Global Concerns Global Concerns - XXII

We've come to the end of an era. Steve Kahne has now completed a long and truly distinguished service as our USA representative to the IFAC Council; I've now begun my term as his successor. At this significant point in time, I would like to salute Steve and his devotion to IFAC as well as share my reflections as your new IFAC representative.

Steve Kahne attended his first IFAC Congress in 1963, and he's been an active participant in IFAC events for 36 years. In 1987, Steve became the USA representative to the IFAC Council, and his "retirement" this year ends 12 successful years as our representative. There's been only three other USA representatives since IFAC began in 1957: Harold Chestnut (1957-61), Jack Lozier (1961-78), and Bill Miller (1978-87).

Most of us remember that Steve was IFAC President in 1993-96. He accomplished much as IFAC President. Perhaps the event with which we are all most familiar is the highly successful 1996 IFAC World Congress in San Francisco. All-time attendance records were set at that event. During Steve's IFAC career, he served in many roles, including Vice President and Chair of the IFAC Executive Board; Chair of the Publications Board, Nominations Committee, Policy Committee, and Congress Young Authors Prize Committee; Chair and/or member of the Organizing Committee or International Program Committee for numerous IFAC Workshops, Symposia, or Conferences; Editor for Automatica; IFAC Council member (1987-1999), and of course as IFAC President-Elect, President, and Past-President.

Over the years, I've heard Steve recall many fond IFAC memories. One of his favorite expressions when he refers to IFAC is the word "family", and this is truly an appropriate description. All of us who've been associated with IFAC have met fellow engineers from diverse locations and cultures, yet we've become both personal and professional friends as we've worked together on mutually beneficial projects. On one IFAC occasion, I asked Steve if he planned to do any "tourist things" while we were in a country to which I never expected I would visit. His answer was a simple "no" as he explained that opportunities to develop and renew personal and technical IFAC relationships were far more important than other factors. There's at least one other very important relationship that Steve can trace to IFAC; his wife, Irena, is the daughter of Pawel Nowacki, the fifth IFAC President.

Although Steve is stepping down from some of his official IFAC administrative roles, I'm sure that he won't "retire" from IFAC. Just like other Past Presidents, Steve will no doubt continue to participate in IFAC as long as possible. In fact during the coming triennium, he will serve as Chair of the IFAC Publications Managing Board, which oversees the business aspects of IFAC's joint venture with Elsevier Science Publishers.

As we reach this milestone when Steve "retires" from the IFAC Council, I want to especially thank him on behalf of AACC, and all the USA friends of IFAC, for his years of dedicated service to the IFAC dream.


Although I've served six years within the IFAC structure, as I become your Council representative, I'm reminded how very important IFAC is to our technical field and especially to the global aspects of our work. In a typical 3-year triennium (between World Congresses), IFAC authors generate almost 50,000 pages of technical materials collected into over 150 volumes. At a time when other professional organizations are just now adapting to our "new" world with greater emphasis on global operations, I note that IFAC has always been a truly international organization. There are IFAC National Member Organizations (NMO), like AACC, from 49 different countries who sponsor approximately 40 events each year in various venues distributed throughout the world. The NMOs themselves are truly significant organizations within their respective countries; it's not unusual for political leaders of a host country to acknowledge IFAC's contributions to their culture. For example, the opening ceremony of the Beijing World Congress this past summer included appearances by both the Vice Premier of the Peoples Republic of China and the Vice Mayor of Beijing City.

IFAC's major decisions are made by the IFAC General Assembly, composed of the NMOs from each member country. Furthermore, the IFAC administrative organization is intentionally distributed so that citizens of all of the IFAC countries can be used in the various IFAC functions. No single country has a dominant influence in IFAC decisions and operations.

Not only does IFAC provide representation for automatic control throughout the globe, it also addresses all aspects of our field. Within the IFAC Technical Board, there are 45 Technical Committees which address all aspects of control theory and applications. IFAC also addresses social and cultural aspects of automation. Some of the topics addressed by the Technical Committees are more critical in some countries than in others; this variety of emphasis adds to the diversity of IFAC and generates a more global perspective for everyone. During the last triennium, special efforts were devoted to identification of emerging technologies that may become significant parts of the control field. There is at least one new Technical Committee that is being formed as a result of this activity; others are in the early stages of evaluation.


Although I've made special note of Steve Kahne's distinguished service to IFAC, there are indeed many others who serve in other capacities. In future issues of this column, I'll introduce you to others. However let me briefly note that both Steve and Janos Gertler were recognized as IFAC Advisors during the Beijing Congress. IFAC Advisors are individuals who have made significant contributions to IFAC, and whose continuing advice and council is valued as IFAC moves forward.

                    Mike Masten
                    IFAC Council Member

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