John Mungenast––steamboat mechanic, missile technician, power electronics pioneer/ engineer/marketer, manufacturing plant manager, magazine creator/publisher, tradeshow organizer, tennis player and raconteur extraordinaire––died peacefully in his sleep on May 3rd in Oxnard, California, after a decade-long battle with cancer. John was an active leader and passionate advocator of the power engineering industry for the last 52 years. He was a senior Life member of IEEE and his patent awards include motor drive protection and the light-activated SCR. In 1970, he was one of the early recipients of the President's "E for Export" award.
John was a generalist who thought in terms of systems. His love for hands-on problem solving started not with electricity but with steam. His early years were spent working on his father's Mississippi River steamboat where he would tend the steam engine for the privilege of running the ice cream counter where he would––as he laughingly put it––"eat the profits." John's passion for steam engines eventually led to an interest in gas turbines, generators, and high-power SCRs. But a love for steam engines remained John's avocation throughout his life. He was a member of the Historical Train Society and, in recent years, he worked with his friends on the short-line track in Fillmore, California. For years he compiled an extensive and unique library on historical trains.
John graduated from St. Louis U. High and Washington University and then served in the U.S. Army where he worked on guided missiles at White Sands. John's father co-founded the Junior Chamber of Commerce movement in 1915 to promote leadership and community service among young men and women. John followed his father's legacy by becoming president of the Lynchburg, Virginia, chapter. He remained active over the years as both a senator and charter member of the foundation. In the spirit of the foundation, John and his wife Alice "adopted" Hideo Shikata of Kyoto and formed personal ties with the entire Shataki family, prominent industrialists in the power electronics industry.
John's semiconductor career began with General Electric, at the birth of the power chip, where he employed the novelty of solid-state power conversion to motivate a generation of practical visionaries. In 1967, in collaboration with three General Electric colleagues, John Mungenast helped create Power Semiconductors Inc. (PSI), which quickly became the principle supplier of very large thyristors and diodes throughout the world. John also developed the first solid-state motor starter and G.E., his former employer, became PSI's largest customer.
John's knowledge and insight in product development and marketing during his PSI career contributed to the growth of the power capabilities of today. His high motivation and keen perception of market needs, both in the U.S. and internationally, brought together people and concepts advancing the approach of power reliability in system applications.
John joined Intertec International as Marketing Director in 1989 where he and Myron Miller founded the Power Quality magazine and conference. In 1994, the John Mungenast Power Quality Award was established by a leading utility, UtiliCorp United, to raise awareness of power quality as an important engineering discipline. The annual award was named for John in honor of his pioneering efforts in the industry and for making Power Quality magazine the leading "voice" of the industry.
After retiring from the magazine in 1999, John joined Myron Miller to help found the Gold Coast Innovation Center (GCIC), a non-profit organization devoted to planning, evaluating and testing new systems and strategies for tomorrow's electrical energy. At GCIC, located at the new Cal State Channel Islands University in Camarillo, John was participating in formalizing the "Silicon Seniors" global database. This group of retired senior engineers will be available for future GCIC collaboration projects. John served on the university's technology and science advisory board.
John was a person who enjoyed conversation on any subject, at any level, with anyone from CEOs to busboys. Anecdotes and jokes pulled from a bottomless reservoir of experience were interesting and funny, even when heard more than once (some a lot more than once). Throughout his life, John has encouraged retirees to remain active in inventing, completing and critiquing designs, while also recruiting and mentoring young engineers. His infectious enthusiasm and encouragement to everyone in the industry will be greatly missed.
John is survived and remembered as the beloved husband of Alice (Drees) Mungenast for over 50 years; loving father of Stephen J. (Yvette), of Albany, NY, David J. (Glenda), of Corte Madera, CA, Nancee C. (Rolf) Wirthgen of Hofheim, Germany, Diane M. (David) Crowley, of Arlington, MA, Timothy J. (Virginia) of Watertown, MA, Christian G. (Sharon) of Arlington, MA, and Robert M. (Alison) of Portland, OR. Son of the late Andrew G. and Charlotte Bokel Mungenast; grandfather of Alex, Jillian, Grace, Rami, and Anya: Brother of Andrew (Norma) of Montgomery, AL, the late Thomas (Virginia) of Ballwin, MO, the late Patricia Mungenast, David (Barbara) of St. Louis, MO, Carl (Mary) of Wildwood, MO: Dear uncle to 23 nieces and nephews and 23 great nieces and great nephews: Brother-in-law, cousin, godfather, and friend to many.
A memorial Service will be held on Saturday, May 25, 2002, at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Family Church, 4125 Humphrey St., St. Louis, MO. Private interment will be at Oak Grove Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Kidney Cancer Assoc., 1234 Sherman Ave. Suite 203, Evanston, IL 60202-1375, or PANCAN (Pancreatic Cancer), P.O. Box 1010, Torrance, CA 90505. For additional information, contact Andy Van Sciver (805) 933-1969.
On June 1, at 2 p.m., there will be a memorial service at the Gold Coast Innovation Center located on the CSUCI campus in Camarillo, CA. For additional information, contact Myron Miller at (805) 383-1213.
A special thanks to Myron Miller for collecting and composing this piece.