In Memoriam Rudolph J. Joenk, Jr., PhD (1932-2018)

Rudy Joenk, longtime member of the IEEE Professional Communication Society, passed away in Boulder, CO on 5 November 2018.

Born in St. Louis, MO, he graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1953. After 21 months of active duty service in the US Army Ordnance Corps, he attended the University of Washington in Seattle and earned a master’s degree in physics in 1957. He then moved to Pittsburgh, PA, where he worked for Westinghouse and earned a PhD in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962.

His long career with IBM started at the T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY in 1962, where he worked on magnetic materials with potential for use as computer memory. He moved to White Plains, NY and served as associate editor of the IBM Journal of Research and Development from 1968 to 1971, and then as editor from 1971 to 1978. In 1978 he moved to IBM’s facility in Boulder where he worked on patents and on documentation for mag card typewriters and other products. He retired from IBM in 1993.

Rudy’s connection with IEEE and ProComm was a happy accident. His friend Herb Michaelson, one of the editors of the IBM Journal and a founding member of ProComm, and Emily Schlesinger, then president of ProComm, approached Rudy in 1976 about taking on the job of editing the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, which was in need of an editor who would ensure its quarterly publication of high-quality material. Rudy took the challenge. From 1977 to 1984 he began the transformation of the Transactions into an archival journal. He also edited the PCS Newsletter in 1983-1984.

Following his time as Transactions editor, he continued to be active in the Society, serving as vice president (1988-1989), president (1990-1991), and Newsletter editor (1998-2004), and as chair of the editorial advisory committee for many years. The impressive 24- to 40-page newsletters that Rudy produced six times per year included material of great interest to our engineering members, as well as society news and notes.

He received a number of honors and awards from IEEE and the Professional Communication Society in recognition of his service and contributions to professional communication:

  • The Alfred N. Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communication (1980)
  • The IEEE Outstanding Service Award (1991)
  • The Emily K. Schlesinger Award for Outstanding Service to the Professional Communication Society (1999)
  • The IEEE Third Millennium Medal (2000)

In addition, the Society named its award for best Transactions paper in his honor in 2000.

He had numerous publications and public presentations to his credit, ranging from “A Sense of Humor in Technical Communication” to “An Engineer by Any Other Name.” He attended the annual IEEE International Professional Communication Conference for many years, and attendees will remember the candid photos he took to illustrate articles about the conferences in the Society Newsletter.

In addition to his professional work, Rudy was active in his community. He was elected mayor of Ossining, NY and served two terms from 1971 through 1974. He also was a long-time active member of Trinity Episcopal Church and the president of the Inter Faith Council for Action in Ossining from 1970 to 1972.

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