Dennis W. Sullivan
For his outstanding record of accomplishment as a technical manager and executive in a premier industrial corporation, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Dennis W. Sullivan.
Executive Vice President, Industrial
Parker Hannifin Corporation
On his athletic "career"
I was a baseball player in high school, and I hoped someday I could play professionally. As a kid I was a Chicago White Sox fan. The White Sox gave our high school team their old uniforms one year. That made us all loyal to the White Sox.
At Purdue I got to go to spring training and started one game as a pitcher against Memphis State, and I won. So my career record was 1 and 0! I was undefeated! After spring training, however, the coach said, "You are probably not going to get to play much, and you're studying engineering." So even though I felt bad about it, I took his advice and stopped playing baseball.
On learning self-discipline
|When I finished my first semester I was still only seventeen years old-young and inexperienced. I didn't realize how hard I needed to work. I was the kind of a person who would wait until the last minute on schoolwork, so I did not get off to a good start at Purdue. Finally I saw that even though I liked Purdue and I liked my friends, I just wasn't serious enough. So I found myself a third-floor room in a rooming house and lived in that room and had very few distractions. I went from barely making it in engineering to having well over a five-point index-just by changing my environment.||
At the invitation of Professor Incropera, head of the School of Mechanical Engineering, I talked to a sophomore class at Purdue a couple of years ago. I told them I never thought I was going to get out of this place. I actually showed them my grades for the first couple of years. They gasped. Then I showed them my grades for the last two years.
On his "on-the-job training" at Parker Hannifin
When I was a trainee, I was given a nice assignment. They asked me if I would do some research in Chicago on why people bought hydraulic hose. It was a wonderful experience. In the course of a year I made eight or nine hundred calls on people, asking them why they bought from their present supplier. By the time I was done I had practically taken a marketing course. I knew what people were thinking about and so I developed some ideas. I saw that there was more to the business than just the industrial side. There was the diesel engine part, the repair part, and so on. I suggested we set up a warehouse in a major city to handle bigger accounts directly, then set up smaller distributors that would work out of this warehouse to handle the after-market. So we tried it in Chicago, and it worked well.
Advice to current students
If you are willing to put in the effort and work hard and are enthusiastic and work well with other people, your opportunities are almost limitless-as I see it, limited only by your ability to relocate. With both spouses working it isn't as easy for people to relocate as it used to be. I would say to young people that the more flexible you can keep yourself, the more opportunities you'll have. To go where the opportunities are-that's worth almost more than anything.
On issues that concern him today
From an economical standpoint, I am concerned that we treat ourselves too well today and pass the debt on to our children and grandchildren. I wonder if it would be more fair to pay for the standard of living we choose to have today and tax ourselves accordingly, and not rely on the future generation to pay for the lifestyle we have chosen.
On his proudest accomplishment
One highlight has been to work at this place so long-I'm in my 37th year now, which my children find amazing. Hopefully I have seven or eight years to go! Another highlight was going to night school to get my MBA. When you're working you have different issues you bring to your studies-whether it be in a warehouse that you're working in or something you're selling-and you can write your papers about practical things and do original research to test your hypotheses.
On new challenges
My big challenge now has to do with our opportunities in the rest of the world. How do you find the people or the team for that? How do you get a team that would like to go to China now? How do you get people who want to experience the adventure of going and living in a different place for a few years? That's where the opportunities are going to be for the young people who want to do it.
- Executive Vice President, Worldwide Industrial and Automotive Products, Parker Hannifin. Manages domestic and international production and sales.
- Corporate Director.
- Executive (Corporate) Vice President and President of Industrial and Automotive Sectors. Under Sullivan's leadership, the sector's size has nearly quadrupled since 1980.
- President, Industrial Sector. Worldwide responsibility for fluid connectors, fluid power, filters, seals and refrigeration products.
- President, Fluidpower Group. Helped in the development of a worldwide package of hydraulic, pneumatic, and motion control products.
- President, Fluid Connectors Group. Fluid Connectors became Parker Hannifin's most profitable group.
- Vice President, Fluid Connectors Group; General Manager, Hose Product and Automotive Connectors Divisions. Led development of thermoplastic and freon hose, for which Parker Hannifin became a primary worldwide supplier.
- General Manager, Automotive Connectors Division. At age 29, he was the company's youngest general manager.
- General Manager, Hose Products Division. Led development and manufacture of thermoplastic hoses and elastomeric hoses, which made Hose Products the largest division in Parker Hannifin.
- Materials Control Manager.
- Production Control Manager.
- Sales Order Supervisor.
- Sales Engineer.
- Sales Trainee.
BSME '60, Purdue; MBA '69, Case Western Reserve University