Distinguished Alumni Awards

Peter W. Sognefest

Peter  W. Sognefest
To Peter Sognefest for his outstanding accomplishments in industrial manufacturing of semiconductors and digital appliance controls.

President and Chief Executive Officer, LH Research, Inc., Tustin, California

  • BS, Electrical Engineering, 1964
  • MS, Electrical Engineering, 1967

Peter Sognefest is a successful entrepreneur in the electronics industry. After graduating from UIUC, he joined the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh on a fellowship for the Essex Group of United Technologies, which soon led to the position of senior fellow. He was one of the youngest researchers to achieve this position. While at Mellon, he envisioned a microprocessor-based computer for automotive engine control based on metal-oxide semiconductor technology. In 1971, Essex promoted him to manager of semiconductor operations. His vision for automotive engine control led to a successful research and development program that resulted in a $50 million contract from Ford Motor Company in 1975. He was also a pioneer in using custom chips for major appliances.

He joined Motorola in 1977 to establish Motorola as a supplier of digital appliance controls. His success with appliance controls soon led to the position of vice president and director of the Industrial Electronics Unit. He has worldwide responsibility for two business units and tree profit centers with annualized sales exceeding $90 million dollars; the three businesses and P&L centers were comprised of tow start-ups and one turnaround. He established each business as a leader in its market, and during his last six quarters with Motorola, the three businesses won 16 of 18 business performance awards given by the group. In a reorganization of the group in 1984, he was promoted and assigned responsibility for businesses outside the appliance industry.

In 1983, Peter Sognefest founded Digital Appliance Controls, Inc. The company became a leader in the worldwide appliance industry, with customers throughout Europe and North America. Manufacturing was established in Singapore. Sales grew to $20 million, and the company was an industry leader in quality, technology, and financial performance. Representative products included controls for microwave ovens and clothes dryers. He served as its CEO and chairman until it was acquired by Emerson Electric in 1991.

Peter Sognefest was appointed president and chief executive officer of IRT Corporation in December 1991. He restructured the company and within one year restored IRT to profitability. IRT manufactures x-ray inspection systems for automotive airbags, provides services for medical instruments sterilization and manufactures personnel scanning systems. Mr. Sognefest served on the IRT Board of Directors and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of II-VI, Inc. In March 1994, he was appointed president and chief executive officer of LH Research, Inc. LH Research is a leading manufacturer of power supplies to the instrument, computer, copier, and capital equipment industries.

He is also dedicated to organizations and activities other than business. Especially noteworthy are the time and effort he has spent in support of alumni activities in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Engineering. He is a member and past president of the Alumni Board of the department. He has also received the UI Alumni Association’s Certificate of Appreciation, Loyalty Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award for professional achievement.

Current as of 1994.