As a youngster, Bill Lenoir attended public school at Coral Gables in Dade County, South Florida. He began his high school education in 1953 at Coral Gables Senior High, which had been inaugurated the previous year. When he graduated as a member of the Class of 1957, he was just one year behind Janet Reno, who would become the longest-serving (and first female) United States Attorney General, in the Clinton administration.
''I don't remember deciding to go into engineering. Since junior high school, I had known that I would be an engineer or scientist, based on my affinity for mathematics and sciences. In a way, high school was a breeze. I studied some (not a lot), got excellent grades, and partied a lot. My strengths were math, science and English. The English foundation that I built in high school is often lacking in recent engineering graduates, much to the dismay of all who communicate with them.''
When asked if any of his educators had had a significant effect on him, two names came readily. ''The two teachers I remember most are Mrs. Joanne Woltz (English) and Mr. James Newmeyer (math). Mrs. Woltz was a no-nonsense 'old world' teacher;
Mr. Newmeyer was an MIT graduate who helped me navigate the MIT admission and scholarship application processes."
Following his graduation from senior high school, and with Newmeyer's considerable guidance, Lenoir took on studies of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I began at MIT in September, 1957 as a Sloan Scholar, a position of respect at MIT. This was a full scholarship that paid for tuition, room, board, and incidental expenses. As seniors, Sloan Scholars were flown to New York for a banquet and overnight at the Waldorf Astoria with Alfred Sloan presiding. Mr. Sloan was the CEO of General Motors and an MIT graduate.
"As an undergraduate, I was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and lived in the chapter house on Beacon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. I studied more (still not a lot), did well, and maintained my interest in parties as a diversion from the day-to-day stress of school. The fraternity was an independent entity from MIT, fully responsible for its own actions. This self-reliance of the group was an integral part of the overall education process, especially when I served as treasurer and president in my junior and senior years.''
Lenoir majored in electrical engineering and participated in the Institute's co-op programme, where he alternated terms at school with terms in a work environment at the General Radio Company. He was awarded his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in June 1961.
One year later, he was awarded his Master's degree in electrical engineering. ''My Master's thesis was a report on my design and development of a thermoelectric temperature control device for an upcoming General Radio product. It was supervised by Professor Paul Gray, the recently-retired chairman of the MIT Corporation.'' While pursuing his doctorate in electrical engineering under the tutelage of Professor Emeritus Alan H. Barrett, a noted radio astronomer, Lenoir continued to work at the institute, first as a teaching assistant, and later as an instructor. He won the institute's Carleton E. Tucker Award for Teaching Excellence in 1964.
The dissertation Lenoir researched and wrote for his doctorate went by the title Remote Sounding of the Upper Atmosphere by Microwave Measurements. It set the theoretical basis for performing space-based measurements to infer temperature distribution in the upper atmosphere. ''In addition, I supported and led a team doing related experimental work from unmanned balloons at 100,000-130,000 feet. I was also a principal investigator and a co-investigator on several proposed space experiments.''
On 4 July 1964, prior to the awarding of his doctorate, Lenoir married Elizabeth May Frost of Brookline, Massachusetts. They had met in the summer of 1959 while he was doing several part-time jobs in order to augment his standard of undergraduate living. ''I was shovelling coal and tending a furnace in an apartment building on Beacon Hill in Boston when I met Liz. Her parents were substituting for the caretakers and she came down to give me my pay cheque. I was a sorry, black, dusty mess.'' The young couple would have two children; William Benjamin Jr., born 6 April 1965, and Samantha Ellen, born 20 March 1968.
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