Nearly 90 Years of Engineering Support

The Ralph Sias Scholarship Fund was created to assist meritorious juniors or seniors in Electrical and Computer Engineering who are Fla. high school graduates. The fund is named in honor of Ralph Sias, who graduated from the University of Florida in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. Over the course of his career, he earned 18 patents, including some vital to the war effort during World War II.

ECE Florida was honored to host the Sias-Lantz family April 17—they toured several labs in NEB, met with scholarship recipients, and visited the WECE Maker Garage. In attendance were Ralph Sias’ children, Peggy Lantz and Fred Sias (BSEE ’54 MSEE ’59) as well as Ralph Sias’ granddaughter, Carolyn Lantz, and Peggy’s husband Don Lantz (BSEE ’51). With Ralph’s time at the university, 2018 would mark 90 years of the Sias-Lantz family’s association with the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering specifically.

L-R Top: ECE Chair John Harris, Don Lantz, Carolyn Lantz, Peggy Lantz, Fred Sias L-R Bottom: Scholarship recipients Leoni Lamanna, Perla Garcia, Zachery Weisblatt

For the Sias-Lantz family, engineering is a family affair. Peggy, who worked as an editor and music teacher, reported that she felt right at home in the senior design labs in NEB. She noted that bundles of wires hanging all over the place and electronics projects in various states of completion were a common sight as she grew up. While she didn’t become an engineer, her father insisted that she be prepared to be one, making sure her math and science education was rigorous (the math was apparently ‘easy’ for her). Peggy’s husband Don’s car proudly proclaims, “Rocket engineering — It runs in the family,” as he worked for NASA and Univac during much of his career.

Peggy Lantz and family friend Mary Kay Elsasser talk with Derya Tansel about her project in the Senior Design Lab

Fred Sias’ career had the most direct parallels to his father’s. After earning his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from UF, he spent two years at Shands as a technician. He later received his PhD from Johns Hopkins.  He taught at Clemson University from 1983 to 1995, when he retired.

Dr. Harris and Fred Sias visit the WECE Maker Garage

As the Sias-Lantz family toured NEB, one thing was clear. The intellectual curiosity and the love of learning and technology runs deep in the family. Ralph Sias’ children peppered the students and faculty with questions, eager to find out what they were working on and why. They relished the chance to give advice to students, encouraging them to focus on writing and public speaking in addition to their electrical engineering studies. They took every chance to remind students to be well-rounded people, not just good engineers. Ralph Sias was a great living example—he was a competitive diver, designed and built his own telescope lenses, was an avid amateur photographer, and built a boat, Pegasus.

And next time they visit UF, ask them about Amelia Earhart.