Colorful Memories of Rensselaer
I just read the article on Richard Herbert ’83, president of Pantone Inc., the leading developer of color measuring systems. This reminded me of my own experiences with color science at RPI.
When I was a senior chemistry major, with a not-too-great GPA, I decided I needed some sort of puff chem course to bring my grades up. An introductory course in Color Science taught by Professor Fred Billmeyer seemed just the class to take. I had survived his class in Polymer Science as a junior and he seemed pretty easygoing, so I signed up. I had no idea what Color Science was.
Amazingly, the course proved one of the best I ever took, and certainly one of the most fascinating. Though I never worked in the field, I still remember most of the precepts, and have always been glad I took the class.
The late Professor Billmeyer (he died in 2004) brought to class several key attributes, including a brilliant mind and the experience that came from literally inventing the field. He really wrote the book and we all couldn’t wait to see him enter the class but not for the reason you might imagine. He was a living example of color science in action. A typical outfit might be a plaid jacket, checkered shirt, striped pants, shoestring tie, argyle socks (different patterns for each foot), and a gigantic turquoise belt buckle as the centerpiece! We often wrote down what he wore in our notes, just to tell our disbelieving friends.
Lawson Fowble ’77
East Worcester, N.Y.
I am a Rensselaer Class of 2004 alum and I wanted to say that it is wonderful of Rensselaer to allow the students of Louisiana to attend RPI free of charge. Out of all the other schools I’ve heard of and known, no other has been so humanitarian in nature and gracious to the public. I have never been in a place that provides a greater sense of community and a sincere interest in making a positive impact on the world. I am proud and grateful to have been able to spend four years of my life there.
Christopher Lee Williams ’04
Los Angeles, Calif.
Ethics in Business?
I was disappointed to see no mention of ethics in your reprint of the BusinessWeek article on the new MBA program. If all the recent business scandals have driven home any point, it’s that U.S. business leaders are totally lacking in ethics. They can’t see anything but increasing their own personal wealth. Perhaps most stay within the law, but they care nothing for their workers, communities, customers, or national well-being. In the short term, they and a few other big shareholders get rich in the long run, everyone else suffers as their companies go down the tube. If I ran the circus, I’d make a thorough indoctrination in ethical behavior part of every B-school curriculum!
Phil Perry ’80
Lally Dean David Gautschi responds:
Phil Perry certainly has a point in highlighting the importance of ethics in business, especially in light of recent ethical lapses that have had significant unfavorable consequences for investors, consumers, and employees. Notwithstanding the significance of the widely reported ethical lapses of top executives at a number of corporations, financial services firms, and consultancies, it would be misleading to paint all “U.S. business leaders” as being “totally lacking in business ethics.” In fact, there are some business leaders who set examples that most of us should consider emulating. A good source of ethical icons in business is the Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics (ethix.org). Mr. Perry was justified to call our attention to the lack of mention of ethics in the remaking of the Lally MBA program. In fact, it is a dimension on which the Lally School intends to establish distinctive excellence. This fall, we featured business ethics topics in two professional development workshops for the MBA students. Additionally, Al Erisman of the Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics has joined the Lally School’s Advisory Council.
It may be the result of unexplained counter-intuition, but after 55 years I have observed how engineers have been continually shooting themselves in the foot. The comments of the Hillary letters support my point [MAIL, Fall 2005]. In 1948 when I was a junior, a straw poll on campus was taken and over 80 percent of the students and faculty supported Dewey against incumbent Harry Truman... we all know the result of that election.
After 54 years of industrial experience I find that nothing has changed and support is greatest among my engineering friends for the more conservative of our two parties, a party that is not afraid to show that it is most interested in big business, not engineers.
I can arguably say that engineering, the cost of education, professional opportunities, and the use of engineers by the government has been on a steady downward spiral. That’s not to say I advocate a one-party system, but let’s use our personal natural resources, i.e. brains and rational judgment, and make the two parties compete with each other on our behalf.
Norman Zelvin ’51
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