members belong to multiple societies - myself, five of them. Certainly the Computer Society has been my principle society. I think there’s a lot of people in the Computer Society that are the opposite extreme too - the Computer Society is to them like several of the other societies are to me. I think that might be part of it. But there’s still—it—I never thought of it before, so this is almost, literally off…

Hochheiser:

That’s okay. And the only reason I thought of it [is] because we’re trying to interview all the past presidents.

Cain:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

And the number of past presidents whose primary affiliation coming up was the Computer Society is far less than what one would intuitively expect.

Cain:

Yes. It might be. Of course you have to be either nominated or go on a petition basis. But as I say, when I went through my brief period as acting president of the Computer Society, I thought, man, this is too much. And eventually I got talked into the Institute presidency as we discussed. I’ve talked to a number of people that go through being president of Computer Society and go on to the Institute and serve as a Division Director. Many at that point say I’d better go back and worry about my career. And some of them have gone on to be vice president and gotten tired or got the handwriting on the wall. I can remember one vice president of the Computer Society, and I won’t give his name or the company he worked for. But in a year-end review, he was told that his raise would’ve been 50% higher had he not spent so much time with the Computer Society. And he was on a path, I think, that he quite likely would’ve gone on, but he quit flat-out, right at that point. So there could’ve been some of that type of reason for not continuing.

I had an administration here that understood. We had a new dean by the time I was president, and one of the times that I was going in a car with him, I forget where we were going but there were a number of us in the car, and somehow he got around to the conversation—someone had said something about me being president of the Institute. He said, let me tell you a story. “We all know that God is everywhere. Tom Cain is everywhere but Pittsburgh”. And I said, I hope you’re really just, [Laughter] joking on that. And he was, but my absence did not go unnoticed. But he was very supportive of it, not like this other guy’s boss that I was talking about.

IEEE Changes

Hochheiser:

Can you think of any ways in which IEEE has changed or evolved over your many years of activity?

Cain:

It certainly lives up much better to its international role. The percentage of the membership that’s based outside of Regions 1 through 7, outside of North America, has significantly increased. Certainly it has gone to great lengths to keep up with a significantly expanding technical arena out there, in terms of trying to—I hear criticism every once in a while, generally from Board members about “oh we don’t react to new developments of technology fast enough.” But I think as an organization it does a pretty damn good job of doing that. And you take a look at the number of societies that exist now, compared to the mid-seventies when I started, and the scope of a significant number of those societies themselves have changed. The number of councils, the technical councils that exist. I think the organization has done a very good job, overall, of evolving and keeping up with its pledge to aid technological development and the profession at large.

Hochheiser:

Well, as you see, my cards are just about all now facedown.

Cain:

Okay. [Laughter]

Hochheiser:

So is there anything you’d like to add that I neglected to prompt you about?

Cain:

No. Just in case any of what I said had any tinge of sour grapes, I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I think, overall, benefitted from my involvement in IEEE activities, and particularly the year as president, and if I were starting all over again, I’d do it again. All aspects.

Hochheiser:

Then I think we’re done, and I thank you very much for your time.

Cain:

Fair enough.