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July 28, 2021

Professor Emeritus Willis “Bill” Long passes away

Written By: Staff

Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interdisciplinary and Professional Programs Professor Emeritus Willis “Bill” Long passed away on July 10, 2021, in Madison, Wisconsin.

 Willis “Bill” Long
Willis “Bill” Long

Long received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Toledo before earning his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970. After that, he joined the Hughes Aircraft Company Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, working as a member of the technical staff of the High-Voltage Systems Program.

In 1973 he returned to UW-Madison, teaching courses and conducting high-voltage direct current research for the Department of Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute and other agencies. In 1983, on leave from the university, he served as director of ABB Inc.’s Power Systems Center in New Berlin, Wisconsin, before returning to the university.

Long was also a faculty member of the UW Electrical Engineering Extension, the precursor to the Interdisciplinary and Professional Programs. He traveled to Brazil, China and other parts of the world teaching about power systems and helped develop and teach many popular continuing education courses for professional engineers. That work earned him the IEEE Educational Activities Board Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education in 1992.

Among many other awards and honors during his career, Long received the Attwood Associate Award from the U.S. National Committee of the professional organization CIGRE in 2004 and the prestigious IEEE Power & Energy Society Uno Lamm award in 2008 for “leadership and relevant contributions to the spread of knowledge and promotion of HVDC technology.”

In 1996, the UW-Madison College of Engineering recognized Long with its Ragnar E. Onstad Award for Service to Society. Long volunteered with many organizations during his life including the Community of Hope United Church of Christ, the Sierra Club, Madison Festival Choir, Madison Youth Soccer League, the Boy Scouts of America and the Harvest of Hope Fund for farm families, among others.

Some of his most significant work, however, was with Madison Urban Ministry (MUM), recently renamed JustDane, a social justice and social service organization that serves families with incarcerated members and helps formerly incarcerated people re-enter society. Long volunteered and served on the organization’s board of directors and in other positions, supporting programs including transitional housing, tutoring and mentoring, community health and other initiatives.

Long developed a passion for the outdoors while in the Boy Scouts where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout and later served as a troop leader. He was a passionate bird watcher and loved canoeing in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Provincial Park. He was also known for his absurdist sense of humor, and friends and family were regularly regaled with quotes from Mel Brooks, Monty Python and other favorites.

Long was preceded in death by his wife, Ginger. He is survived by his children Drew, Kristin and Dave as well as many grandchildren and godchildren.

Read Long’s obituary here.