Powering the Future

Community is everything at The Grainger College of Engineering. We train our students to find solutions to our world's challenges and our faculty and researchers work to advance science, technology, and the human experience, every day. This work creates strong bonds among our students and faculty. Connections made on our engineering campus can last a lifetime and may even lead to future advances and opportunities for innovation.

A recent gift from alumnus Bahman Hoveida (MS, ECE ’80), through the Hoveida Family Foundation, honors one such connection between student and educator.  The Peter Sauer - Bahman Hoveida Distinguished Chair in Electric Power supports Grainger Engineering’s initiatives in power system networks, apparatus, and clean energy by providing funding for a chair position and graduate fellowships in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Peter Sauer, an Illinois faculty member since 1977 and Bahman's academic advisor, was the catalyst for this endowed gift that will recruit and retain future generations of Grainger Engineering leaders.

Meet Alumnus Bahman HoveidaBahman Hoveida headshot

Q What inspired you to make this contribution to The Grainger College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering?

The University of Illinois and its Electrical Engineering program and Peter Sauer were strong catalysts for shaping my future career in power engineering and of course helping me develop a successful career. My educational background has helped me develop a successful enterprise that subsequently was sold and generated wealth for many shareholders and of course my own family. I am indebted to Professor Sauer and the University of Illinois institution. Without their help, I would not have been able to achieve what I achieved in my professional life.

Q How did your time at the U of I impact your decision to make this gift?

It was a very positive experience. U of I and Professor Sauer supported me during some hard financial times with a research grant from the NSF to complete my Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Without their support I may not have completed my master’s program.

I first met Professor Sauer in the fall of 1979 when I started my master’s program. He was my research advisor for my master’s thesis. Professor Sauer is a great educator and research advisor. He has a gentle and respectful manner in dealing with students. He was very patient and articulated technical topics in a very practical manner relating to physical and real-world problems. He was well versed in applying computer techniques to solve power system problems (as of 1979!) and I was able to later on create a software company that essentially applied the same type of power systems analysis’ algorithms and principles to create a large-scale commercial software product offering for the electric utility industry, to be used to assist in reliable operation of the power grids. 

Q What impact do you hope your gift will have on ECE and Grainger Engineering?

We hope through supporting a strong faculty position and fellowships in electric power we can promote the power and energy discipline at Grainger Engineering and help the department continue a strong emphasis on power and energy engineering after the retirement of Peter Sauer. Helping the department recruit and retain highly sought-after candidates for these positions improves the college’s ability to attract highly qualified students, strengthens their research enterprise, and supports a program that’s very important to our economy.  

Q What advice do you have for current Grainger Engineers, prospective students, and recent graduates?

They need to know they are part of a strong tradition of education that has created top-notch professionals and some of the leaders of industry and academia. A strong theoretical education coupled with practical industrial applications of engineering has been the cornerstone of Grainger Engineering's electrical engineering program as I experienced it.

U of I grads are among some of the best-educated engineers entering the workforce. I had the opportunity to hire engineers from all Midwestern institutions and always U of I grads were among the top candidates and employees. Many have entrepreneurial tendencies which can greatly benefit their employers and themselves creating wealth for both. It is hoped those fortunate alumni who have leveraged their education to create wealth, will pay back the institution in any way they can see fit and can afford.

Learn more about the Hoveida Family Foundation

Meet Peter Sauer, Grainger Chair Emeritus Professor of Electrical EngineeringPeter Sauer headshot

Q Why is it important to support chair positions and graduate fellowships? How does having this type of funding best benefit the department?

Having this chair position and graduate fellowships provides an incentive for faculty to achieve excellence and gives them financial help in attracting promising graduate students. Graduate students are the key to faculty research contributions and publications that give recognition to them and the ECE department. Having this also gives the faculty member and students something to reflect their value to the ECE department, the profession, and society at large.

Q How will this gift impact the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the college?

I hope this gift will have an impact similar to The Grainger Foundation gifts that have been so important in my career and to ECE and Grainger Engineering. It has started out the same way – a professorship and fellowships for students. The fact that Bahman had the thought to provide this gift to us reinforces my initial impression of him as a high-quality engineer and person.

Q Grainger Engineering prides itself on being a place for collaboration and exploration to develop creative solutions to the world’s challenges. How did your connection with Bahman begin and develop over time?

When I first got to Illinois I was looking for a graduate student to perform research on stochastic power flow methods in power systems to provide a method to account for uncertainty in model data that is used to control the grid and assess its security from disturbances. Bahman Hoveida had applied for graduate school to get his Masters of Science and his qualifications were very good and I made him an offer to come here as a research assistant. He accepted the offer and joined my group that I was forming for the first time. When he finished his thesis and received his degree I helped him find and get a position with Harris Controls in Florida writing software for power systems. He realized after a while that he could market his software himself because he had the vision and talent to provide solutions to needs of the industry. We have communicated on occasions and have attended the same professional meetings of the Power and Energy Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). His success was clear when I heard people in industry talking about his software. It made me happy and proud to have had a small impact on his career.

Q What advice do you have for current or potential Grainger Engineers and recent graduates?

I have always said that I have stayed here at Illinois because of the people. Recent Grainger Engineering graduates have observed this too and will hopefully go through their careers with the same concern for people based on their memories of Illinois. The emphasis here on modesty, ethics and professionalism is unique to Illinois and hopefully our alumni will continue that tradition and remember us for many years.

Learn more about Professor Peter Sauer and his work

If you or your organization is interested in advancing Grainger Engineering’s strategic priorities, contact the Office of Advancement at 217-244-2364.

Your gift to our Grainger Engineering Priority Fund provides vital, unrestricted support that allows the college to strategically invest in critical initiatives that will transform the student experience, drive world-changing research, and address social justice in engineering education and research.

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