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Memories of college daze and Participation

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Sorry Neil, I changed the subject because this one sounded very interesting
to me and others wouldn't notice based on the other topic.
I had been in and out of colleges from 1968 until 1989. I was one of those
people that was very easily self-taught, hated authority figures and never
had the patience for subjects that did not relate directly to the field I
was interested in. Conversly, I'm probably the exception to the rule as
engineers go since I don't poses a college degree.
Before I get jumped on, I completed all of my engineering courses at Loyola
Marymount University in Los Angeles (Westchester) and at Cal State
Northridge. Prior to that I spent three years in architecture at the Univ of
Illinois (Circle campus around 1971) and about two years in business courses
at DePaul and Loyola of Chicago. I have enough hours for at least a masters,
but was a non-conformist and ended up obtaining my license by a mix of
allowable education and on the job experience.
The reason I mention this is that I had an experience with an instructor at
Loyola Marymount back around 1980 - a structures teacher who I won't
mention, but any who attended would know. Actually there were two - Dr.
Franklin Fisher was not the one I was refering to. Dr. Fisher will always be
fondly remembered and appreciated for his help.
I returned to engineering in 1980 at the age of 30. I had already passed the
EIT by self-study and now needed to take the courses that I missed, like
fluid mechanics and structures.
One week into the course, I was asked into the instructors office. In no
uncertain terms, I was told that I would not pass his course. The reason: He
was intimidated by older students and therefore would not pass me. No other
reason. If you think I had recourse, I may have today, but I was friendly
with the department head, who told me I had no other chance but to take the
classes elsewhere and that this professor was protected by his tenure. The
only thing I can say to those who might remember him is that his famous
phrase for understanding moments and deflections was "Bend your mental
True to his word, he flunked me! He nit-picked every exam and homework
assignment and although I was not a great student, I was not F material.
I enrolled at CSUN the next semester and met some of the best teachers I
ever had. I only wish I could remember, as I write this, the name of my
Structures teacher who was also my Steel instructor - oh yes - his name was
Ed Larson. Dr. Larson was one of the best instructors I ever had and was
close to retirement. He was so good simply because he loved his work. He
brought in slides each week of current projects around the San Fernando
Valley to discuss that strengths and weaknesses of each one. Once we
finished his class (I did A work in all of his classes as well as in wood -
concrete I was not too good, but passable).

I hope Dr. Larson is doing well - he was one of those rare instructors who
you can never forget and who inspire us as well as teach us. I understand
that his son has been on staff for many years as well.

I have found engineers in our profession who as dedicated to sharing their
knowledge with others as these great teachers. I found that many of these
special engineers are on this list and also in each of the committees that
they volunteer time.
I think that many engineers who volunteer time have had equally rewarding
experiences from good instructors or memorable employers. These volunteers
wish to return a bit of that to their peers - not in a manner that suggests
superiority on a subject, but simply to help work through the numbers to
solve problems that we, as a professional community, need to overcome but
don't have the help to do it otherwise.
The only unfortunate thing is that the credit for efforts of professional
volunteerism is typically given to individuals who are committee chairs and
board persons. Occassionally an individual is recognized for their efforts
and this is sad since one committee requires the combined effort of each
member to complete the work. We could have more role models if we knew or
acknowledged the individual members who wish to participate but don't want
to lead or chair a committee. Their efforts (like each of our employees) is
the backbone of our profession and they are sadly "lurking in the shadows"
of committee chairs.
Before you flame me, I am not blaming committee chairs - this is how our
profession and most businesses have acknowledged sucess over the years by
crediting the achivments of the group through it's leader (an oxymoron in
some cases since the leader often present the work created by the members
who lead the development).

I don't want to preach, but I get many responses from engineers who simply
do not have the time to participate. Their jobs are too demanding, they want
more time with their families or have other interests. I don't wish to
demean anyone who responded to me, that is not my point. There is no crime
in not wanting to participate with your professional organizations - the
majority of members feel this way. However, some simply need inspiration
like the kind Neil and I and many others received from special people in our
professional life.

Virtually every one of the engineers who volunteer their time in one manner
or another have learned to do so and still maintain quality time with their
families (even I who is happily married for going on twenty years and has
four grand children). They arrange the time, attend committee meetings,
teach classes, perform community volunteering, hold part time political
offices, volunteer with their churches and temples - they work the time in
to help with something they love or are devoted to because they want to. If
you want something, you can always make time for it.

Some of the most memorable people in our lives are those who stand out for
their community and professional efforts and these people are to be
congradulated for their efforts, but most important, we should be motivated
by these few people to step into their shoes and learn to give back to our
peers a little of what we received.

Sorry to preach, but Neils comments brought back some inspiring memories.

Dennis Wish PE