Keeping an Open Mind

Author: Milton Hollander
Lifelong learning essential ingredient for success

How does a Purdue mechanical engineering education help a traditional entrepreneur? When I was asked to write 600 words on this topic, my first thought was: I graduated from Purdue over 50 years ago, and they’re  still giving me homework!

Of course there have been many changes in the years since I studied mechanical engineering at Purdue. The world then could best be described as “analog.” The transistor hadn’t been invented. We did calculations with a “slip stick” that wasn’t useful past the first decimal. Nevertheless, although technology has progressed beyond what we imagined, certain fundamentals of a Purdue ME education have not changed.

Purdue teaches you how to think as an engineer. More than anything else, an engineer has to think about what happens if things don’t go the way you planned. You learn to study a problem from all different angles, never jump in without a plan, and build on a solid foundation. The skills that Purdue ME students acquire to be successful in their classes, in their lab work, and in projects with their classmates are valuable skills in the “real world.”

To be a successful ME student or a successful entrepreneur, you must have a strong motivation and the stamina to work 80-plus hours a week when it is necessary, as it often is. Not everything comes easy; not everything is a breeze. Some tasks will take twice as long or cost twice as much as expected, and you need to plan and budget for those contingencies. You need to recognize your own limitations and surround yourself with talented colleagues who share your vision.

Milton Hollander

I graduated high school in 1946, a year after the end of World War II. The next week, I enlisted in the Army, as did many of my friends. I joined the Army Corps of Engineers, and filled out my Purdue application in a Quonset hut in Korea. I arrived home from Korea on Thanksgiving Day and enrolled at Purdue for the next semester in February 1948. The G.I. Bill made it all possible.

Purdue did a lot to help the vets get reacquainted with their studies. Purdue offered refresher classes for the vets and some of the basic classes were offered two ways. Normal classes were three days a week. Those who needed extra help could take two extra catch-up classes in the same course each week.

Today’s Purdue ME students are learning about technology that hadn’t been invented when I went to school. In the years ahead, students will work with technology that doesn’t exist today, and many current students will have helped to invent it. A Purdue ME education teaches an engineer how to study, think clearly and learn new subjects. All engineers need to continue learning throughout their careers. It’s especially important for an entrepreneur who will have to study entirely new subjects such as marketing, finance, and/or patent law. An engineer’s education doesn’t end with graduation, and a Purdue mechanical engineering education provides this solid foundation.