(Dec. 13, 1909 – Sept. 26, 1990)
Dr. Boast's research, expertise and leadership in the field of electrical engineering provided valuable benefit to the community, region and nationally.
Warren Benefield Boast was born in Topeka, Kansas on December 13, 1909. He received his BS (1933) and MS (1934) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas. Dr. Boast then received his PhD (1936) from Iowa State College (University) where he also served as a Graduate Assistant (1934-1936) in the Department of Electrical Engineering.
Upon graduation, he joined the faculty at Iowa State as an Instructor (1936) in the Department of Electrical Engineering, focusing on classroom and laboratory instruction. He was sequentially promoted to Assistant Professor (1940), Associate Professor (1943), Professor (1948), and Professor Emeritus (1975) in his time at Iowa State, and served as an instructor in the Navy V-12 Training Program during WWII. Boast was named Head (1954-1975) of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Iowa State University, succeeding Mervin S. Coover, his major professor and chairman of his PhD committee, and held the position until his retirement in 1975. During Boast’s tenure as head, the department more than doubled in size.
Dr. Boast was a licensed engineer in the states of Iowa and Nebraska, and his research and expertise in electrical engineering provided valuable benefit not only to Iowa State, but to the community and the region as well. Beginning shortly after his appointment to Instructor at Iowa State, he spent the summers of 1937-1942 serving as a consulting engineer to the Ames School Board, the City of Ames, the City of Webster City, and to other governmental and industrial organizations. During this time, he designed lighting and services for Mary Greeley Hospital and the City (Ames Public) Library, supervised conversion of the Ames Municipal Power Plant, and prepared plans for relighting of Lincoln Way, South Duff Avenue, Ames Public School buildings and athletic fields, and the Home Economics Department’s Tea Room. As a member of Iowa State’s Engineering Experiment Station, he was in charge of the design and construction of the first 10-kilohertz A-C network analyzer, which was then used commercially by many Midwest utilities.
Boast’s major areas of research were illumination, circuit theory, and network analyzer design and development, though under “Chief Professional Interests” on a departmental questionnaire, he wrote “Administration of the best Electrical Engineering Department of the United States since 1954.” Toward the end of his career Boast researched improvements of frequency response of electro-mechanical devices including the audio response of loudspeakers. Overall, his work resulted in six patents, five in the United States and one in Great Britain.
Upon Boast’s retirement in 1975, colleagues presented him with a silver wine service set as tribute to his hobby of winemaking. W. Robert Parks, president of Iowa State at the time, remarked, “I have learned never to argue with W.B. Boast; he has his figures too well in hand.”
Dr. Boast was an accomplished author. He wrote four textbooks: Illumination Engineering (1942, 1953, Spanish translation 1965), Principles of Electric and Magnetic Fields (1948, 1956), Principles of Electric and Magnetic Circuits (1950, 1957), and Vector Fields: A Vector Foundation of Electric and Magnetic Fields (1964, Japanese translation 1967). He also was a contributor to several scientific encyclopedias and handbooks and reviewed numerous manuscripts for publishers.
Dr. Boast was also active in professional organizations and served on several conference boards. He was heavily involved in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and served as chairman of the Iowa Section (1943-1944), and he represented the IEEE at several national and international committees and conferences. He was a member of the Engineers' Council for Professional Development and served on the Education and Accreditation Committee (1958-1969). He was also a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society (1938), a United States delegate at the International Electrotechnical Commission at Aix-les-Bains, France (1964), and the National Electronics Conference President (1967).
Honors and awards received by Dr. Boast include the Anson Marston Distinguished Professorship at Iowa State University (1964, one of only four engineering faculty members so named at the time), a Faculty Citation (1971), the Marston Medal (1980), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow, and Illuminating Engineering Society Fellow and Lifetime Member. He was also a member of the academic and professional engineering honorary societies of Sigma Xi (President, ISC Chapter, 1958-1959), Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Mu Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Tau, and Eta Kappa Nu. Dr. Boast also received the award for Outstanding Educator of America (1974-1975), and the Meritorious Award of Education Society of IEEE (1978).
Today, the ECpE department’s Warren Boast Undergraduate Teaching Award is based entirely on student ratings and goes to professors receiving the highest ratings in an undergraduate course taught the preceding year.
Warren Boast married Ruth J. Hansen, a 1933 graduate of Iowa State College, on November 28, 1936 in Ames. Together they had three sons: Richard, Charles, and Thomas.
Dr. Boast passed away of cancer in Ames on September 26, 1990.
Warren Boast Papers, RS 11/6/14, University Archives, Special Collection, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.
ECpE Hall of Fame: https://www.ece.iastate.edu/ecpe-hall-of-fame/