Carmine J. Spinelli

C Spin, Incorporated
BSMetE '58

For his exemplary service to the United States for engineering solutions that lowered costs of numerous military systems while increasing safety and manufacturability

Carmine Spinelli grew up in Raritan, New Jersey, a blue-collar town best known as the home of John Basilone, a machine-gun hero who won World War II's first Congressional Medal of Honor. Encouraged to pursue engineering as a profession by his father, an Italian immigrant factory worker with a fifth grade education, the young Spinelli looked west. He landed in West Lafayette, farther from home than he had ever ventured.

Today Spinelli jokes that his tuition for Purdue in the mid-1950s was twice as much as that of his in-state classmates. "I was paying $120 a semester," he says. "In-state students paid $60 a semester."

Even on unfamiliar turf, Spinelli made friends fast. Accompanying one roommate to Lebanon, Indiana, he tended cows and pitched in on farm chores in exchange for a Thanksgiving dinner. "You couldn't find nicer people," he says. "That was my general impression of campus. Everyone was so open and honest. It was a pleasant eye-opener for me."

During his senior year, he spotted a campus job posting for an entry-level position at Picatinny Arsenal, just a half hour from his hometown. In the four decades that would follow, Spinelli never left; he stayed and was promoted up the line — from intern to journeyman to technical director in charge of thousands.

That combination of Purdue kindness and a core understanding of metallurgical engineering served him well. "I tried to be tolerant and open-minded," Spinelli says of his leadership style. "There's more than one way to solve a problem. You surround yourself with good people, let them take the lead, and you just advise them."

Surrounded by engineers in research and development, Spinelli worked on teams responsible for all ranges of weaponry, from small bullets shot from pistols and rifles to tank ammunition and artillery systems. An early advocate of extensive modeling, simulation, and prototyping, he helped usher in an era of "smart ammunitions" that now save lives through pinpoint accuracy.

In a career distinguished by technical and leadership awards, Spinelli has gone above and beyond his role in civil service. He initiated a program to reduce battlefield lethality by developing "self-destructing" munitions. He also helped secure a collaboration between the United States, England, Germany, Italy, and France to standardize and develop a 52-caliber cannon.

Beyond bombs or bullets, however, Spinelli is proudest of hiring and developing talented engineers. "In our business, you hire someone with the basic engineering skills and train them to be an armament engineer," he says. "It takes at least four or five years to help grow someone from a journeyman engineer to a design engineer."

Now in the consulting business, Spinelli works with a number of military systems manufacturers around New Jersey. He also serves on state and national advisory boards, sharing his expertise on manufacturing readiness for military applications.

Before today, he revisited Purdue only twice. The first time, shortly after graduation, with his future wife (and his mother as chaperone), was for a Boilermaker football game.

A few years ago, while attending a 50-year reunion to rub shoulders with a few of his 21 classmates, he rediscovered some of his old haunts, a few of which had not changed much. Entering Harry's Chocolate Shop, he was greeted by a doorman who joked that he looked old enough to get served. Spinelli confessed, "Fifty years ago, I got kicked out of this place because I was underage."

Career Highlights

1999-present President, C SPIN, Inc.
1995-1998 Technical Director, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
1990-1995 Deputy Director, U.S. Army Fire Support Armaments Center
1985-1990 Division Chief, U.S. Army Fire Support Armaments Center
1958-1985 Various mechanical and metallurgical engineering positions, Feltman Research and Engineering Laboratory at Picatinny Arsenal
1958 BSMetE, Purdue University