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SEL Gives $2 Million to Establish Endowed Chair

Professor Brian Johnson has been named the first Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Chair in Power Engineering with the University of Idaho College of Engineering. The position was made possible by a $2 million gift from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL).

The gift from SEL came last month when the Pullman-based international electrical power systems company announced its support of the U of I endowed chair within the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“We are delighted that Brian Johnson is the first SEL Chair in Power Engineering,” said Ed Schweitzer, SEL founder and president. “He’s already made such a big impact on so many students, and we hope this growing partnership between SEL and the U of I will further amplify and expand his influence and work.”

An endowed chair is a distinguished university professorship that is used to attract a preeminent scholar in a specific academic field, in this case power engineering. The enhanced financial support and prestige generated by the endowment will dramatically fuel future innovation in electric power research and teaching.

Endowed chair positions are supported by earnings from invested funds. Proceeds from the endowment will support the research program of the endowed faculty member by funding students, staff, travel and equipment.

Johnson is internationally recognized in the field of power engineering and is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), where he holds officer positions on several technical committees. He is former chair of the U of I Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and has served as the primary investigator on over 50 research projects totaling more than $7 million in external funding. Most notable about Johnson’s career is his dedication to students and power engineering education. Over the course of the past 23 years, Johnson has advised 170 graduate students in Moscow and globally through the College of Engineering’s Engineering Outreach online education program. He has also successfully mentored 44 students to receive their certificate in Power Systems Protection and Relaying.

Professor Brian Johnson has been named the first Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Chair in Power Engineering with the University of Idaho College of Engineering.
Professor Brian Johnson was named the first Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Chair in Power Engineering with the University of Idaho College of Engineering in fall 2015.

"I’m honored to be selected as the first Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Chair in Power Engineering,” Johnson said. “I’m excited about the possibilities the new step in our relationship with SEL offers to increase opportunities to excite students about power engineering and strengthen their understanding through courses, design projects and research."

SEL and U of I’s College of Engineering have long enjoyed a valuable local partnership benefiting both organizations, students and employees.

“This gift and the creation of the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Endowed Chair in Power Engineering forever links the future of SEL and the U of I College of Engineering,” College of Engineering Dean Larry Stauffer said. “We are excited about the increased reputation that comes with this partnership and our increased ability in educating future engineers for the entire power industry.”

SEL currently employs over 250 U of I alumni across the globe. Twenty-five SEL employees are currently enrolled at the U of I and SEL provides internships for 58 U of I students.

“In order for SEL to continue its rich tradition of innovation, we need highly educated engineers who really understand the fundamentals of electric power systems,” said Dave Whitehead, SEL VP of R&D. “The students coming out of U of I are able to begin contributing at a high level on day one.”

“We believe this partnership will not only benefit the university and SEL, but it will also help us solve the tough problems related to protecting, monitoring and controlling electric power — which will help make the world a better place.”

Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer. founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.
Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, is an electrical engineer, inventor, and founder of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.