In Memoriam – Warren B. Nelms, 1937-2021

It is with deep sorrow and great respect that we announce that Warren B. Nelms, the namesake of our institute, passed away on May 16 at the age of 83.

Warren Nelms was born on July 31, 1937, in Brooksville, FL, and grew up in nearby Lakeland, graduating from Lakeland High School in 1955. His innovative spirit revealed itself early in his life—he invented an auto-dial system for telephones while still in high school.

Nelms was drum major of the band at University of Florida during his senior year.

Nelms earned his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1959 and his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968. In addition to his engineering studies at UF, Nelms expressed his musical side, playing the trombone in the band and serving as the drum major his senior year. He also ran the sound and light system for many of the performances at the university.

Warren and his wife Patsy both graduated from the University of Florida in 1959.

Nelms married his wife, Patsy Flanagan (BS Education ’59), at the Wesley foundation, in 1958, between his junior and senior year. After graduation from UF, they moved to Pittsburgh, where Nelms went to work for Westinghouse. Their son David was born in 1961, and their daughter Sandy arrived in 1963. In the 1970s, they moved back to Florida where Nelms continued his work at Westinghouse, and where he became the Westinghouse District Engineer of the Year and Florida West Coast Engineer of the Year.

The Watt Counter, invented by Nelms and his company Computec, helped to educate the public about energy usage.

He started his own company, Computec, in 1981 and invented several devices, including Bluebox, a device to determine home energy use, cost, and efficiency, and the Watt Counter for educating the public about energy usage.

Upon retirement, Nelms took charge of building his and Patsy’s award-winning solar-smart, energy- efficient home, Tree Cove, on Lake Church in Keystone/Odessa, Florida. From Tree Cove, both their children went on to attend UF and graduate with engineering degrees. David majored in mechanical engineering, while Sandy graduated in computer engineering.

Warren B. Nelms’ creative ingenuity continues to influence the advancement of new technology at the University of Florida. David Nelms and his wife Daryl honored him by generously investing $5M to help create the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World, which opened its doors on March 1, 2018. An additional gift of $1.5M from Sachio Semmoto, Japanese telecommunications mogul and ECE alumnus, was instrumental in helping establish the Institute and providing an endowed professorship, the Semmoto Professorship, to support research in IoT. The institute’s vision is to lead research and education in all aspects of the intelligent connection of things, processes, people, and data that addresses major world challenges including health, energy, transportation, and manufacturing.

As Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Chair John Harris says, UF engineering labs today are filled with undergraduate and graduate students with the same inclination for engineering that Warren Nelms displayed in his youth. The institute at UF that bears his name brings together all those tinkerers in a modern and future-focused context, working out a safer, robust way to connect the world.