Originally published April 29, 2013
All are invited to hear Dr. Owe Petersen, professor and assistant vice president of institutional research and assessment, deliver his “Last Lecture” on Thursday, May 2 at 6 p.m. in the Todd Wehr Auditorium, 1047 N. Broadway. He will give the fourth annual lecture in MSOE’s Last Lecture series, in which one member of the MSOE staff or faculty is invited to pass on their greatest and most succinct knowledge and life-experiences to the MSOE community. Petersen, who taught at MSOE for 20 years, will reflect on his time at MSOE and also share his life experiences and accomplishments.
The purpose of the series is twofold: to recognize a faculty or staff member for his or her years of service and contributions to the university, and for those in attendance to learn what the speaker truly believes are the most important facets of their human life experiences and accomplishments. Students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to nominate speakers from a list of eligible individuals, and the speaker is chosen by the Student Life Office.
Petersen served as chairman of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department for eight years, and prior to that was the electrical engineering program director for six years. Petersen also oversaw the electrical engineering exchange program between MSOE and Lübeck University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
Petersen was born in Stolp, Germany (now the city of Swupsk, Poland), in September 1941, during the World War II. Upon the death of his father in 1944 his family returned to his parents’ home town of Husum, Germany. Eventually they moved to Flensburg, Germany, a city on the border with Denmark. Because of his ethnic background he attended the Danish school system for five years. During summers he lived on a farm in Viborg, Denmark.
In 1953 Petersen, his mother and brother immigrated to the U.S., initially settling in northern Illinois before moving to Milwaukee. After numerous moves and schools he graduated from Rufus King High School. He attended UW-Milwaukee for two years, transferred to UW-Madison and graduated in 1963 with a B.S. in electrical engineering, although his primary interest was in physics and mathematics. He started to work in a grocery store at the age of 11, and continued that “career” for many years through high school and early college.
Petersen received a master’s and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1965 and 1971, respectively. In 1963 he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Reading, Penn., as a member of technical staff and pursued a research and development career lasting for 30 years. His work spanned technical topics such as the design of microwave and millimeter silicon devices, integrated circuit design and technology, molecular beam epitaxy, optical data links and transatlantic repeaters, reliability and metallurgy.
He was an AT&T visiting professor at North Carolina A&T State University from 1990-92. In 1993 he accepted a faculty position at MSOE as associate professor in the EECS Department. He has coauthored more than 60 presentations and papers. In 2005 he was awarded the Ehrennaddle (honorary award) by the Lübeck University of Applied Sciences for meritorious service to the university and the field of engineering education.
Petersen is a senior member of the IEEE and longtime ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission evaluator in electrical engineering. He served on many church committees at the congregation and regional level in the Lutheran Church and twice was as a delegate to the national convention. Petersen and his wife Lorna are the parents of three children and grandparents of seven.
MSOE is an independent, non-profit university with about 2,500 students. MSOE offers 20 bachelor’s degrees and nine master’s degrees in engineering, business, mathematics and nursing. The university has a national academic reputation; longstanding ties to business and industry; dedicated professors with real-world experience; a 94% placement rate; and the highest average starting and mid-career salaries of any Wisconsin university according to PayScale Inc. MSOE graduates are well-rounded, technologically experienced and highly productive professionals and leaders.