Michael M. Sears
Senior Vice President
The Boeing Company; President, Military Aircraft and Missile Systems Group
BSEE '69, MSEE '69
For his outstanding contributions to the aerospace industry as an engineer and executive, and for his support of Purdue University, The Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Michael M. Sears.
His nonengineering Purdue memories
My freshman year, I played trumpet in the band, and it was a terrific experience. I enjoyed both the marching band and the symphonic band. Al Wright was the director at that time. We had the Golden Girls, the largest drum in the world, and very good football teams. It was great! But to ensure good academic performance, I got out of the band. In intramurals, I was on the men's school bowling team. My wife was on the women's team. That's how we met. And we spent a significant amount of time in our dating process out in the bowling alley.
One of his greatest accomplishments
The Navy had a program to develop an attack aircraft called the A-12. It was a key program for the Navy in their long-term mission for the country, but it proved to be extremely challenging technically, which drove it into cost and schedule problems. Collectively, the Navy and the contractors were unable to perform, so the program was cancelled. This put naval aviation at risk. Then they chose to develop a variation of a McDonnell Douglas airplane, the F/A-18-which was to be a larger aircraft that would give them capability for the next 20 to 30 years and sustain their mission. I was in the right spot at the right time, and I was asked to lead that program from its early conception through its development, into its flight test and now into production. In December, we delivered the first production F/A-18 "Super Hornet" to the customer. Having the program management responsibilities for that program has been a truly rewarding experience.
On how he hasn't changed
Let me just give you this snapshot. The alarm clock goes off for me at 3:15 a.m. I do e-mail until 4 a.m. I'm in the shower and out of the house by 4:45, and I'm in the office by 5:15 a.m. And I leave the office at 7 p.m. I'm on the road about 15 days a month. And I sleep 21/2 to 4 hours a night. I think I had those same general tendencies during my college career as well. I had high energy, a high work ethic, and a desire to learn as much as I could and demonstrate success. On his other interests and priorities From a family perspective, trying to find the right amount of time to parent has been a very high priority for me. One of my kids is a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, and one is a junior in high school. I've always felt the need to be participating in their lives. Truthfully, I love it. They're both athletes. They both play basketball and golf and one also plays football. So that has occupied a lot of time, but it's time that I really enjoyed with them. On the relaxing side, when I get a chance, I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment, especially in the wintertime, from filling the bird feeder with seed and watching it disappear. I like to watch and learn about birds.
How he has been a catalyst of change
Change is what it's all about. Change is the discriminating factor with your competition. If your company is not able to run faster and change more quickly, then your competition will catch you. You cannot continue to do what you are doing today and expect to stay at the top of the pack. So one of my themes is that we have to create an environment where our employees are comfortable recommending improvements in our processes that will give us a better competitive advantage. A big key is creating an environment where it's okay to suggest to people who are smarter than you, are higher in the organization, or make more money than you do, that "little ol' me" has an idea that can help this company.
- 1998- :
- President, Military Aircraft and Missile Systems Group, and Corporate Senior Vice President and Member of the Executive Council, The Boeing Company. Heads one of three operating groups formed in Boeing restructuring, with 50,000 people and business base of $13 billion. Responsible for executive leadership of company's Phantom Works R&D unit.
- President, McDonnell Aircraft and Missile Systems, The Boeing Company. Gained new title upon the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
- President, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace and Member, Office of Chief Executive. Headed tactical aircraft, missile and space business units of McDonnell Douglas.
- Outstanding Electrical Engineer, Purdue.
- President, Douglas Aircraft Company. Headed commercial aircraft division of McDonnell Douglas, with 11,000 employees and $3.9 billion annual sales. Oversaw production of MD-80 and MD-90 twin jets and MD-11 trijet plus multi-billion-dollar orders for 100-seat-class MD-95.
- Vice President and General Manager, F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter program. Responsible for F/A-18 A/B/C/D production and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet development.
- Vice President and General Manager, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet project. Responsible for McDonnell Douglas's largest tactical aircraft program. Focused on innovation and partnerships and developed a model procurement program.
- Vice President and General Manager, New Aircraft Products Division.
- Program Manager, F/A-18 New Business Development.
- Chief Program Engineer, Advanced F/A-18 Studies.
- Carried out engineering assignments in avionics technology and on F-15 Eagle and Advanced Tactical Fighter programs.
BSEE '69, MSEE '69, Purdue.