LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. Many far wiser than this writer have tried to hand down this practical advice. But most of us ignore it, probably because there is always tomorrow, or at least our belief that there will be a tomorrow and yet another chance to get things right. And so most of us muddle on with our lives, until there finally is no tomorrow.
Sometimes, we awaken to the notion that we don't live forever, and that "leave-it-until-tomorrow" attitude vanishes like the days of our youth. Bill Sullivan was one of those rare people who knew the value of life.
He knew his time wasn't endless, and he put it to good use. Bill was many things—superb engineer, father, husband, grandfather, leader, commercial pilot, entrepreneur, and above all, teacher.
It was in this last capacity that I first came to know Bill, who had founded Northern Scientific Laboratory (Livingston, NJ) and served as its CEO after time as director of engineering for Raytheon Corp. in Fairfield, NJ. Bill opened up a new world to this writer,-into the design of subsystems and systems—where those components were put to work. Although he was the company's top executive, he was also its best engineer, tackling the design and marketing of instantaneous-frequency-measurement (IFM) receivers, digital frequency discriminators (DFDs), and other electronic-warfare (EW) receiver components.
Bill sold his company to General Instrument Corp. in 1986, continuing to contribute to the company in the ensuing years. At that point in his life, he could've said "enough" and rested on his laurels. But his love of life and engineering, his need to move forward, contributed to his starting another company, Wide Band Systems (Rockaway, NJ) in 1992. He served as Wide Band's first president and guiding force, continuing to advance the state of the art in IFMs and DFDs.
Bill's company picnics at Wide Band were one small sign of his love for his employees. Open to customers and magazine editors, these were special events, with Bill himself often manning the grill.
On short notice, Bill graciously lent himself and his expertise to one of Microwaves & RF's Military Electronics shows some years ago, performing admirably as Keynote Speaker. His design legacy is a veritable textbook on EW design, having contributed to the design of the AN/WLR-8 system while at Raytheon as well as a wideband IFM receiver for the AN/WSQ-4 program while at Probe Systems in Sunnyvale, CA.
William B. Sullivan understood the value of life better than most, and made the most of his time here. Sadly, that time ran out in mid February. The microwave industry had lost one of its own, one of its best. But those of us who knew him, and loved him, will remember his great joy of life, and how he lived each day as if it were his last.