Arthur J. Schiewe

For his leadership in developing aerospace communication and control systems for the nation's defense, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Arthur J. Schiewe.

Executive Director, The Aerospace Institute,
The Aerospace Corporation
BSEE '53, MSEE '54, PhD '60

On his early interest in engineering

More than anything else, serendipity put me into the engineering profession. Although I was raised in the industrial town of Anderson, Indiana, I spent most of my nonschool time before college working on a family farm. That experience was great for developing a work ethic, discipline, and tolerance for adversity, but I could envision no future for myself in farming. Of more appeal to me were the career of a neighbor who specialized in building one-of-a-kind race cars in his shop and the new automotive developments being introduced by the General Motors plants in town. Engineering seemed a pathway to this interesting work, and Purdue was near at hand-in fact it was the only engineering school I knew much about.

On his Purdue education

The broad-based approach to engineering at Purdue was excellent in preparing me for my eventual career-although I didn't know it at the time. I wondered what would be the use for the foundry, heat treating, machine shop, and so on required in the first year, but it turned out to be a valuable background for understanding manufacturing processes later in my career.

Also valuable was the emphasis on orderly, logical problem-solving techniques and learning to learn. The latter was emphasized by Professor John Truxal, a new recruit from MIT when I encountered him in graduate school. He introduced the "learning exam," in which you were expected to integrate all past knowledge to solve new problems only slightly connected to his courses. It was a humbling experience for "A" students used to normal Purdue exams to get 30 percent on his exams.

On his career path

My goal in continuing graduate school was to go into teaching or a research laboratory, and the biggest challenge was staying on track to finish the PhD while, at the same time, being tempted by the interesting industry jobs. However, as I completed my PhD in 1960, an exciting nonprofit California company, The Aerospace Corporation, was in the formative stages. Its mission was to team with the Air Force and industry in the pioneering development of space technologies and systems for national defense. The appeal of involvement in this cutting-edge work was irresistible, and instead of a teaching position at Purdue, I accepted a position in development of launch vehicle and satellite guidance and control systems. My initial plan was to work five years and return to teaching, but it never happened, as I developed as a systems engineer and progressed in technical management.

On career challenges and accomplishments

In rebuilding and revitalizing many organizations for the company, I've had the opportunity for significant technical involvement in the development of military space systems. My primary accomplishments have been in leadership of the development of sophisticated computer simulations for technical management of complex space systems developments and operations, and in establishment of procedures for performing thorough risk assessment reviews of flight readiness of military satellites and their launch vehicles and payloads. Small errors in design or manufacture can lead to losses of several hundred million dollars.

At my retirement as a corporate officer this year, I have finally returned to the education arena-after 35, not five, years! My new assignment is to develop a "corporate quality university" within Aerospace to strengthen the company's ability to survive the sharply downward trend in Department of Defense funding through improvement of our core competencies and the quality of our service products and facilitation of a leadership and learning culture throughout the company.

On hands-on education

Although there were no formal co-op programs when I was at Purdue, I was able to patch one together through a series of summer jobs at various General Motors plants. That experience was extremely valuable in putting my Purdue coursework into perspective. I've heavily supported co-op programs from my management positions, including the one at Purdue. With the rapid changes in the economic and technology environments, it's important for academia and industry to collaborate even more closely to ensure continuous learning and deliver just-in-time education throughout the careers of engineers and other professionals. Multimedia technology will facilitate these collaborations.

1994- :
Executive Director, The Aerospace Institute. Oversees development of unified education center to support corporate mission and goals.
Group Vice President, Engineering and Technology, The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center established to provide systems engineering and technical oversight for military space systems acquisitions.
Vice President, Laboratory Operations. Responsible for research and experimentation programs on materials and devices for space applications.
General Manager, Systems Computer and Engineering Division.
General Manager, Mission Information Systems Division. Responsible for development of engineering analysis techniques and computer simulations for space mission planning and for processing and interpreting sensor information returned from satellites.
General Manager, Electronics and Optics Division.
General Manager, Guidance and Control Division.
Subdivision Director, Control and Sensor Systems.
Department Head, Control Systems.
Section Manager, Control Systems.
Group Leader, Guidance, Space Technology Laboratories.
Engineer, Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation.
Project Engineer, Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

BSEE '53, MSEE '54, PhD '60, Purdue.