In Memoriam: A Tribute to John Osburn
John Osburn (left) received the IEEE Fellow Award for his contribution to the education of the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects community and pioneering the development of new EMC test technology. John’s receipt of this award at the 2006 IEEE International Symposium on EMC was the highlight of his career. He is shown with the then EMC Society President, Andy Drozd.

It is with sadness that I report the death of our retired colleague John Osburn on March 29, 2008. His wife Sarah, three children, and several grandchildren survive him. John's health had deteriorated since the beginning of the year and he collapsed at home on March 28. He died in the hospital early the next day from an aneurysm.
John was a good friend of mine that I had known for many years.
He was a member of the Central Texas Chapter of the EMC Society and a frequent technical contributor. In the early 1990s this Chapter decided to hold an EMC symposium in Austin. John was first to step up and said he would lead the effort to convince the EMC Society Board of Directors to bring the annual symposium to Austin. He organized the Steering Committee and started planning.
I worked as his Treasurer of the Steering Committee for the 1997 IEEE International Symposium on EMC held in Austin, Texas. His strong leadership on the Steering Committee led to the largest symposium financial surplus for the EMC Society up to that time. I remember for the Gala event during the symposium week he was faced with a decision to add a significant number of tables and food/beverage to support an unexpected increase of attendees. He reviewed his numbers and researched the financial impact of such a last minute change and made the decision to hold fast to the number of tables and food that were already planned. Every seat was filled and everyone had a great time! Watching him make this tough decision - which many symposiums continue to be faced with - showed me that he trusted the Committee’s planning and had confidence in the numbers. John was not one to be easily panicked.
When I left EMCO (Electro-Mechanics Company) in late 1989, the first person I called was John. I told John that he should come over and interview for my old job at EMCO. John did and got the job at EMCO, then Ernie Gant left Siemens and took John’s job at Tandem, and then Stephen Berger left Thomas-Conrad and took Ernie’s job at Siemens, and then Steve Williams left Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and took Stephen Berger’s job at Thomas-Conrad. This just shows how small the EMC community is.
I was very pleased when John was awarded an IEEE Fellow in 2006. His technical contributions have been significant. His work with GTEMs, while at EMCO, helped bring a much wider understanding of how GTEMs function when measuring emissions and performing immunity testing.
Over the last couple of years during John’s illness, he was attempting to get the Fort Worth EMC Chapter started again. This Chapter had been dissolved since the late 1960s or early 1970s. Now someone else will have to take up the torch and complete what John started.


Memories of John Osburn

I first met John Osburn when he was working at EMCO in 1990. I was working on a low frequency broadband antenna that needed a 10 KW balun. He had just the solution in a concept called a Gynella Transformer. A year later he had designed and manufactured the balun and reconfigured the lossy line radiator to allow us to have a high field intensity radiator for the low frequency electromagnetic environment testing of aircraft.
It was during that period that we established our friendship. John later made a change in employers to Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia. He was in his element at Lockheed tackling all the cat and dog projects that came along with the C-130 program. We would meet up annually at the IEEE EMC Symposium. He always had a joke to share and a story to tell. His favorite was the time he won the motorcycle from AR; however, he never got to ride it because his employer said it might be a conflict of interest. He was so looking forward to joining the likes of Jay Leno, tearing up the roads of the US.
My most recent experience with John had been as a colleague and friend with his work on the Joint Strike Fighter Program. He came on board the program as it was starting full-scale development in 2000. He was the “go-to” guy for all the heavy analysis work, whether it was the statistical analysis of lightning strikes, numerical modeling of cavities or an innovative approach to EM measurement. His sound understanding of EM theory and his ability to adapt to the new technology was what the team needed.
During the down time on his many trips and meetings, he would share stories of his life, being in the military, his early love of cars, the years working with Don White on EMI courses, his dogs and, of course, the fellowship and technical exchange he enjoyed as a member of the IEEE EMC Society. I cannot remember a time when we met that he did not have new joke or funny story to share. One of his favorites, in addition to the motorcycle story above, was the drawing of various types of grounds. He also abounded with jokes about his home state of Texas.
I had the good fortune to see John retire from his job with Lockheed Martin and share in his future opportunities, including his getting a liver transplant. He led a good life, with time for his family, dogs, country, colleagues, co-workers and his profession. EMC

Sarah and John Osburn are shown with their beloved Schipperke who provided John with many moments of happiness during his illness.


If you would like to contact the IEEE Webmaster
© Copyright 2008, IEEE. Terms & Conditions. Privacy & Security

return to contents
IEEE logo