Interview of Donald B. Glower by Bernard Bayer
Creators:Glower, Donald B.
Subjects (LCSH):Ohio State University. College of Engineering -- History
Engineering -- Study and teaching -- Ohio -- Columbus
Glower, Donald B. -- Interviews
Ohio State University -- History -- Sources
Subjects (Other):OSU Presidents
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Donald Glower is the former Dean of the College of Engineering, and was Vice President for University Communications and Development at The Ohio State University. He recounts his journey from the small town of Shelby, Ohio, where he graduated from High School in 1943 at age 16, to a wider world of military service, industrial research projects, some of them classified, and ultimately a satisfying and exciting career in various assignments at Ohio State. His journey outward and upward started with his graduation in December 1946, from the Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, where he left with a B.S. degree in Marine Engineering, and embarked on a three-year career as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He gained from this experience a “much, much different perspective than I had sitting there on the farm” in Shelby. He came to realize that it was “an exciting world out there, and I just wanted to be a part of it.” (p.1) He left the Merchant Marine and enrolled at Antioch College, then one of the most competitive small liberal colleges in the nation. His liberal arts degree from Antioch, combined with his three-years experience working with machines in the Merchant Marine, led him to a satisfying one-year stint at Battelle. Here he realized he would need an advanced degree. At Iowa State University, which had the Ames Laboratory, one of the major atomic energy laboratories where the uranium and the nuclear materials were processed for the weapons program, he earned his Masters and Doctorate between 1954 and 1960. Dr. Glower’s first assignment in the world of industrial engineering was at Sandia Laboratory, part of the Bell Laboratories, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was the research laboratory for the Atomic Energy Commission. At Sandia Dr. Glower found himself part of an exciting team of some 80 Ph.D.s who did focused research on well-subsidized projects that were important for the national weapons program. His personal focus was on piezoelectric crystals, and the impact of radiation on these crystals, and how such radiation might change their utilization in electric circuits. His growing reputation, as well as his lengthy list of key publications, led to an assignment with General Motors, which had a very large contract to redesign the guidance system for the Titan Missile Program. “That was something I knew pretty well by that time.” (p. 3) This position was an exciting, challenging, and lucrative opportunity, but even so he decided to return to the academic world at Ohio State, and willingly accepted a 50% pay cut to do so. He and his wife, Betty, decided that the academic environment would be preferable for themselves and their four young children to that of an industrial career. He has never regretted that decision, and recounted with pride the great success through the years of his four children, all of which completed much of their education at Ohio State. Ten grandchildren have also added immeasurably to his personal satisfaction. Dr. Glower came to Ohio State in 1964 as a professor in mechanical and nuclear engineering, and as chair of the Nuclear Engineering Committee. Four years later he was named Chairman of the Department. This was a time in history when graduate programs at all the major universities were expanding very rapidly. Before long Glower had developed an impressive research program in Mechanical Engineering, new faculty were added, some 20 graduate students were enrolled, all of which were supported by about \$300,000 in research funding. Glower attributes his success in writing funding proposals to various factors, including the sizable network of influential Ohio State graduates in key programs around the country, his own training with the Bell Labs, and his notable success in recruiting a talented and diverse cadre of graduate students, such as National Merit Scholars, a number of good Black students, and female students. There had been no women enrolled in Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State since the program’s creation in the 1890’s. The payoff to all these efforts was “quite a good research program in the Mechanical Engineering Department.” (p.6) A further success was the construction at the Ohio State Fairgrounds of a model house that was heated and cooled with solar energy. This experiment generated much useful research data, and increased public awareness of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. Finally, as Chairman, Dr. Glower put together an Industrial Advisory Committee of outside experts in industry and government who clearly recognized that engineering was changing; in large part because of the development of more powerful computers. The Committee convinced Glower and others that the computers being used at Ohio State, the old batch type computers, were seriously outdated and behind the times. Once he was promoted to Dean of the College of Engineering in the late 1960s, Glower saw to it that every Department in the College had its own Industrial Advisory Committee. Furthermore, with the cautious support of President Harold Enarson, Glower raised \$17 million from private sources to modernize labs and computers throughout the College. Every faculty member in the College of Engineering got a personal computer for his or her office. Some faculty members were reluctant at first to embrace them since they feared embarrassment knowing that their students likely knew more about computers than they did. It was necessary to assign each faculty member a good graduate student to mentor them individually in the privacy of their own offices. Also, as Dean, Glower maintained an “open door” policy with faculty so that any one of them “could come in to bitch at me or scream or whatever they wanted to so.” (p. 9). As Dean Dr. Glower asked each department in Engineering to establish an Industrial Advisory Committee which prepared a long-range ten-year plan, as well as a three-year plan, to discuss and evaluate potential problems or opportunities. Each included key industrial figures; the committee for the college had primarily the Vice Presidents and Presidents from industry. Such strategizing helped save the Transportation Research Center, and helped create the Edison Welding Center and other Centers. Important assistance came also from Governor James Rhodes, and the Ohio Public Utility Commission. Outside funding from private donors and the State of Ohio was increasingly and successfully sought: Gov. Rhodes got \$32.5 million from the state for the Transportation Research Center. Initially the Center was operated by the State of Ohio, but after a period of mismanagement, Gov. Rhodes turned it over to the College of Engineering to operate. Dr. Glower’s well-honed and time-tested political skills enabled him to navigate successfully both with governors of the State of Ohio, notably Rhodes and Celeste, and Presidents Fawcett, Enarson, and Jennings of Ohio State. Later on the Center was acquired by Honda who paid the university well for the Center, including a \$6 million endowment for the College of Engineering. Also, some of these monies were used to endow the Donald D. Glower Chair in Engineering. Dr. Glower approved of the transfer of the Center to Honda, which the University continued to operate on behalf of Honda. He knew the Honda people well. “I played golf with them and worked hard at the relationship.” This mutually satisfying arrangement generated “some significant money” for the college. An American Vice President of Honda who thought the deal was too favorable to Ohio State, and tried to stop it, was fired. The Edison Welding Center was established after an initial million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation and an equal amount from the state of Ohio. This evolved into the Welding Research Center, which was soon recognized as the premier program in welding engineering in the entire country. It is a “marvelous operation.” Prof. Carl Graff deserves much of the credit for its success. Another great success was the creation of the Net Shape Manufacturing Center in the mid-80’s. Dr. Taylan Altan, a young Ph.D. from Germany, then working at Batelle, was recruited to head the center. It permitted the College of Engineering to concentrate its manufacturing interests in a single entity, and was before long generating some \$10 to \$15 million a year. All of these Centers were still operating and doing quite well at the time of the interview . While interacting successfully with leaders from industry and manufacturing, and governors and university presidents, Dr. Glower did not neglect the students in his College. He started a Co-op program which was successful in helping many students achieve financial self-sufficiency. It was funded initially with a \$1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and continues operation to this day. During the late 1960’s interactive computer graphics revolutionized how engineering was practiced in private industry. This being true it was also necessary to change how graphics were taught at the university level. Drawings once laboriously produced using a slide rule, compass, T-square, as well as a nimble eraser, could now be generated quickly, and of vastly superior quality, using a computer. In terms of his management style first as Chairman of Mechanical Engineering and then as Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Glower said the key element in his success was always to find the faculty members who enjoyed the highest respect within their departments and then ask them to lead. This style was in direct opposition to an alternate model “where, as an officer, you gave orders, which had to be obeyed, or else, without question.” (p. 15). This latter model has lost favor in industry as well, which increasingly is moving to a more collegial style of management. . In 1990, despite the fact he was within 2 ½ years of retirement, Dr. Glower moved from the Deanship to become a Vice President. He agreed to become the Director of Development. It was a frustrating assignment since the university had just concluded a major fundraising campaign, his staff knew from the onset that he was a “short timer,” and his number two person was sore that he hadn’t gotten the job himself. Still he and his office raised more money for the university than had been done before in that same time period. In particular he was successful in raising contributions from industry, and he started the OSU Foundation. In this latter enterprise he had very significant help from Mel Schottenstein, “a peach of a guy.” Glower saw to it that the President of the University retained ultimate control of the Foundation Board. (p. 22). Dr. Glower briefly describes his relationship with three different presidents of Ohio State. He describes Harold Enarson as verbally oriented, a smooth talker, but a man who was “very uncomfortable” around the captains of industry. “I think Harold did a nice job given his capabilities.” (p. 17). Evidently Enarson had not been the first choice of the Search Committee to succeed Fawcett. According to Glower their first four choices all withdrew when their names were prematurely leaked publicly, and so the committee “got back together and fished Harold Enarson from the pile.” (p. 18). Ed Jennings, himself a faculty member, “tried to do what the faculty would respect. I think he was a great president.” (p. 17). Novice Fawcett “was afraid of the faculty,” yet he did “many wonderful things” and “was a good and capable leader.” His style of leadership was akin to that of a “military general.” According to Dr. Glower the faculty never forgave Governor Rhodes for appointing Fawcett, a former Superintendent of the Columbus Public Schools, and who lacked the Ph.D. degree. Still he was a good individual who worked well with the legislature and the governor. Next Dr. Glower comments briefly on several different Provosts at OSU. [Unnamed] Robinson came next, was around during the student riots of 1970, but soon departed to become President of Macalester College in Minnesota. The riots “nearly broke him.” Once Glower observed Robinson in Bricker Hall during the riots riding the elevator while wearing dark glasses and walking with a cane. John Corbally was “very intelligent and made good decisions,” a real class act. Al Coon was “a very likable person.” Dieter Hanicke “was one of the best,” and made good decisions. Francile Firebaugh “had great difficulty making decisions on her own,” possibly because she was trained under the domineering Dean of Agriculture, Roy Cottman, who reserved the final say on all major decisions to himself. Both Cottman and Glower were powerful Deans who were allowed considerable freedom of action. Glower was especially successful in raising outside funding. For example, he “was bringing in a steady state \$2 to \$3 million a year for equipment” while the University only provided \$250.000. Such efforts were necessary since “every year you would get your budget cut.” (p. 19). Dr. Glower continued an active professional life after retirement from OSU. He did important volunteer work with UNESCO; this was intended to help underdeveloped countries such as Lithuania, but especially in Africa, build a private sector, turn a profit, and put some money in the bank. After AIDS came in, Africa clearly became the primary target. “The argument was if we don’t help them, they could drag the rest of the world down with them.” He resigned from this position, as well as his Chairmanship of the UNESCO Technology Committee, when he moved to Destin, Florida. Some comments are offered on the differences between science and engineering. One might say that “a scientist wants to understand things and an engineer wants to make things work,” but the relationship between the two is much more complicated. Ultimately each field needs to interact with the other for maximum success; they are interdependent. As he reflected on his long career in engineering at Ohio State, Dr. Glower commented on the relative standing of Ohio State’s engineering program nationwide. It was true that Ohio State was never ranked #1 (generally MIT was ranked there), nor even up there with Illinois. Indeed OSU generally was ranked in the low thirties, but even so Ohio State “ranks pretty well.” Dr. Glower’s final comments relate to his close relationship with Tom Thompson, a former student, who parlayed his degree in marine engineering from Ohio State, and his genius for invention and problem-solving, in to recovery of some three tons of gold from the sunken steamship “Central America.” Glower was helpful in amassing the necessary funding from some 15 well-heeled contributors. Thompson tells his incredible story in detail in his book “The Ship of Gold.” Much historic clothing was also rescued from the ocean depths. In conclusion Dr. Glower relates his considerable personal satisfaction with his long career in varied roles at Ohio State. All in all both he and his family “had a wonderful experience at Ohio State.” He said modestly that he had had a “positive” influence on his university and the broader academic community. Leading Themes Development of a nationally-recognized program in Mechanical Engineering Research into alternative energy sources, including nuclear, wind, and solar Upgrading computers and labs in College of Engineering through outside funding Expansion and modernization of the College of Engineering Creation of several new Centers housed in College of Engineering including the Transportation Research Center, the Edison Welding Center, and the Net Shape Manufacturing Center Close ties with the Honda Corporation Creation of the Student Co-op Program in College of Engineering Advent of interactive computer graphics, and how this affected teaching at OSU Creation of the Foundation Board while Vice-President in charge of Development Critiques of three different OSU Presidents and several Provosts Post-retirement volunteer work with UNESCO, especially in Africa Close collaboration with Tom Thompson, & recovery of gold and artifacts from the Central America
Martha Stimic: African-American secretary who assisted Glower in retaining black students (p. 7) -- Hal Bolz: Dean of the College of Engineering (pp. 6, 10) -- Chuck Sespy: Professor, and national leader in heating and cooling (p. 7) -- Gordon Clark: Prof. of Architecture (p. 7) -- President Harold Enarson (pp. 8, 11, 17-18) -- Stan Harrison: Chairman of the Advisory Committee in the College of Engineering (p. 9) -- Gov. James Rhodes (pp. 10, 12) -- President Ed Jennings (pp. 11, 16, 21- 22) -- Gov. Dick Celeste (pp. 10, 12) -- Prof. Hans Schwar: advocate for creating the Transportation Research Center (p. 10) -- Prof. Carl Graff: Chairman of Welding Engineering (p. 12) -- Phil Bowser: businessman who helped Glower found the Co-op program (p. 13) -- Douglas McGregor, President of Antioch, and author of the classic "The Human Side of Management" (p. 15) -- President Gordon Gee (p. 16) -- President Novice Fawcett (pp. 17-18) -- President Harold Enarson (pp. 17-18) -- John Corbally (p. 18) -- Al Coon: Provost (p. 18) -- Dieter Haenicke (p. 18) -- Francile Firebaugh (pp. 18-19) -- Roy Cottman: Dean of Agriculture (p. 19) -- Mel Schottenstein (p. 21) -- Tom Thompson: lead discoverer of the sunken gold ship, "The Central America" (pp. 24-28)
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