Deciding to delve into engineering since the seventh grade, Mr. Thomas Silliman and his tenacity were recognized by his father, who founded his own broadcast engineering consulting firm after World War II. Robert Silliman, Mr. Silliman’s father, placed Mr. Silliman in a Navy Prep School, Bullis Prep located at that time in Silver Spring, Maryland. Bullis focused on an engineering curriculum designed to get students into the Naval Academy. Mr. Silliman entered that private school in the seventh grade, and by the age of 14, he was working for his father’s firm, Silliman, Moffett, and Rohrer, as an office boy for Jack Moffett, where he worked for two summers. While maintaining his position in the consulting partnership, Robert Silliman had the opportunity to purchase Electronics Research, Inc., one of his consulting clients. The owner of that small company had died, so Robert purchased Electronics Research and became its president in 1962. Mr. Silliman, now 17 years old, began working at home for Electronics Research, his father’s new company in the basement of his father’s home in Maryland. He graduated from Bullis in 1964, finishing second in his class with honors for best math student and best physics student in that graduating class.
After graduating from Bullis, Mr. Silliman left Maryland to attend Cornell University in the fall of 1964, and while attending Cornell, he earned his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1969 and his Master of Engineering (Electrical) in 1970. While in Navy Prep School, he was the captain of the high school football team and played lacrosse. While at Cornell, he played lacrosse for four years, losing only one game. After graduating in 1969, he moved to Indiana for the summer to work for Electronics Research to design a custom antenna for combining nine class C FM stations on one antenna in Houston on the Shell Building before returning to Cornell to get his master’s degree in engineering. After graduating, he moved to Indiana to work for Electronics Research, where he continues to work today. In 1975, he was tasked with the design of a new side mount FM antenna for commercial FM Broadcast stations. That design was completed and shown in Chicago at the 1976 NAB Convention, and today, that antenna is the world standard for side mount FM Antennas. In 1977, his father made him the president and CEO of Electronics Research.
During his tenure as president of ERI, Mr. Silliman has been recognized for his many achievements in the field of commercial broadcast engineering. Robert Silliman and Thomas Silliman are the first father/son engineers to be honored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) with Life Time Engineering Awards. His father received the award in 1993, and Mr. Silliman was honored with that award in 2008. Then, in 2015, he was awarded by the IEEE with the E. Jules Cohen Engineering Award for engineering excellence. He was the first engineer to receive this prestigious award.
Electronics Research, Inc. was initially incorporated during World War II to make measurements for the Radio Research Group headed by Andy Alford at Harvard. Robert Silliman was part of the team of engineers working there, and the German Subs were able to keep track of their work by working the US coast off Boston’s harbor. After the war, Electronics Research retained Robert Silliman as a consulting engineer. Electronics Research was located in Evansville, Indiana, where the P47 and LST were manufactured for the war effort. Evansville is adjacent to the Ohio River, a river that the German subs could not travel due to its 8’ deep channels.
Mr. Silliman is a registered professional engineer in Indiana, Maryland and Minnesota, and is also certified as a tower climber and tower climber rescuer. To maintain abreast of developments within his field of broadcast engineering, he has maintained affiliation with the Association of Federal Communications Engineers (AFCCE). He is a two term past president of the AFCCE, a two term secretary of the AFCCE, and one year, served as both president and vice president at the same time. When asked for advice by young engineers, Tom advises prospective professionals to continually seek education, join the IEEE, and always pursue knowledge as the industry changes.
The proud father of two daughters and grandfather of one grandchild, a five year old boy, Mr. Silliman has no intention of halting his career. To this day, he still climbs towers, attends a gym where he works out three days a week, and remains current of trends within his industry. In his spare time, he enjoys white water kayaking, working cattle and roping cattle while on horseback, and downhill snow skiing.
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