2016 IEEE-USA Awards Honor 13 for Excellence, Service, Contributions

By Helen Horwitz

Few people would dispute that William Hurley is one of the most entrepreneurial IEEE members in the United States ” or, for that matter, the world. Between July 2015 and mid-March 2016, this serial entrepreneur ” who goes by “Whurley” (pronounced “whirly”) “sold three technology-based companies that he either founded or co-founded.

Goldman Sachs, the global investment banking, securities and investment management firm, not only purchased one of his companies, Honest Dollar, but also made him a managing director to run it. Launched in 2014, Honest Dollar, serves small and medium-sized businesses by enabling them to set up affordable retirement savings programs for employees. About 45-million American workers do not have access to employee-sponsored retirement plans.

Besides Honest Dollar, Whurley also sold Chaotic Moon, an advanced digital studio that he started in 2010 to Accenture, and Team Chaos, a digital games development company launched in 2012, to Zynga.

To recognize his entrepreneurial achievements, the Austin-based innovator is being presented with the 2016 IEEE-USA Entrepreneur Achievement Award for Leadership in Entrepreneurial Spirit. An IEEE Senior Member, he will be honored on 1 April at the IEEE-USA Awards & Recognition Ceremony during IEEE Region 3 SoutheastCon 2017, in Charlotte, N.C.

IEEE Life Senior Member Ed Perkins nominated Whurley for the award. “Besides being a role model for successful entrepreneurship, he has, for years, delivered distinctive and inspirational talks to encourage young people,” says Perkins. “In addition, in 2016 Whurley founded EQUALS with the United Nations.” Perkins explains that this global partnership for gender equality has two goals: to increase women’s participation in STEM, and to double their numbers in technology and digital entrepreneurship by 2030.  

IEEE Senior Member Scott Tamashiro, who served on the committee for the first Region 6 IEEE Rising Stars conference in 2015, notes that Whurley was a key speaker whose presence helped to make the event a success among students and young professionals. “His experience in combining ideas and enthusiasm to create products inspired the attendees,” says Tamashiro. “Afterward, he stayed to meet with everyone who wanted to talk with him, and he also helped review resumes during the corporate mixer.” Tamashiro says Whurley’s talk at the inaugural 2016 IEEE-USA Future Leaders Forum “excited everyone with his frankness about his entrepreneurial experiences.”


At his presentations, Whurley also evangelizes the benefits of IEEE membership. His own involvement with IEEE began during his early career in Austin, with Apple Research Development. Later, at IBM, he was awarded four patents, and the coveted IBM Master Inventor designation. It acknowledges the value of the inventor’s contribution to the company’s patent portfolio.

Each year, IEEE-USA presents a variety of awards and recognitions to acknowledge excellence, outstanding service and contributions that further its objectives. IEEE-USA’s Awards and Recognition Committee administers these awards, and the IEEE Awards Board, as well as the IEEE Board of Directors also approves them. IEEE-USA presents awards and recognitions in three categories: professionalism, technical achievement and literary contributions. This year, the deadline for submitting nominations for 2017 awards, to be presented in 2018, is 31 July.

Bernard Sander, who chaired the 2016 EEE-USA Awards and Recognition Committee, says that just reading the award nominations provides proof that “the members of our profession are indeed advancing technology for humanity.”

“While we may face challenges in the future, engineers will also continue to make a difference in the world,” he adds.

Sander says the committee received many nominations for deserving individuals, and he encourages nominators who were unsuccessful to resubmit their nomination packages for 2017.

Here are three other notable 2017 IEEE-USA Awards being presented this year:


A Novel Pre-University STEM-Engineering Partnership

IEEE-USA is recognizing the distinctive collaboration between math educator Olga Serebrennikov and IEEE Senior Member Desiree Awiszio with the 2016 IEEE-USA K-12 STEM Literacy Educator-Engineer Partnership Award. Since early 2015, when the two first teamed up, they’ve been providing talented K-12 math students in the Worcester, Mass., area with advanced skills in an environment that also introduces them to the world of engineering.

In special evening and Saturday workshops, the youngsters learn from Awiszio and IEEE Student Branch members at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). They teach them such engineering concepts as Boolian logic, Karnaugh maps and logic design, and also provide interactive demonstrations on current systems. All the children are enrolled in the Math Altitude School of Mathematics, an after-school and weekend enrichment program run by Serebrennikov. She and her husband, Boris, founded MathAltitude, and both are experienced industry professionals with a passion for teaching.

IEEE Life Senior Member Moyses Kuchnir, who nominated Awiszio and Serebrennikov, notes that Desiree Awiszio, a self-employed consulting engineer, is a longtime volunteer in the Worcester Section. Besides being the current IEEE Women in Engineering Chair, she is deeply involved with area STEM programs, including judging at school science fairs, and participating in WPI mentoring/networking events for undergraduate and graduate students.

Advancing the Cause of Non-Compete Agreement Reform

IEEE Member Kevin Johnson of Lexington, Mass., is receiving the IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Public Service. IEEE-USA is honoring him for his continuing leadership in furthering reform of non-compete agreements in employment contracts. Active since 2007 with non-compete reform in Massachusetts, Johnson, an entrepreneur and activist, has worked continuously with state legislators to bring an end to the practice. He and labor law specialists believe it hinders both workers and employers, and they are supported by expert research. According to Johnson and his colleagues, non-competes prevent people from changing jobs and from getting a new job following a layoff, as well as suppressing salaries. Non-competes are also reported to deter innovation–giving states like California, where non-compete contracts are unenforceable ” an economic advantage.

In early 2016, Johnson formed the Employee Association to Renegotiate Non-Competes (EARN at to help employees eliminate their non-competes, one employer at a time. It’s a so-called pop-up union ” a single-issue labor organizing campaign, initially created to help employees during the $67 billion merger of 70,000-employee EMC, located in Hopkinton, Mass., with Dell. Despite EMC’s prior record of public opposition to meaningful non-compete reform, in September 2016, Dell EMC said they would use non-competes in a more “thoughtful and careful way.”

A “True Advocate of STEM and Education”

In his nomination of Steve Watkins, IEEE Senior Member Daryl Beetner describes Watkins’ “passion” for students ” whether they’re pre-university, current students, or young professionals. Watkins is an IEEE Senior Member, and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology (MST). He is receiving the 2016 IEEE-USA Jim Watson Student Professional Awareness Achievement Award to honor his longstanding and extensive volunteerism to support students.

A respected MST teacher and advisor, as well as the director of the Applied Optics Laboratory, Watkins is heavily involved with, to name just a few: the MST summer robotics camp for middle-school students; the Region 5 Student Ethics Competition, which he suggested and started; and student development through IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (HKN). He caps all such volunteer work with educational papers that share best practices and approaches with the wider professional community.

Currently a 2016-17 Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Air Force Academy, Watkins is devoting much of his non-classroom time to reactivating the dormant IEEE Student Branch. Also, since his IEEE-USA Award nomination was submitted, he was elected HKN President-elect. He’s now studying how best to merge HKN operations, student activities and various programs within IEEE.

The complete list of all 2016 IEEE-USA Awards Recognition recipients is at

Detailed information about submitting nominations for the 2017 IEEE-USA Awards and Recognitions will be available by 1 April at:;

General information about IEEE-USA Awards and Recognitions is at

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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