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Remembering IEEE Director Emeritus Theodore W. Hissey

IEEE Life Fellow Theodore W. “Ted” Hissey died on 14 October at the age of 97.

An active volunteer whose involvement with IEEE spanned more than six decades, Hissey served as IEEE director emeritus from 1994 to 1996. In 1997 he was vice president of the IEEE Foundation.

More recently, he focused on facilitating partnerships and establishing joint awards with other technical societies in IEEE Regions 8, 9, and 10. But in a 2014 interview with The Institute, Hissey said his real passion was organizing outreach events for students and mentoring new volunteers through IEEE Young Professionals.

“I seek out and mentor ambitious young professionals and encourage them to seek higher-level positions within IEEE to bring their fresh and innovative ideas into the organization,” he said.

To honor his mentoring activities within IEEE YP, in 2017 the IEEE Theodore W. Hissey Outstanding Young Professional Award was established. It recognizes young engineers for contributions to the technical community and IEEE’s fields of interest.

“Theodore Hissey was the kindest and most empowering soul,” Eddie Custovic says. The IEEE senior member received the 2022 IEEE Theodore W. Hissey Outstanding Young Professional Award.

“His encouragement and support is something that helped me tremendously in my early career,” Custovic adds. “Receiving the 2022 IEEE award that bears his name is the greatest highlight of my professional career. His legacy and what it means to be a selfless leader, will continue to serve our global IEEE community as exemplary. He will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Uncle Ted.”

A jet-setting career

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in power engineering in 1948 from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Hissey joined Leeds and Northrup (L&N) in Philadelphia as an applications engineer. The company made electrical measurement instruments and control and power systems. He worked there for 43 years, serving in a variety of engineering and management positions.

While at L&N, Hissey joined a number of technical and standards committees and helped establish IEEE conferences. His work took him to more than 50 countries, and he befriended many engineers around the globe.

Those contacts helped Hissey and L&N take on several international projects such as setting up telemetry systems for Aramco, a national oil and natural gas company in Saudi Arabia. He spent time in Brazil helping engineers there expand and stabilize the power grid.

Later he was a principal engineer at Macro Corp., an engineering consultancy firm based in Horsham, Pa.

In the 2014 interview, Hissey credited some of his career achievements to his involvement with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers—one of IEEE’s predecessor societies—and later IEEE.

“Organizing and attending global conferences, networking with engineers, and having access to the latest technical research really helped me keep up as hardware and software evolved,” he said. “IEEE paved a road for me throughout my working life.”

Giving back and guiding others

Hissey’s involvement with IEEE can be traced to the late 1940s, when he chaired Penn State’s student AIEE chapter.

He became a member of the IEEE Power & Energy Society governing board in 1973, and he served as society’s 1985–1986 president.

Toward the end of his career, he was on the IEEE Board of Directors, and he was director of IEEE Division VII (Energy and Power Engineering). He also served on several committees as well as the Regional Activities (now Member and Geographic Activities), Standards, and Technical Activities boards.

He served as IEEE treasurer in the early 1990s. In 1994 he was appointed acting IEEE executive director.

Hissey enjoyed sharing his wisdom with the next generation. “I tell young people they’re in a different world today than when I started out in the late 1940s,” he told The Institute in 2014. “In those days, companies were more supportive of their employees; their professional development was a priority. Now young professionals often have to learn these skills on their own.”

Through his mentorship, “Uncle Ted” helped many volunteers feel as though they did not have to go it alone.

“Ted’s support of [students and young professionals] was outstanding,” says Francisco Martinez, 2021 president of the IEEE Foundation. “He motivated them not only to improve their professional skills but also to continue their involvement with IEEE.”

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