Interview with George Rockefeller Jr.

PAC World:   Where were you born and grew up?
GR:  I was born and grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This is where I also went to school.

PAC World:  Did you have any special interests while in school?
GR:  I liked mathematics. I think that it had a lot to do with the fact that I had a wonderful school math teacher. 

PAC World:   Where did you go to university and what did you study?
GR:   I went to Lehigh University. There I studied electrical engineering. During my senior year I selected a power option which included symmetrical components. There were no protection classes at the time.

PAC World:    Do you think there is something in your childhood that influenced your decision to become an electrical engineer?
GR:   Nothing I can think of. Initially my inclination was chemical engineering. After my first two semesters I selected electrical engineering.

PAC World:   Were you involved in any extracurricular activities while you were in school and college?
GR:  In school I was on the wrestling team. I actually mostly practiced with them.
In college I was in a fraternity. It was a more attractive alternative to living in a dormitory.

PAC World:   How did you start your professional career?
GR:   I started with the Metropolitan Edison Company in Redding, Pennsylvania. However, because when we were in college we were required to take ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), when we graduated I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1948.
Three months after I started work I was called to active duty. It was for fourteen months at the White Sands proving ground. I didn't do anything significant there. It was mostly a waste of time. Then I returned to Metropolitan Edison, working in their Relay department.

PAC World: How did you end up in the Relay department?
GR: In my senior year the company contacted the university's Electrical Engineering department and they wanted a person for their relay department. My professor pointed me to them.
I enjoyed my work in this department. I was doing relay settings using a DC fault system model.

PAC World: What was the next step?
GR: In 1951 I went to work for Westinghouse. That was following the advice of a civilian boss I had in the army. He suggested that I need to change my job three times during my career.
I applied there and at this time there was an opening in the Relay department.
I was working in the Application group with two other engineers that had power systems knowledge. We worked with the relay designers, as well as with the relay sales department and some users.

PAC World: Did you specialize in any specific type of protection?
GR: Not really, but I was mostly involved in transmission line protection. Eventually the company offered customer courses and we lectured there on all forms of protection.

PAC World: It looks like you enjoyed your engineering job?
GR: At the time there were two parallel paths for advancement, so I stayed in the engineering path. But later I changed my mind and this is how I ended in Consolidated Edison in New York.

PAC World: So you shifted your focus to management?
GR: Yes, in Con Ed I managed the system protection department.
In 1978 I was promoted to the position of Electrical Systems Engineer. I had 33 professionals working for me at the time. However, in 1982 I left Con Ed and started my consulting career. The reason was that while working at Con Ed I was commuting three-and-a-half hours a day. This made the idea to be a private consultant so attractive.

PAC World: What did you do as a consultant?
GR: At the beginning, I had a guarantee for 135 hours a month from ASEA, but this activity diminished and later I went to work for Basler as a consultant in 1987. This continued for about fifteen years. Then I retired.
I was enjoying the work, but I was fed up with the travel.
I have incorporated for legal reasons but I regretted that I disbanded my corporation.
Talking about my twenty years of private work, I had about fifty clients including EPRI.
For example for EPRI I did a study on electromagnetic pulses, as well as adaptive relaying for which I got a prize paper award.  

PAC World: What is the story behind your famous paper?
GR: I was working for Westinghouse when I decided to get a Masters Degree at the Newark College of Engineering. I completed all of the classroom work, but to finish I needed to do a thesis.
My boss (L. Blackburn) was telling me that I am wasting my time. So I decided that I really don't need the degree. But my wife told me that I had to do it and I listened to her.
My Masters major was on computer science. As you can see, I had a tendency to drift from one thing to another.
I only knew relaying and computers, so it was a no brainer to do something on bringing the two together.
I got my degree in 1968 and about that time I submitted my paper to the IEEE.

PAC World: This was a visionary paper that changed the industry. Did you apply the concept in real life?
GR: After the publication of my paper in the IEEE Transactions on Power Apparatus and Systems in October 1969 Westinghouse management decided to have a project on digital protection. We started work and 16 months later we put a system in service at Pacific Gas & Electric. It was a phase and ground step distance protection, that also included events recording, analog recording and fault location. We benefited from Dave Colwell – system protection manager at PG&E. He was instrumental in getting approval for the installation.

PAC World: What hardware did you use for your project?
GR: Prodar 70 was designed to provide complete high-speed three zone phase and ground distance protection, instantaneous overcurrent protection, controlled use of memory voltage, and out-of-step blocking. The cabinet contained a 16 bit Westinghouse P-2000 process control computer with 3 µsec cycle time.
The computer main frame interfaced to peripheral gear via standard I/O panels. Also included in the standard P-2000 system were a Teletype KSR-35 typewriter and a programmer's console having 60 char./sec paper tape reader and punch.
Units added for the application included an analog signal conditioning package, a medium-speed multiplexer-digitizer, SPM data buffer interface and A/D control unit. The sampling rate was 754 Hz.

PAC World:  Did you do everything yourself?
GR: I did not get any guidance from our management. But I got support. It was definitely a group project. An engineer from the Westinghouse software group worked on the off-line functions and we did the protection part.
I am still impressed with the time it took us to develop the project.
After we wrote two transactions papers I more or less left the company.

PAC World: How do you explain that you came with an idea that revolutionized the protection and control industry?
GR: I have a feeling that I was guided. You are given certain skills. You get raised by society. You grow up becoming the person who you are. And this is not random. That is why we should not be too impressed with our achievements.
I also had an important adventure. Westinghouse developed a poly-phase distance relay. I wanted to find a way for a poly-phase ground distance relay. One day I opened Edith Clark's book and I was on a page in the book where I spotted a table where I immediately found the answer for the solution for this relay. I believe I was guided to this page. It is part of the invention process. 

PAC World:  What is your biggest professional achievement?
GR: Computer relaying is definitely my number one because of its impact.

PAC World:  You have been Chairman of the IEEE Power Systems Relaying Committee? What is the role of PSRC in your life and in general?
GR: I was in the committee for about thirty years. As far as the committee functioning was concerned, I was not too enthusiastic about it. But it was an excellent opportunity to meet many wonderful people and interact with them.
I was chairman of several working groups. Later the PSRC formed a Computer Relaying subcommittee and I became its Vice-chairman. From all these activities I later became the Secretary, Vice-chair and then Chair of the PSRC.

PAC World:  You have received many awards during your career. Which one is the most important to you?
GR: I cannot think of any specific one. They were not awards to me. General recognition is nice but it has never been my goal.

PAC World:  What is your favorite food?
GR: Pork and sauerkraut.
PAC World:  What type of music do you enjoy?
GR: I like classical music. For example Beethoven is one of my favorite composers. But I also enjoy 1950's  popular music - Glen Miller, Neil Sedaka, Simon and Garfunkel.

PAC World:  Do you have any hobbies?
GR: No. But maybe you can consider a hobby that I manage the investments of eleven family accounts. My investments are not day trading but not long term investment either.
I also do voluntary work. I have been actively involved with the Red Cross. I reached a point when I wanted to pay back. I started doing that around 1990. I had a good feeling about the Red Cross. So I became involved in disaster relief and supporting veterans – driving them to the hospital. You commit for three weeks for a specific disaster.
I have also done tax returns voluntary work.

PAC World:  Do you play any sports?
GR: I played golf and softball for a while. Now I still run 5.5 miles every other day.

PAC World:  Do you like travelling and do you have a favorite place to visit?
GR: Early in my career I was doing 50 percent travelling. I did not realize at the time how difficult it was for my wife.
For many years we as a family knew where we are going for vacation – Lake George in New York State. There are islands with campsites. We would get our boat and gear and go to one of these islands and enjoy it for a couple of weeks.

PAC World:  Have you written any books?
GR: I wrote three International Correspondence School books – two of them were on protection and one on symmetrical components.

PAC World:  There is a global problem with the loss of expertise in our industry and the lack of interest from students in taking electric power systems related classes. Do you agree with this and if so, do you think that there is a solution to this problem?
GR: Is there a lack of glamour or financial incentive?  You need bucks to overcome lack of glamour.  Has the lack of expertise manifested itself in ways that indicate action is imperative? - Excessive regulation; Increasing blackouts?  Maybe we need more catastrophes to galvanize the industry.
How can we attract people?  Why not establish more professorial chairs like AEP does (or did) at Virginia Tech?

PAC World:  What is the advice that you would give to young people working in the field of protection and control?
GR: Don’t get old.  Protect your health; start now with good diet, exercise and emotional control. Spiritual grounding is very important.
For utility engineers, get involved with all technical aspects of the business: get in the field, monitor daily operations and disturbances, analyze fault records (these can be a wonderful educational tool) and hone your understanding of power system analysis. 
Well-rounded protection engineers in utilities can advance quickly.

PAC World:  You have been married to your wife Kay for 57 years. In today's world where people stay married for a few months, this looks amazing. Is there a secret?
GR: The stigma of divorce that we felt seems largely gone.  Kay and I had realistic expectations.  Today there is too much promise of glamour associated with marriage. Too much emphasis on self gratification. Too little concern about the impact of divorce on the children, including mature ones.
Over the years I kidded Kay that I couldn’t afford (financially) to get a divorce.
But there is one thing for sure - Kay and I have never regretted our marrying.

PAC World:  Do you have a motto?
GR: Don't be too impressed with your accomplishments

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