(Pictured: Paul Torgersen posing and talking with students after his final class Theory of Organization on 7 May 2014. Students and faculty wore shirts printed with lessons they learned from the professor with 56 years of experience at head of the classroom.)
This has been a bittersweet May thus far for Virginia Tech. As we prepare to see Charles W. Steger retire as president of the university after 14 years in the role, and welcome Dr. Timothy Sands as our new president, Paul Torgersen – head of industrial engineering (1967-70), dean of engineering (1970-90), president of the Corporate Research Center (1990-94), and university president (1994-2000) – taught his final class to packed room Wednesday, answered by applause, and students (and faculty and staff) lining up to shake his hand, get an autograph, and take photographs on cell phones.
His last official lecture – save for a guest appearance one day down the road – focused on life lessons, not just engineering. It is well timed as thousands of undergraduates will walk next week, leaving Virginia Tech as alumni.
We grabbed a copy of his notes from the class, Theory of Organization. We expect to soon post the video of the lecture soon. As well, Roanoke’s CBS affiliate WBDJ has posted a video news story on Torgersen’s last day in the classroom and his eternal dedication to education.
From the pen of Paul Torgersen: “Some advice”:
Learn to communicate well.
Written – Construct an outline before you begin writing.
Speaking – Speak from an outline rather than reading from a script. “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is more precious than the gift of oratory” — Winston Churchill
Practice management by walking around and then be a listener
“The average person suffers from three delusions: (1) That he is a good driver, (2) That he has a good sense of humor, and (3) That he is a good listener” —Steven Sample
Thank people and congratulate people, preferably in writing.
Beware of arrogance: Recall the department head who couldn’t return phone calls in Sample’s text.
Planning is necessary but be opportunistic: Take advantage of unexpected opportunities (e.g., The VT PC initiative).
Don’t be petty and resist the temptation to get even: Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton from “The Man with the Blue Umbrella.”
Assume there are no secrets, e.g., salaries, personal life, etc. Live as if you resided in a glass house.
“Fortune (i.e., luck) plays the greatest role in determining the success of any leader and fortune favors the bold.” —Niccolo Machiavelli
The third occasion for decision can significantly impact the organization:
(e.g., Branch Rickey’s decision to integrate baseball)
And on occasion don’t ask permission, just do it (Stuart Cassell’s golf course).
Your most critical decisions are the hiring, nurturing and firing of lieutenants. Then work for those who work for you. — Steven Sample
Make an effort to develop a sense of humor
No one likes a grump, except possibly other grumps.
In speaking, “manage people’s attention with humor.” — Steven Sample
“We have all drunk from wells we did not dig. We have all been warmed by fires we did not build.” — Mary Miller
Enjoy your blessings and be thankful: If, across the world, individuals and their blessings were arranged from the most to the least, everyone in this class would be in the top 1 percent.
You have an obligation to help the less fortunate.
To Dr. Torgersen, we offer our unending thanks. Ut Prosim. And, to borrow another Latin phrase, excelsior, sir!