During the late 1960s I was struggling to decide if I should continue engineering graduate studies. I was troubled by a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was 27 years old and still in school. She and I had a great relationship, beginning in my childhood. She was a hard-working, kind, and classy lady whose formal education ended with the fifth grade.
During a visit with her, she asked me what I was doing, and I said I was at the university studying engineering. Her abrupt response, clearly remembered fifty years later: "Stuart, you are 27 years old and don't have a job. What a shame."That hurt. Was I studying to avoid work or to prepare for it?At that time, by a great coincidence, I stumbled across engineering professor Hardy Cross' 1952 book Engineers and Ivory Towers. I read manyinsightful thoughts such as, paraphased, "an engineer cannot know a little about everything until he/she first learns much about one thing" and "thoroughly explore a topic, find out what has been done, what should be done, what can be done."
Cross's book helped me realize that I enjoyed being a student, in the broad sense of the word. I wanted to be a perpetual student, which meant I better find employment situations in which I could be a "student." I did-in academia, government, and business. Cross put me on a student-for-life-track, and I never got off.Stuart G. Walesh, PhD, PE[email protected]