Paul L. Bergren

For his outstanding achievements in improving product and process quality in one of the nation's largest industrial enterprises, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Paul L. Bergren.

Vice President, Ingersoll-Rand Company
President, Air Compressor Group, Ingersoll-Rand Company
BSME '71


On his Purdue years

Purdue has exerted its influence on me and my family all my life. My father was a mechanical engineering professor at Purdue, although by the time I was a college student, he was the provost in charge of the regional campuses. In addition, my wife and I were Purdue classmates. So you can easily see Purdue University reflected in our thoughts, our actions, and our lives.

Important issues that affected students, particularly at Purdue during my college years, were Vietnam, student rights, and just getting a good education.

Consider student rights, for example. I was one of four initial student members of Purdue's campus appeals board. Before the campus appeals board was established by the board of trustees, if the dean of students wanted to throw you out, there was no review process. If a professor wanted to give you an F, there was no review process. The campus appeals board provided the opportunity for disciplinary and academic review.

Purdue was not as focused on Vietnam as other schools were at that time; students were much more focused on education. The biggest student demonstration at Purdue was stimulated by the legislature's raising tuition from $200 to $350 a semester. When that happened, there was a very peaceful sit-in at the union, resulting in 69 student cases heard by the campus appeals board.

I was happy at Purdue. Perhaps because of my long association with the university, perhaps because of my teachers, perhaps because of my classmates, perhaps because Purdue is a great school-whatever the reason, I enjoyed my Purdue years, and I enjoy them even more in retrospect.

On his professional life

Purdue graduates and Ingersoll-Rand seem to match up well. I was fortunate enough to make that connection, and it has proved extremely rewarding.

In 1982 our Centrifugal Compressor Division was performing below our expectations. I spent four years there as controller, and we were able to turn the division around. This experience led to my appointment as manufacturing manager. The capable manufacturing employees won three quality-improvement awards in four years. That led to my promotion to general manager and dramatic improvements in the quality of the product, contributing to the business's growth in volume and profitability.

As at Purdue, achievements at Ingersoll-Rand led to more responsibility. Accomplishment at the Centrifugal Compressor Division resulted in my promotion in 1992 to the presidency of the company's Air Compressor Group. This key operating unit of Ingersoll-Rand has been blessed with an excellent management team, some members of which are Purdue graduates. We've had the opportunity to make some important acquisitions and joint ventures as well as shed a couple of businesses that weren't good fits. We've also been able to take our domestic quality-improvement process to other air compressor operations in Europe and Asia. That's important for customers and for the company's future.

Recently I was named president of Ingersoll-Rand Europe. This provides an opportunity to help improve and expand our company's performance in Europe. Global competition, the continuous increase in customer expectations, the need for continuous improvement both incrementally and in a breakthrough way: these things present challenges and opportunities every day.

On teamwork

To be able to work with people in a team environment is crucial. When I was a college student, we needed more team activity-some form of coursework to help people get some training in communications and teamwork. People don't design, manufacture, or sell products in isolation or as individual contributors, for the most part; the activities of enterprise are done in multifunctional teams. It's extremely critical that we train our engineers accordingly. Purdue is doing more of that now.

On his Purdue education

There's magic in a Purdue diploma. For me, it has provided the opportunity to gain entry-level positions in three outstanding companies [Exxon, Ford Motor Company, and Ingersoll-Rand] and has given me the knowledge and skill to be able to make some contribution to those companies. My engineering education and Krannert education were outstanding in stimulating creative approaches to real-life problem-solving.

1994:
Appointed President, Ingersoll-Rand Europe. Responsible for Ingersoll-Rand's overall operations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
1992:
Promoted to President, Air Compressor Group; elected a vice president of Ingersoll-Rand, becoming one of the youngest employees to achieve that distinction.
1989:
Appointed Vice President and General Manager, Centrifugal Compressor Division. Spearheaded redesign of manufacturing process, dramatically reducing inventories and increasing quality and productivity. Expanded total-quality-management process.
1988:
Centrifugal Compressor Division receives Senate award for productivity.
1986:
Promoted to Manager, Operations, Centrifugal Compressor Division. Within four years the division won three Ingersoll-Rand national quality awards, a record unmatched by any other Ingersoll-Rand division.
1982:
Promoted to Controller, Centrifugal Compressor Division.
1980:
Joined Ingersoll-Rand as Director, Budgeting and Analysis.
1977-80:
Senior Financial Analyst, Ford Motor Co.
1974-77:
Refining Engineer, Exxon.

BSME '71, MSIA '73, Purdue.