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Oral-History:Ray Findlay

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About Ray Findlay

President of IEEE in 2002, Ray Findlay earned his B.A.Sc. in 1963, M.A.Sc. in 1965 and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1968 from the University of Toronto. He taught engineering the University of New Brunswick from 1967 to 1981, after which he joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he is today a Professor Emeritus. Dr. Findlay's research interests include electromagnetic fields and losses in electrical power devices in which he has more than 150 technical papers and 4 patents. He is a Fellow of both IEEE and the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), and among his many honors, was awarded the IEEE Canada McNaughton Medal in 2007 in recognition of "outstanding contributions to the analysis and design of electrical machines, particularly to the theory and measurement of shaft currents in induction motors, and for leadership in the profession".

In this interview, Dr. Findlay discusses the "accidental" beginning of his career in electrical engineering and his central role in the expansion of IEEE in Canada, culminating with the merger of Region 7 with Canadian Society of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the subsequent formation of IEEE Canada. He also addresses the challenges faced by IEEE following the dot-com financial crisis of 2001 and 9/11.

About the Interview

RAY FINDLAY: An interview conducted by Michael Geselowitz, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, 3 May 2009

Interview #500 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

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, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. 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:

Ray Findlay, an oral history conducted in 2009 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Ray Findlay

INTERVIEWER: Michael Geselowitz

DATE: 3 May 2009

PLACE: St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Becoming an Electrical Engineer

Geselowitz:

This is Michael Geselowitz. It is May 4, 2009. I'm in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, with IEEE 2002 President Ray Findlay, and we're going to discuss Ray's career with IEEE. So Ray, what I'd like to do is just start a little bit with your own background—how you came to be an electrical engineer.

Findlay:

By accident.

Geselowitz:

Could you elaborate?

Findlay:

In actual fact, I'm a registered mechanical engineer. With all my degrees in electrical engineering, my practice was in mechanical engineering throughout, and that rather colors things. How did I get to be an electrical engineer, as you say? I went out to work for awhile, and while I was working, in chemistry I might add, I asked the engineers in the corporation what discipline I should concentrate on. And they told me mechanical engineering. So I went down to register at the university in mechanical engineering, and the lineup was very long, because apparently word was out that that was where you should be. And I happened to notice there were only three people in the line beside us, and I asked what that happened to be, and they said electrical. Nobody's going into electrical engineering. I said, "Well, what distinguishes that from mechanical engineering?" They said, "About nine hours of drafting a week." I said, "Right. I'm going into electrical engineering." Literally, that's how it happened. I wound up in electrical engineering.

Geselowitz:

And what year was that?

Findlay:

I had already begun my career in university, and ran out of money, so I'd gone out to work for awhile. So that would have been 1961, I think.

Geselowitz:

Okay. And when you joined electrical engineering as a graduate, did you become aware of the IEEE, or at that point the AIEE or IRE?

Findlay:

I knew about both. That was before the merger of AIEE and IRE, and I was certainly aware of them. And I became more aware of them because in 1963 the Canadian region decided in honor of the merger to award a prize paper award with certain monetary attachment to it. And I happened to win it. So it was the first IEEE student prize paper awarded in Canada, 1963, the year of the merger.

Geselowitz:

Wow.

Findlay:

So, that's my favorite plaque. Still hangs on the wall.

Geselowitz:

And does IEEE Canada still give that same student prize?

Findlay:

It went into abeyance for a few years before being rejuvenated subsequently through the efforts of the Toronto section a few years later.

Geselowitz:

Okay. And where did your career take you next after you graduated?

Findlay:

After I graduated, I went to the University of New Brunswick. As I said, I was certainly very much aware of IEEE. And it bothered me somewhat because the nearest section was the Canadian-Atlantic Section which is based in Halifax. And to attend meetings was a five or six-hour drive depending upon if you speeded or not. And so I complained somewhat to the chair of the section whose name was Chris Gashus at the time.

Geselowitz:

Could you spell that?

Findlay:

G-A-S-H-U-S. Now, Chris suggested to me that it would be a good idea to form a Subsection of the Canadian-Atlantic section, and to get in touch with headquarters, and petition for the forms, etc., that were necessary. And so I formed a committee of interested people from New Brunswick Telephone and the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission. And three of us traveled around the province from Fredericton, which is the capital, to St. John, and to Moncton, which are the three main cities in the province of New Brunswick, signing up members in a petition to form a Subsection. Which we did, and which was granted. I think the year was 1971, if I remember correctly. And the following year, we petitioned to become a Section. That's how the New Brunswick Section was formed. I didn't have a Section of my own, so I had to make one.

Geselowitz:

So in the Atlantic provinces was that the second Section? There were now two?

Findlay:

There were now two.

Geselowitz:

Was Newfoundland still not separate?

Findlay:

Newfoundland and Labrador had their own Section, but Newfoundland is usually termed to be separate from the maritime provinces. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick are usually looked upon as the maritime provinces, although Newfoundland sits out in the Atlantic, and we still have British Columbia, which arguably is also a maritime province.

Geselowitz:

Right. So since it was your idea to form the committee, did you become the first chair of the Section, or you found someone else to do that?

Findlay:

I was the chair of the Subsection.

Geselowitz:

Of the Subsection, when it was a Subsection.

Findlay:

However, the following year, I was on sabbatical, in what was euphemistically called “Upper Canada.” I was seconded to the Canadian General Electric company for a sabbatical year, and so I was away from the province. But I continued to serve on the executive for several years.

University of New Brunswick

Geselowitz:

And what work were you doing there in New Brunswick?

Findlay:

I was at the University of New Brunswick as a young faculty member

Geselowitz:

And what did you do in your sabbatical year in Upper Canada?

Findlay:

I worked on stray losses in synchronous machines.

Geselowitz:

And is that the same kind of material that you were teaching at the University?

Findlay:

I was teaching electrical machines, electromagnetics, numerical methods. I was a bit schizophrenic at the time because I was half-time in computer science, and half-time in the Electrical Engineering Department. The computer science aspect arose because I had been developing some numerical procedures which were pretty new at the time. But ultimately I realized that I couldn't keep my feet in both camps because it was too much work. And I ultimately requested that I transfer to the Electrical Engineering Department full time, which I did.

Geselowitz:

Okay. And what were the Maritime Section activities that made you want to drive six hours to Halifax, and made you feel that New Brunswick needed its own Section? What sort of things was IEEE involved in in those years locally?

Findlay:

Oh, the sort of things that we wanted to do were to get a handle on the new technologies, and to bring information into the companies in New Brunswick, particularly NBTEL, as New Brunswick Telephone was called, and the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission. So that's exactly what we concentrated on. One of our first activities was to organize an international conference on generation of electrical power, which included experts from various places. For example, there was some radical new wave generation which had been begun in France because of the large tides. And the Power Commission was very much interested in finding out more about it (because the tides in the Bay of Fundy are also very high) as to whether this might be a feasible source of electrical energy. Unfortunately, every organizing meeting I called, there was a snow storm. The day of the conference, one of our proposed speakers who was coming from British Columbia, got caught in a storm, and couldn't make it—of course, because I called the conference, there was going to be a storm. Everybody knew that.

Geselowitz:

Did that become a running joke in the Section?

Findlay:

It became a running joke.

Findlay:

I lived with that for years. But yes, it turned out to be quite a successful conference. And in spite of that, I targeted a young faculty member by the name of Bart Claus to fill in for the proposed speaker. His talk was on some of the newer computer technologies at the time.

Geselowitz:

Okay. Now before we move on to the next stage in your career, I'm curious. When IEEE was formed from the IRE and the AIEE, they took the IRE philosophy that they wanted to be a global organization. That is why there's no—even though it was U.S.-based—no “America” or “U.S.” in the name of the organization. Now Canada always has a special relationship to the United States, having the largest peaceful border in the world between two states and so forth. So, how was joining the IEEE New Brunswick Subsection, and later Section, and joining IEEE perceived in Canada? Was it perceived as joining the U.S. organization? A Canadian organization? Or a global organization? In those days.

Findlay:

Back in those days our principal focus was really on technical information. And it was irrelevant to us that sort of, problem, if you like. There wasn't the subsequent disparate separation of technical activities versus regional activities. They were all local activities, but they were technical. And so we had joint meetings with the local professional engineering society. We had joint meetings with any of the other technical organizations that we thought we could piggy back with. And they were all very successful. It was somewhat an isolated community. Fredericton, if you look on the map, sits out in the middle of nowhere. And so, although we had a small airport, getting in and out was always a problem. So bringing people in, bringing technical information in, became a really driving focus. It wasn't until later that we ran into some of the problems associated with a U.S.-based organization. And that if you like, it was only at the upper levels of the organization in Canada—the Executive Committee, for example, and the Regional Committee that became aware of the issues. And never did that really stop us from becoming substantially involved in either technical or regional activities. We were aware of the issues, but it wasn't so much a problem.

The Region 7 Committee

Geselowitz:

So let's then turn to when you personally did become involved in the regional level. What happened next in your career from New Brunswick, and then how did you get involved with IEEE regionally?

Findlay:

I moved. When I was at UNB, I was the student branch counselor, and when I moved to take up a position at McMaster University, I became the student branch counselor there.

Geselowitz:

And that's in Hamilton, Ontario?

Findlay:

That’s in Hamilton, halfway between Toronto and Buffalo, for those who don't know. And my involvement was that I really became very interested in the student branch, and making it a success because it was in disarray. There were three organizations, all actively competing against each other for members. There was the student club, there was the Canadian Society of Electrical and Computer Engineering group, and there was the IEEE student branch. And I hauled them all into my room, because I was designated as the counselor in charge of student branch activities, of all of the student clubs, etc. And we hashed out a plan to merge the varying needs of these different organizations, bring them all together. It took me about a year to accomplish this, but I had a tremendously strong group of students who were prepared to work. And actually, it worked to our advantage because we realized that combining the three executive members, we had 12 people. It worked so well that first year that we designated an additional representative from each year on the committee so that subsequently the student branch executive numbered 17 people.

They decided that they would hold a conference and exhibit on the computer technologies of the day. And so they advertised it throughout the city that they were having this, and that there would be people there who would answer questions—they were all students, of course—for anybody who wanted to find out about this relatively new technology, and how it might be implemented within their various businesses. We had about 2,000 people come through on the day of the show, and they all paid some small amount, of course, and the students discovered that they could charge companies for exhibiting, and they did. They ran a really terrific show. There was a small conference associated with it as well.

And then of course we had the difficulty of coming up with a meeting room for the Student Branch so that we could house our branch. And to do that, I suggested to them that it would be very difficult to pry a room free unless we knew exactly what we were doing, and we had a plan to accomplish it. So the students investigated together with the caretaker for the building, who put them onto a basement room that wasn't being used. It combined an office, a small storage area, and a wash room, which was not used. They parlayed their finances into about $36,000 by getting a grant from what became the IEEE Canadian Foundation. At the time it wasn't. It was a conference fund which came out of a regional conference that was held, that was supposed to support student activities. And they got $12,000 from them, but then they went back to the various companies, and parlayed that into $36,000 worth of equipment. So they needed to house this equipment somewhere. We wrote a letter to the Dean to inform him, and asked him if he would meet with us. And of course his immediate response was, "Well, there's no room." They had the plans for the building. They showed him where the room was, and he said, "But I have no money to fix this up." But the students said, "Don't worry, we'll fix it up." And so they did. They worked alongside professional workers. The Dean made available some people from the plant to come in and remove the old wash room, and bared the walls, as it were. And the students moved in, painted the area, put it together, and that's how we formed our student branch. And it's how, if you like, I became known in local circles, so that subsequently in 1984 I became the Student Activities Committee Chair for the region. That brought me to the Region 7 Committee.

Geselowitz:

Okay. And so once you were on the Region 7 committee, what activities did you then get drawn into? What was the region up to in those days, in the '80s?

Findlay:

Well, I became concerned that we were dealing with a group of young leaders who had no training in leadership, in business management, etc. So I set about putting together a meeting for them where we would concentrate on leadership skills so that when they went back to their student branches, they could fulfill a real role in developing the branches, and increasing student membership.

Geselowitz:

Now, often in IEEE, historically, there's been an issue about members who are academic engineers versus professional engineers. So without stating it in a negative way, do you feel that some of the reason that they lacked such training is that they were mainly academics? Is that—

Findlay:

No. I think it's just the nature of young people that they get interested in the technical aspects, and at the time, they don't foresee that they would need these other skills in order to be successful in business, because, let's face it, engineering is primarily a business-oriented activity. I was also able to convince the Regional Committee to support an annual meeting of the student branch representatives, and the student branch counselors. So we funded their travel to this meeting, and it worked so well that the Region Committee agreed that they would meet at the same time so that there would be some synergy between the students and the regional representatives. I might add, we still do that to a certain extent in the region, but it's now with the Executive Committee, because it just became too unwieldy to do it otherwise.

Geselowitz:

So then once you're on the Region Committee, how did you move up to become Vice Chair, and eventually Region Director? How did that come about? Having made your name on the student side.

Findlay:

They decided to hold an election at some point. I think it was 1993, I was on the slate of candidates to begin in 1994, or was it before that? No. It must've been in 1992. And I had become the Student Activities Committee Chair for IEEE at this point for the Regional Activities Board in 1990. So I was fairly well known among the student members, certainly, of IEEE. There was another chap who had been very instrumental in helping to define the Region Committee in IEEE. His name is Greg Stone, Dr. Greg Stone, a very enthusiastic volunteer who had done a lot. I always thought of myself as the sacrificial lamb in the election, and rather to my surprise, and I suppose a lot of other people, I happened to win the election. So I became the Region Director.

Geselowitz:

So your first sort of international central IEEE activity was RAB—Regional Activities Board Student Activities.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

How much exposure did that give you to the IEEE Board, and versus when you became Region Director, and became a member of the Board. How did that change your perspective, or your understanding of how the Board operated? Were you prepared to be Region Director, I guess is what I'm asking in a roundabout way.

Findlay:

I would say that it was a tremendous introduction to be on RAB with the 10 directors because it gave me international exposure, if you like. I was able to discuss matters with them with respect to student issues. We were able to convince the Regional Activities Board, and subsequently the Board, to hold what I think is the first Student Activities Committee meeting outside the U.S. or outside North America. We had it in Cancun. And it was really a terrific opportunity, I think, for me to gently find myself in the middle of the activities, first of all the Regional Activities Board, and subsequently the Board of Directors. And certainly that sort of thing stood me in good stead later on as Director.

Geselowitz:

So when you became Director in 1994, and joined the IEEE Board of Directors, what was on their mind? Can you remember back? What were the issues in 1994? I mean, IEEE was about 30 years old at that point, so it was a relatively mature organization?

Findlay:

There were a number of issues that the Board was dealing with. Certainly finances was one of them. And I can remember the Board meeting in Calgary, as far as the international issues if you like that were important. One of them was the finances of the Institute. And there was a tremendous discussion at that time about issues surrounding the finances, and whether or not it was appropriate to have a dues increase. I listened to the various arguments, and I think that I had a difficult time in that meeting. As I remember it, Tom Cain was President, and Tom was very encouraging. Sorry, that wasn't Tom's year. Tom was the President in '95. Troy Nagle was ’94.

Geselowitz:

So how long did you stay then? Your term was how long as Region Seven Director?

Findlay:

Geselowitz:

Findlay:

I started off in '93 as Director-Elect. And I was Director Region 7 for 1994, and 1995.

IEEE Canada

Geselowitz:

So, how did IEEE Canada come about?

Findlay:

Now this we had started in 1993 as a Vijay Bhargava established a blue-ribbon committee, as he called it, to investigate the possibility of merging the Canadian Society of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which was the national society, with IEEE Region 7. Four of us worked together to attempt to come up with a plan. They included Bob Alden. I think John Plant was the President of the Canadian Society of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the time. Tony Eastham was the Vice President. There was myself and Bob as the committee members. Vijay, I believe, was the Director, and we were tasked to come up with a process which we did, and to attempt to sell it to both organizations because we had to get the committees for both organizations to agree. And it was not without a certain amount of salesmanship that we finally got some agreement. We agreed that we would operate in 1994 as if we were merged, which is to say Tony, who was President of CSECE at the time, and myself as Director for Region 7, worked together throughout that year for the good of the region. On January 1st, 1995, we became a single entity through merging the two memberships.

Geselowitz:

And would you say that had a significant impact on electrical and computer engineering in Canada?

Findlay:

Yes. We became immediately a significant factor in the Engineering Institute of Canada because I think at the time we had about 14,000 members which was about three times larger than any of the other engineering societies who were members of EIC. And I sat on the Board of EIC, and was able to negotiate a number of issues to make our presence felt, and to improve EIC's finances so that it could continue to operate.

Geselowitz:

And I know that well, we're here at the conference that, the Canadian Society had a major conference which became the conference of the joint organization.

Findlay:

We inherited the Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering. Now that conference up to this point had funded a journal, The Canadian Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering, both of which belonged to CSECE, that is the Canadian Society of Electrical and Computer Engineering. And we, as a result of the merger, inherited the conference. The conference is still a major source of funding for our various activities within the region. The region has always been prudent with its finances. We do have an assessment, a regional assessment, which assists as well, and that was necessary, we realized, quite early on.

Geselowitz:

Now is that when IEEE Region 7 also took on the additional label as IEEE Canada? Because that's somewhat unusual amongst regions and sections.

Findlay:

I negotiated that with the Board that both the logo which when we negotiated with the Canadian Society, they wished to retain the symbol which was the triangle of CSECE in the logo for the merged society, which we did. And so on the right-hand side, there is a triangle for our logo, and on the left-hand side, there is the IEEE symbol, the kite, and in the middle it says, IEEE Canada. And what we wanted to do was to adopt the name formally, IEEE Canada as an alternative to Region 7. And we—Tony and I convinced first of all, the Regional Activities Board, and subsequently the Board to agree that the region would be known also as IEEE Canada as a formal entity.

Geselowitz:

And when did IEEE Canada establish a separate IEEE Canada foundation?

Findlay:

There was a regional conference, as I said, which was originally associated with the CSECE which—and I can't remember the year. But it ultimately ran out of steam except that they had accumulated some finances. The finances that they had accumulated, the Board of Directors of IEEC Inc.—through its conference oversight committee—felt would be appropriately used to fund student activities in electrical engineering. This became the basis for the establishment of the IEEE Canadian Foundation. The driving light behind that, behind setting up the IEEE Canadian Foundation was Bob Alden.

Geselowitz:

Because IEEE had earlier in 1978 established a separate foundation in the United States which they felt would make the philanthropic side of their operations work more smoothly.

Findlay:

Yes. Also the issue of operating as a charitable organization as well. So this is a registered charitable organization in Canada. Our finances right now are roughly a million dollars to fund student activities, provides roughly $50,000 that we can use for scholarships and various other activities in Canada.

Geselowitz:

Okay. So having served as Region 7 Director you stayed active on RAB.

Findlay:

As Vice President in 1996 and '97.

Geselowitz:

And I also know that that IEEE placed you on a Strategic Planning Committee as part of your Board activity. I wonder if you want to say a few words about that activity.

Findlay:

Strategic planning for IEEE has always been a thorny issue. I can remember many long meetings. This is when it became apparent to me that IEEE is rather a schizophrenic organization in that the Board of Directors now has never really come to terms with whether it's an international organization which happens to find itself based in the United States, or whether it's a U.S. organization which operates globally. I became very much aware of this, when I was sitting around the table when we were discussing various strategic issues which bore upon the international aspects of IEEE. And I would say to the various members, "I might sound like you, but you have to remember that I'm the foreigner in your midst," because I was the only one on most of those committee meetings who did not come from the U.S.

Election and Dot-Com Crisis

Geselowitz:

Now that actually brings us, I think, to the next, in a way, key part of the interview, which is your current activity now. You've been on the Board level, and as you say, one of the few foreigners on the Board level. In fact tomorrow, I'm going to be interviewing your countryman Wally Read who was the first non-U.S. IEEE President elected by the membership. So how then did you come to stand for President?

Findlay:

I didn't really. During 1997, I was encouraged to consider the possibility of becoming a President of IEEE by a number of my Regional Activities Board associates. So I did run for office in that year. I ran for office the following year, and I ran for office the year after that, and eventually, after the third time, I was elected. And there were some issues along the way, which were pretty exciting as we were going through them. The third time I ran, I had about given up, and Dan Benigni, who has been a driving force, especially on standards, asked me to come up to his room because he had something he wanted to discuss with me. He gave me a document which outlined all the reasons why I should continue to attempt to pursue the presidency. And I was very much moved with that. I still have a copy of that document which I had framed because it rather got to the heart of the whole matter as to why you should become president.

Geselowitz:

It might be interesting for us to get a copy of that for the IEEE archives at some point.

Findlay:

I'll dig it out for you. Remind me. Send an e-mail to remind me.

Geselowitz:

So as you're running for President, and you're still involved with the Board and various activities, how did having come up so strongly through the regional side impact your campaign? You alluded earlier that in the old days, you didn't worry about that RAB versus TAB thing. But now you're on the Board, and you're probably seen as a RAB person. So what was your interaction? I have two related questions: what technical society or societies did you belong to, personally? And how did coming up through the RAB side affect your interaction with the TAB people when you got to the Board level?

Findlay:

I probably have more technical papers than most of your Technical Activities Board vice presidents over the years have had. I have about 200 technical papers.

Geselowitz:

Right. I know a number of patents as well, I know.

Findlay:

Yes. So I figured I had a fundamental understanding of both houses and I could certainly foresee some of the needs in both camps. And I was always very careful to try to ensure that both sides of the house were given due recognition, and that the concerns were met for both sides of the house.

Geselowitz:

So as you were running, and when you finally became in 2002, President, what did you really hope to accomplish? What did you feel going into your presidential year that the main issues you hoped to tackle, or things you hoped to accomplish were?

Findlay:

Well, picture 2000. We we're just in the middle of a major recession. The finances of IEEE, they hadn't quite realized it yet, but they were in a lot of trouble. And we had budgeted for a deficit budget that year, and we far exceeded our expectations. And the following year we also had a deficit budget. And I don't think we were planning to have that much of a deficit. That result was that our finances went through the bottom of the bucket, and it became apparent that we were going to have a lot of difficulty in funding the plant. And by the plant, I mean staff, the buildings, rent and all of the various fixed expenses that we have associated with IEEE, as well as funding the activities. And certainly the societies had up to this point believed that they operated more or less autonomously, and of course it isn't true, because they were trading on the IEEE name. And like myself, many members belong to more than one society. I belong to five societies. And Joel Snyder, the President in 2001, gave me a task, and I still remember this, in the November meeting in 2000. He told me I was to find a way out of the financial difficulties. That was to be my job for 2001. I was fortunate to have a great committee. It was basically the executive members of the Board who were on the taskforce that was directed to solve this problem.

Geselowitz:

So in 2001, you're President-Elect, and the President asks you to head a taskforce to solve this economic crisis of IEEE, which I guess I should add, not only was there a major world recession then, as we're now experiencing again in 2009, but that one was caused in part or was tied up in a dot-com bust. And a lot of IEEE members were involved in that industry, so it probably hit IEEE particularly hard, I would think.

Findlay:

As a concerned faculty member in 1997, I observed what was going on with the computer industry, and recognized that the Y2K problem was going to have a significant impact. Most corporations were gearing up by hiring anybody they could find who had some knowledge of computers and the ability to not only program, but also utilize them for various other activities. So of course the issue was the turnover at 2000. There was a certain paranoia associated with that. In 1997 or so, I became concerned that this rush to include so many people in that change, when the change had occurred, which is after 2000—beginning of 2001, that there'd be a lot of people who would be put out of work as a result. Of course, that's exactly what happened. That was the beginning of the dot-com issue as you remarked. That tended to feed the recession, but recessions seem to occur on a cycle of about seven or eight years. Every seven or eight years, there's another one. The current one is just another example.

Geselowitz:

Okay. So knowing that on the one hand it was cyclical, but on the other hand, IEEE was in crisis in the short term, how did your taskforce proceed?

Findlay:

Well, the first realization that we had was that we had been living off of our reserves, which is essentially supporting the plant from reserves. And our reserves had dramatically dropped, and essentially could no longer support the plant without running into a cash-flow problem. So we had to take steps to preserve not only the cash flow, but also whatever reserves we could. And at the same time, try to solve the issue so that we wouldn't run into this problem again. What had happened was, somewhere around 1995 or so, 1994–'95, we had failed to increase member dues because, of course, those were the rich years, and for some obscure reason it was felt that we shouldn't increase dues when IEEE’s reserves were doing so well. Well, that's very false thinking, as we now know. So we weren't operating with due care for our fiscal position. Once we recognized that, there had been a few efforts to solve the problem before, but no agreement was reached.

I had some pretty exciting people on my committee at the time who had the interests of IEEE foremost in their minds, and resolving the issue. It was Maurice Papo in a casual conversation with me who put me in mind of a method to resolve the matter. And it was very simple: to take the non-revenue-producing agencies of IEEE, and attach revenue streams to them. And take the revenue-producing agencies, and use the resources more wisely to protect the investments of IEEE. In other words, to bring it under one overall philosophy that we would integrate the Societies’ endeavors into the entire fiscal package as to how we operated within IEEE. That these reserves then, or these resources that were manufactured as a result of the society's efforts, would support the plant, and that everybody would recognize that this is what was happening. That we would all operate as a team. I took that—what appeared to be a simple idea back to the committee, and then of course we had to identify those areas that needed to be funded. That included, at the time, regional activities, the educational activities. It included IEEE Spectrum, and it included the cost of member dues. And so we attached the member dues stream to support those activities, and it would have been unwise not to include in the formula, a method for using some member dues to support the plant. So we did that, and we also decreed that this would give us a safety margin. As soon as the cost associated with those four areas reached 85% of member dues, it would trigger an immediate advanced raise in member dues to accommodate it.

We also came to the realization that to support the plant, we needed to raise member dues in concert with the cost of inflation. And this was ultimately the proposal that we presented to the Board. Most of 2001, and part of 2002 I spent in attempting to sell this to anybody who would listen, and that included most organizational units of IEEE, including the major Boards. It included the various technical societies and any other entity that wanted to address the matter. There was a lot of anguish over this because many societies viewed the accumulation of money as their own right to maintain it, and do whatever they wanted with it. Of course, that's not quite true. All of the money belongs to IEEE.

Geselowitz:

Right. Well, from a technical-legal point of view, it's certainly true, because IEEE, at least in the United States is the legally recognized entity in terms of the Internal Revenue Service, and so forth.

Findlay:

Exactly. And of course I attended several meetings to sell the idea to the various IEEE units. I can remember one meeting with a society that I won't name, and they were quite distressed over the thought that they would have to put some of their hard-won resources into supporting the rest of the plant. And of course, there was always this thing that they perceived, that regional activities was somehow taking away from them their resources. Well, by attaching the member dues stream, we took away that argument. I offered that particular society to come down and help resolve their budgetary issues for them, and there was silence around the table for several seconds before they politely declined.

Geselowitz:

So when did the plan finally pass?

Findlay:

It was generally accepted at the end of 2001, but of course we still had to address some of the issues in 2002. I'd have to go back and look at the minutes to see exactly when it was agreed, but we had kept the Board fully informed during 2001 as soon as we'd come up with a process. We started in February at the February Board meeting, and by November we had pretty well a complete agreement for the OAR Committee—Overhead Administration Recovery Committee.

Negotiating Differences

Geselowitz:

Right. Now you mentioned the plant which includes the staff, and IEEE has a very large staff. A lot of small engineering organizations, national organizations might have an executive director, a few editors, whatever. I don't know how large it was then, but today, IEEE staff must be approaching 1,000 individuals. How was the rapport, relationship between the executive director and the president and the Board and the staff during this tough, challenging period?

Findlay:

It was fraught with difficulties. In the first place, when I took over, it was my perception that the then executive director was in hot water with some of the societies for various decisions he had made, and various things that he did. And I came to the conclusion that we had too many issues on our plate that were real issues that we needed to deal with without becoming involved in that sort of a fiasco. Because we'd had a previous executive director who had run into problems. I can talk about that at length too, but I won't bore you with those details now. So I convinced him to come up to Hamilton, and spend a few days where we would map out how we were going to operate together. And I managed to secure his agreement that he would not make the sorts of presentations that he had been making up to this point. That a volunteer would make the presentations on behalf of the corporate structure wherever it was appropriate, particularly the budgetary issues.

I also secured agreement with him that he would not try to mitigate the issues that were arising as he had been doing. He was glossing over some of the issues, and it simply angered the members of the Board. So I asked him that in future he identified major issues, and brought them to the attention of the Board before they caused havoc, as it were. And he did do that. He then highlighted the—this was his traffic lights. The red light, which was a severe issue. The orange light which was a caution, and the things that were going well were the green labeled as little green dots. So that took that matter off my plate, and I think that that whole relationship worked very well. I got along very well with him personally. I knew that there were some people who had issues. But there are always issues.

Geselowitz:

Right. Especially in organization this large and complex. So with those two things under your belt, did anything else of interest or importance come up in your presidential year? Maybe things you didn't even anticipate when you—

Findlay:

Oh yes, 2001—or 9/11, rather—came up. And that created all sorts of problems. The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) and the International Traffic and Arms Regulations (ITAR), goodness. The Patriot Act.

Geselowitz:

Plus it sort of restarted the recession that had been winding down. Things had been improving, and then that sent certainly the U.S. economy, and I think the global economy to some extent back into recession.

Findlay:

As far as IEEE was concerned, by this time we had really come up with a process for funding the institute, and it was necessary to give it a chance to work. And so there's been continuous refinement of the formula. I suggested that they keep on top of that. So subsequent committees have changed it marginally, but it's more or less the way we had conceived it at the time. But the incident of 9/11 caused all sorts of disruptions with our members who were caught in the issue. I can't remember all the countries involved. I think there were seven countries, all of which had members of IEEE, including Cuba and Iraq, and Iran, Afghanistan. I think the Sudan, and a couple of others that I can't remember. We had what turned out to be a fairly significant membership in Iran which brought us into the radar scope of the U.S. government. And it also exacerbated this issue of globalization because it became very apparent that we had to live up to the U.S. regulations. And other people outside the country, and even inside the country, didn't understand this because we're a technical organization, and we're doing our thing. And they didn't seem to understand that regardless, it was necessary to adhere to the regulations.

So at the time, there were various suggestions that we move the office outside the U.S. to get around this. And my response to that at the time was "Doesn't matter where you go, you're going to come up with local regulations." Also it doesn't solve the problem, because any company which does business in the U.S., a substantial amount of business in the U.S. falls within the scope of the Patriot Act, and will fall within the scope of OFAC and ITAR.

Post-9/11 Challenges

Geselowitz:

Could you say more about the challenges after 9/11 of being headquartered in the United States for a globalized organization?

We're, on the face of it a global organization but it really does highlight this schizophrenic nature of IEEE as to whether it's an international organization based in the U.S. or whether it's a U.S. organization with tentacles that spread around the world. And to a certain extent, I don't think that's ever been resolved. We might say that we're global, but when it comes to the push there are very few members on the Board who actually represent organizations outside the U.S., who represent countries outside the U.S.

The crisis happens in September 2001. January 1, 2002, you become President. Did that help IEEE in that difficult time that their President was not from the U.S.?

Findlay:

No.

Geselowitz:

Made no difference?

Findlay:

It had no bearing.

Geselowitz:

Okay.

Findlay:

No. But simply because of the fact that I was not from the U.S. gave me a certain cachet with non-U.S. members who were very worried over the fate of some of the members in those restricted countries. Our initial advice had been to operate within the scope of the law, and to attempt to convince the various offices in which we had friends within the U.S. government, to make exceptions for various activities that we might perform. For example, we were not allowed to provide service to members, particularly in Iran where there was quite a considerable concentration of members. And the service then, there's a question as to what you mean by service. Well, if they sent a paper, for example, we could accept the paper, but we couldn't edit it. If we reviewed the paper, we couldn't tell them how to fix it, because that's a service. Which was a little bit nonsensical, but that was the ruling that we received, and that problem was never resolved during my tenure as President, although we tried desperately. I've always believed that you operate within the scope of the law to effect change where necessary. That's exactly what we did, and ultimately, managed to resolve those issues to get exceptions. But as I said, that didn't occur while I was President, although we made every effort. That was very tough because a lot of members were hostile, a lot of people within the societies who were attempting to do as they saw what was right, couldn't really accommodate the needs of these members. In fact, there was some question as to whether we could even call the members.

Geselowitz:

Was it eventually resolved after your presidency?

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Okay. Now IEEE presidents tend to travel a great deal, and one of the questions I wanted to ask you was about any particularly memorable trips during your presidential year, but before I do that, because of what we've been discussing, was it difficult because you were the first post-9/11 president? Did that put a crimp in your travel plans?

Findlay:

No. What put a crimp in my travel was the observation that we were in severe financial distress, and the president really had to set an example in terms of travel. So I wasn't the usual president. My instructions—Lyle Smith was my keeper, and he—

Geselowitz:

On the staff side?

Findlay:

—on the staff side. He did a fabulous job of making it possible for me to get to the places where I needed to get to for various meetings or to meet with companies, etc., to meet with regional groups, to meet with societies. I probably, as a president—I'd like to check this out sometime—I think as president, I probably went to more U.S. meetings than any other president I know of, because that's where the problems were. My instructions to Lyle were I wouldn't go unless I had a reason to go. If somebody wants me to go, they invite me for a particular reason, and establish a set of priorities in terms of determining what a reason is. So I didn't get to Russia. I didn't get to Australia. I didn't get to South Africa because, once again, I had no reason to go. I wanted to go but I didn't.

Geselowitz:

So within that limited context, were there any particular trips that stand out?

Findlay:

They were all interesting. The ones that my wife accompanied me on were doubly interesting. Let me talk about a few. Hong Kong is always an interesting community. It's a very active section, and while I was there, they wondered whether it might be possible for me to visit Macau, and so I made arrangements to stay over a day so that I could visit Macau, and to give a few talks. And I did. I visited with them, and then there was the possibility that they might like to establish a subsection at Macau, which is just across the water from Hong Kong. I visited Singapore with a number of the vice presidents, etc.

Everywhere I went, I offered the section or the chapter, an opportunity for me from a selection of talks I might give, whether it was a technical talk, because I gave a lot of technical talks in this time. Whether it was a technical talk or whether it was a talk about IEEE or about leadership skills. And from a menu of potential talks, I would just talk on whatever subject they wanted me to talk about within that scope. So I gave technical talks in Hong Kong, Singapore. As I said, if I had a reason to go, and this was a reason, if you're talking about technical matters, it's a reason. The reception in Singapore was also wonderful, and of course the wives of the members got a chance to—they were well hosted by Tek Lo. Tek Lo's wife looked after them, beautifully. Then there was an Executive Committee meeting in Germany, and I arranged to visit a number of universities while I was there to talk about IEEE, and various issues that the student branches or the section might have—the section in Germany. And they did have some issues. So the section had a meeting to host me while I was there, and to bring up the issues that they perceived. I can't at this time tell you what those issues were, but I think we managed to come to some agreements on them.

University Professor

Geselowitz:

Now speaking of universities, during this time, you were still a university professor.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

And I think you also had started a spin-off company as well.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So how did your activities as IEEE President impact your other professional activities?

Findlay:

Well, before running for President, I went to the chairman of our department to get his agreement because it would mean substantial time away. And then of course, there was the issue of looking after classes, etc. And I'd done this as Vice President. I went to the Dean, informed the Dean of what I intended to do, but I'd only do it with his blessing. I went to the President of the university, and asked her for her blessing to do this. I received encouragement from everybody. Subsequently, all three of those offices changed, but the incoming people were equally supportive. So I received support from the university. I received tremendous support from the department. They gave me what they called "special leave" during 2002 to attend to my duties as President, and paid my salary—full salary. So I wasn't on sabbatical, I was on what they called, "special leave." I had to turn in a report which said what I did, which was pretty funny. It's a very long list of activities.

Geselowitz:

Does that report still exist? That might be an interesting archival artifact as well.

Findlay:

I probably couldn't find it. Lots of things still exist in terms of some of the documents that I have in my computer. In preparation for this interview, I printed out a bunch of pages to see what I had.

Geselowitz:

Was this general policy for all outside faculty involvements, or did the reputation of IEEE help in your case?

Findlay:

The international reputation of IEEE. The presidents certainly knew about IEEE, and the cachet of having a president of IEEE within their midst is still something of value to them. I think that that's really what drove it. Not only that, but my wife was the administrative assistant to the President, so I knew them from a sort of a social setting because she would be invited with me to various presidential meetings and social events. And so I knew them. It was more than simply going up to the President, and saying, "I'm doing this." So I think that also helped. As I used to say at the time, she was more important than I was in the university, certainly.

Geselowitz:

And so in 2003, you became immediate past President. And your successor appointed you to the Infrastructure Oversight Committee, which I guess in a way was a logical extension of your activities as President Elect and President. Were there any particular challenges in that year that you recall?

Findlay:

There were continuous challenges. I skipped over one that was a significant challenge. In 1999, IEEE established the International Science and Technical Organization (ISTO) which was essentially an organization which would look at standards and other issues from the viewpoint of corporations. And IEEE owned the organization. However, with my first meeting of the Board in Arizona in 2002 we were having grave difficulty in convincing ISTO that they were wholly owned by IEEE. I won't mention the personalities, but there was decidedly a personality clash. The only way we could resolve some of the issues was to suggest that the staff person associated with that leave—because of course, IEEE supplied all of the finances for staffing, and the building, rent, etc., for the organization. And so then the question was whether we could convince them to do the appropriate thing. Ultimately, ISTO became essentially an independent organization, because we were apprised that it was necessary, although it was wholly owned by IEEE. Well, at the same time, we had separated out the Standards Association, which is a volunteer organization linked loosely to ISTO.

Geselowitz:

So those have now been paired as a wholly owned, but essentially separate organization?

Findlay:

It’s a separate organization. IEEE doesn't run it. The legal requirement was that it ran itself. And the reason for that really has to do with our tax status. That particular organization really is a for-profit organization, and we're not.

Geselowitz:

Do you feel that's been a success, that spinoff?

Findlay:

I haven't kept track of ISTO. Certainly the standards development has been a success, and I had very good relations with the standards organization, and Johnson was forefront there.

Geselowitz:

So then after you finally rotated off the Board, did you fade away into the sunset, or has IEEE found a way to keep you involved? I know you were on the History Committee, so that I know about for some time. Have you been involved in other IEEE activities?

Findlay:

I was on the History Committee for awhile until my term was up. And I have been on the Marketing and Sales Committee also continuously since that time. That's really the only international portion that I've kept up since 2003. However within the region, I've been heavily involved in IEEE activities.

Geselowitz:

What sorts of activities are you interested or involved in now?

Findlay:

Well, they elected me to the position of Director Emeritus and Wally Read is the other Director Emeritus. There are two of us. We are an advisory group to the president of IEEE Canada and the Board of IEEE Canada. And so I am the parliamentarian for the committee. It's my job to advise the President on appropriate parliamentary procedure. We also serve on the History Committee for the region—Wally might be able to, as Chair of that committee, tell you more about our plans for the future of that. I also serve on the IEEE Canadian Foundation as a Director, and we meet a couple of times a year. And of course, you've heard about the philanthropic nature of that organization.

Geselowitz:

Are you still involved directly in student activities, which is what got you started in the first place?

Findlay:

To a lesser degree. One of our members negotiated with TELUS a few years ago, to establish a scholarship and a competition for student members. All graduating student members are invited to present a paper if they wish, in competition for the prize which is $15,000. No mean feat. It's probably one of the largest undergraduate student awards in IEEE, if not the largest. This occurs every year through the good auspices of TELUS, and one of its vice presidents who has worked with me personally for many years: Ibrahim Gedeon who spoke at IEEE Sections Congress 2008. You may remember him.

Geselowitz:

At Sections Congress, I was stuck at the History Center booth, and didn't actually get to any of the sessions.

Findlay:

Oh. You didn't get to hear him. Too bad. By the way, It's spelled “Ibrahim,” but it's usually pronounced Brahim.

Long-Term Trends

Geselowitz:

I'd like to start to wrap up with a very open-ended question, and ask you to respond to it, or two related questions. Over your long, long years of involvement with IEEE, do you see any particular trends or developments, or sort of evolution that form a pattern that you can point to? And where do you think the Institute is going in the future?

Findlay:

We continue to make the same mistakes that we made in the past. I was amused or bemused to hear that the Board had decided to reduce dues last year from what they should have been. I thought to myself at the time, laying up trouble for themselves in the future. Just not paying enough attention to the lessons of the past. So I see that as a major issue. One of the activities that I undertook in 2003, because I became very concerned with the governance of IEEE as a whole, was that I produced a white paper on the governance of IEEE and many of the issues that I saw. Those issues are still with us. They haven't been resolved, and they won't go away until somebody does something about them. Things that harm us in terms of becoming the global entity we think we are. And here, what I'm trying to point out is there are too many Boards. The Regional Activities Board and the Technical Activities Board really should encompass all of the activities of IEEE. There shouldn't be six Boards.

Geselowitz:

Right. Because you're saying that in a sense if you think of it as a matrix, everything is either distributed in space or technology, why do you need standards? Well, it's actually maybe a special case because the standards operation is now separate, but even standards are either national or technical, or some cross of those.

Findlay:

Yes, standards are technical.

Geselowitz:

Right. There's no other way. There may be regional variation, but it's a technical question.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

And education may have regional variation, but it is also a technical question, so to speak.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

And so forth.

Findlay:

I believe that we need a smaller, more nimble Board. I believe that we have to get away from the notion because every director believes they represent somebody—either the region or technical activity. It's not true. They represent the public, and the quicker we get around to the notion that we shouldn't have Board members who are representing constituencies, then I think we'll start to get to the real governance issues of IEEE where we're developing policies and strategic initiatives rather than spending all our time putting out fires. That should be delegated to RAB and TAB. Or, as it is called now MGA and TAB.

Geselowitz:

Any chance, looking at your “crystal ball,” that IEEE will ever resolve these issues?

Findlay:

Not until they come to terms with the schizophrenic nature of IEEE. They have to make a conscious decision to be a global organization. They haven't done that yet, and I don't think they're prepared to do it yet.

Geselowitz:

Well, it'd be interesting to see where it ends up.

Findlay:

And let me add something here that's equally important. Without the U.S. members being fully engaged and involved in IEEE in the broader body, and a major constituent of the broader body, IEEE can't survive. So one of my issues—and this is one of the reasons why I've traveled so extensively to meetings in the U.S. was to bring that message home. Without you guys, there's no IEEE. So we need to nurture what goes on in the U.S., but in terms of governance, we're going about it the wrong way. There are too many vested interests, dare I say it, in the USA organization.

Geselowitz:

And that's part of the complicated structure done before. In addition to the regional structure, there's an IEEE USA

Findlay:

There's a whole different structure.

Geselowitz:

A structure which somehow incorporates the US regions, yet is separate.

Findlay:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Financially, that may not be the most efficient way to do it in addition to the other issues.

Findlay:

It's neither the most effective way to do it, nor the most efficient. So I would really attempt to come to terms with that.

Geselowitz:

Now one other issue actually that I didn't mention, didn't come up, but has come up within the other presidents we have interviewed, is the question of diversity of the membership and leadership of IEEE. Now one thing I note—and this is completely anecdotal, just my sense, and, having traveled to IEEE meetings for the past 12 years as Director of the History Center—is that the Canadian sections are actually quite diverse, I find, compared to a lot of other Sections. Say you go to the IEEE Germany section or something, and everybody is of German extraction. But you go to, a Region Seven conference, and people seem to come from all over the world, even though they’re all Canadian. So I don't know if being Canadian president gave you a particular insight there. But how do you feel about the question of the diversity of IEEE membership? And that diversity of, course, includes national origin, ethnicity, but it also includes gender. The question of women in electrical and computer engineering.

Findlay:

Well you'll certainly find a larger proportion of women involved in Canada than you will in the U.S., except for the Women in Engineering Committee, which has not been effective, I think, in terms of developing the sorts of nurturing activities which would bring more women into the profession. As far as ethnical diversity, Canada is an example. If you had attended our Board meeting, and you looked around the room, you would have seen exactly what I'm talking about. I wouldn't have to point it out. It's very ethnically diverse. There are people of every race and color on the board, also women on the board. And we like to operate that way, frankly. Well, they're our friends.

Geselowitz:

I probably shouldn't say this, but if one attends an IEEE Board meeting and looks around, one gets a very different feeling.

Findlay:

Exactly.

Geselowitz:

Can somehow the Canadian experience be replicated elsewhere through IEEE, do you think?

Findlay:

No. It can't be replicated throughout IEEE because of the vested interests which maintain the status quo on the Board. And six of the regional directors operate in concert, which makes it very difficult to change that. They have their foot in two camps. They represent a single constituency which has an organization which operates on behalf of that constituency. But then they're also on the Member and Geographic Activities Board. This doesn't make sense to me. The technical directors are more diverse, I believe, than the regional directors will ever be.

Geselowitz:

So this has really been, for me, a fascinating and wonderful interview, and I was wondering if you have any other thoughts you would like to close with before we call it a day. Do you feel you've said everything you'd like to say?

Findlay:

No. I'm an optimist. Although I think that there are issues that need to be resolved, I certainly have the feeling, certainly in Canada, and when I was on the Board, that I was part of a family whether it was dealing with staff or whether it was dealing with members, whether it was dealing with the governance of IEEE, that the people that I interfaced with were my friends, and continue to be. And that, I think, is one of the truly strong points of IEEE as a whole, that we are a family, and we say that. We're part of a family. Families disagree though on occasion.

Geselowitz:

Great. Well, Ray, thank you very much.