agreed to do it.
That afternoon I met with Bob Canning, one of the world's great
salesmen. He told me, that with my engineering background, I was just what
they needed for their burgeoning electronics business. I had forgotten
about the interview when several weeks later I received an offer to join
the GE Business (the emphasis is mine) Training Course at
Electronics Park in Syracuse, New York at a salary of $250 per month - the
same as I was making at the University. Out of the 326 1/2 credit hours I
had accumulated as an undergraduate, the closest I had been to the
Commerce College was the one-half hour credit in a course called Economics
My impression of GE at the time was of one big research laboratory and
I thought that I would simply be moving off the bench into administration.
I had no idea that it was a huge industrial complex and that I would be
the low man on the "totem pole" in a complex management
organization. Universities, at least Ohio State, were very lackadaisical
about pay days. We were supposed to be paid on the first of the month but
that was just the day you inquired at the business office to find out when
the checks might be coming in. This month they were going to be late as
the auditor was on vacation and couldn't sign them. When he did return we
had to wait for the legislature to appropriate more funds. The project I
was working on in the Research Foundation was going through the annual
uncertainty about renewal of its funding and my GI Bill was running out. I
decided that it was time to leave academe for the cold cruel world of Commerce
and accepted GE's offer.
Thus, leaving my wife Jackie and daughter Suzanne with her parents in
Coshocton, Ohio I packed my books in our 1937 Chevrolet and got ready to
head for Syracuse where I was to report the day after Labor Day. Dr.
Harris, who I worked for at the Research Foundation, said "They won't
keep you in an office for very long and will soon have you back in the
laboratory where you belong. Please say hello to Langmuir(2) for me when
you get there".
I was in the personnel office in General Electric's Electronics Park in
Syracuse, New York. I had been recruited for General Electric's Business
Training Course (now called the Financial Management Training Program) and
was being processed to be put on the payroll.
I was introduced to a Russ Stoll who had been recruited for the same
program and was going through the same process. He was a slender person
with a burr haircut, tan duck pants and Wellington boots. He lacked only
the slide rule hanging from his belt to be a stereotype of the young
engineers of that period. Which he was, having just graduated
from Iowa State University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I told
him that my undergraduate degree was in Anthropology and I got the
impression that he had never heard of Anthropology and probably thought
that I was "gay".
Russ and I, as the two oddballs in the program -- the others being
either accounting or business majors -became good friends. We studied
together, went on picnics together and our wives had babies together. We
were always competing for number one or two in the classes, but I have to
admit that he took more firsts than I did.
At the end of the three year program, Russ decided that he wanted to do
something with his engineering degree so he resigned from GE and went to
work as an engineer for the Porter Cable Company in Syracuse. They made
hand power tools, etc.
He later went to work in Chicago for Daniel Woodhead Company, a maker
of heavy-duty extension cords, mechanic's lights, switches, etc. where he
rose to the position of Executive Vice President.
I would occasionally have dinner with him and his wife, Maurine, when
my travels took me through Chicago. Some time in the mid -1970s I stopped
in to see them. Maurine always had foreign exchange students living with
them and boasted of having "sons" in a number of different
countries. They had just returned from Mexico where they had visited two
of their Mexican "sons".
The presidency of Daniel Woodhead had just become available and Russ
had been offered the position. Over dinner, they discussed the merits of
Russ taking the job or saying to heck with the rat race and retiring to
Mexico(3). They ultimately decided to go to Mexico.
I hadn't heard from them for about seven year when I got a call from
Russ telling me that they were in Phoenix and asking me if l could meet
them for lunch. Except for a small goatee, Russ looked the same as when I
had first met him with his burr haircut, duck pants and Wellington boots.
He had just returned from a 13 week dig in the Yucatan. He was now an
ANTHROPOLOGIST. He had gotten his Master's Degree at the University of
Puebla, Puebla, Mexico and was teaching there.