Dennis Bodson, W4PWF, to receive RCA’s Sarnoff Citation

Former NCS chief is active ARRL, IEEE volunteer

RCA Sarnoff Citation for 2007 goes to Dennis Bodson, Ph.D., P.E., W4PWF

Dennis Bodson, W4PWF Dennis Bodson, W4PWF

The Radio Club of America has named Dennis Bodson, Ph.D., P.E., W4PWF, of Arlington, Virginia, as the recipient of the Sarnoff Citation. The award is given to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of electronic communications. “I was shocked when I heard that I would receive the Sarnoff Citation,” Dennis told me, adding, “I find it difficult to believe that I’ll be on the dais with Walter Cronkite, KB2GSD.”

The energy and volunteer effort that Dennis displays in two other organizations to which we both belong, ARRL and IEEE, reaches a level hardly anyone could match. When I called to congratulate him on the award, I learned that he is retired — “Retired means different things to different people. I work, but on different things,” he said. Dennis retired as chief of the Technology and Standards Division of the National Communications System (NCS) in 1998. In October 2005, Dennis became a member of the executive staff of the Institute for Defense and Homeland Security where he is director of Telecommunications and Sensor Systems.

But let’s start at the beginning. Born in Washington, D.C., Dennis told me he always wanted to be an electrical engineer. “When I graduated from high school, I enrolled college and got a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in electrical engineering,” he said. He earned B.E.E. and M.E.E. degrees at The Catholic University of America in Washington in 1961 and 1963. From 1963 to 1966, he served in the U.S. Air Force as an officer assigned to the National Security Agency. From 1966 to 1969, he was with Vitro Laboratories, Atlantic Research Corporation and the U.S. Army Materiel Command, where he was engaged in research and development, and systems engineering.

In 1970, Dennis began his long career with NCS, currently an interagency group of 23 federal departments and agencies managed by the Department of Homeland Security. He retired from NCS in 1998. “I was an engineer with the federal government, the National Communications System, for 28 years. Altogether, 34 years with the federal government with the Department of Defense,” he said. Dennis continued his formal education while at NCS, earning a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California Washington Center for Public Affairs in 1976. He completed his doctorate in electrical engineering from California Western University in 1985. In recognition of his accomplishments in federal service, in 1999 Dennis received the IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award for major contributions to the development of standards in the field of electrical and electronics engineering.

IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award

IEEE has seen a lot of Dennis since his beginning days as a student engineer. “My major professor said, ‘Become active in your professional society.’ I took him at heart and did so and never regretted it,” Dennis said. After retiring from NCS, Dennis increased his IEEE involvement. By 2000, he was chairman of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society (VTS) Standards Committee, reflecting his work on standards at NCS. He was a senior editor for the VTS quarterly bulletin, “News Digest,” and later became its editor. “I became editor because we needed to do something,” he said, “but then we got a real editor, Dr. James Irvine. We went from a bulletin to a magazine, a 60-page magazine.” Dennis is a Life Fellow of IEEE, where new Fellowships are limited to no more than one-tenth of one percent of the membership per year, making elevation to the status of Fellow in IEEE a particularly high distinction.

Soon after his retirement from NCS, Dennis served as president of the IEEE Engineering Management Society (EMS). For his service to EMS, he was given the EMS Engineering Manager of the Year award. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) bestowed on Dennis the IEEE-SA Distinguished Service Award in 2002. Then Dennis was elected president of VTS, where he continues on its board of governors as junior past president.

If that weren’t enough, Dennis is active in ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. He serves on ARRL’s board of directors, representing its Roanoke Division. “Fifteen years ago, I had the opportunity. I knew the former division director, and he suggested, ‘You get involved and run for vice director.’ I was elected to that, and when he retired, I moved up to director. I have enjoyed it, but everything comes to a change. I still have this year and two more years, and then I’ll decide whether to run for re-election,” Dennis said. He also is vice president of the Arlington (Virginia) Amateur Radio Club.

Dennis has written more than 60 technical articles and has published four books. He joined RCA in 1976, became a Fellow in 1981, and became a life member in 1996.

RCA will present the Sarnoff Citation to Dennis at the annual banquet on Nov. 16, 2007. The banquet is open to members, non-members and guests. Let me know if you need a registration form to obtain a reservation, or you can download one here: registration form


David Sarnoff in 1922 David Sarnoff in 1922

In 1926, RCA inducted David Sarnoff, the namesake of the Sarnoff Citation, as an honorary member. By then 35 years old, Sarnoff had risen through the ranks at the American Marconi Company, which transitioned into becoming the Radio Corporation of America (the “other” RCA) after its purchase in 1919 by General Electric. Sarnoff became the company’s general manager under GE chairman Owen D. Young.

In the 1920s, the Radio Corporation of America purchased broadcast stations, formed the National Broadcasting Company as a nationwide radio network, and purchased the Victor Talking Machine phonograph company, which became RCA-Victor. Sarnoff’s responsibility at Radio Corporation of America grew along with the company, and he became its president in 1930. He continued in that role until 1970, retiring at age 79, and he died a year later. Among other things, Sarnoff is known for recognizing the potential of television, and he poured the Radio Corporation of America’s resources into its development.

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