ASME President’s Night – 2008
By Gerard Hillenbrand, P.E.
ASME’s annual President’s Night was held this year on Thursday evening, March 20, 2008 at Con Edison Headquarters at Irvington place and 14th street in Manhattan. Approximately 40 ,guests attended this traditional metropolitan section meeting including a sizeable delegation of mechanical engineering students from city university’s city college. Also among the guests were distinguished members who were recognized for celebrating 25, 35, 40, 50 years and lifetime membership in our society. Each of those recognized guests received a special plaque commemorating the even and had their substantial mechanical engineering resumes read to the assemblage – A very impressive summary of professional achievement.
This year’s President’s Night Meeting lived up to the high standards set by our previous annual traditions. They keynote speaker was Dr. Harry Armen, P.E., ASME’s 2004-2005 president and ASME fellow, who retired in 2007 after a distinguished 42 year Engineering career specializing in national defense issues in general and avionics in particular. Prior to his presidential term, he served as ASME’s Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs, participated in the congressional fellows program, and served many years on ASME’s board of governors, as well as many year’s service in ASME’s Long Island section. Dr. Armen is a graduate of the Cooper Union School of Engineering and after attending several graduate programs received his engineering doctorate degree from New York University. During his term as ASME’s president he was unable to address the met section because he was traveling in Asia on ASME business and our section very much appreciates his belated, but commendable, visit to us where he presented an excellent and thought-provoking talk “on change”.
Dr. Armen’s personal life is traditionally stable. He and wife Mary have been married 45 years and for 41 years have lived in the same house which had to be expanded several times to accommodate their children. However, his professional life has been characterized by change. Upon graduating from engineering school, he worked for the Grumman aircraft organization, which beginning in 1929, developed an enviable reputation fro the production of high quality airplanes primarily for the U.S. Navy. Over the years, he worked in research and development , rising to corporate chief technologist where he earned two U.S. patents and developed widely recognized advances in quality control engineering and system integration. The aircraft business expanded into the aerospace industry where Grumman received world-wide accolades for designing and building the moon-landing space=craft mission successfully completed in 1969. The abrupt ending of the cold war in the early 1990’s dramatically altered the defense industry and in 1994 the Grumman Corporation was merged into the Northrup-Grumman organization. Continuing contraction of the defense industry resulted in Northrup-Grumman acquiring Westinghouse Defense Electronics in 1997, the Logicon Corporation in 1998, Teledyne in 1999, Litton Industries in 2001, as well as the Newport News Ship Building Group, and TRW, Inc. in 2002. How’s that for corporate change.
But change is not restricted to industrial organizations, it is inevitable in the lives of industries, businesses, and nations. As Charles Darwin predicted, the most common response to natural change is the urge to survive in a highly competitive world. Change affects our private lives; the electronics revolution has resulted in one out of eight married couples met on line. By age 55, 50% of American families have moved to new residences and 25% of families have changed their religion. By age 38 newly graduated engineers have held from 10 to 14 different jobs. 25% of all workers have worked in the same job less than one year; 50% of all employees have worked in the same job less than five years. The majority of new jobs did not exist three years ago. Future jobs will be based on technology that has yet to be invented. Technical change is becoming exponential. For example, Google receives 2.7 billion search requests per month. The English language has 540,000 words, five times the number existing in Shakespeare’s time. Human knowledge doubles every two years. It is estimated that there will be 1.5 x 1018 items of new information available this year. All over the world 3000 new books are published daily.
The inevitability of change results initially in confusion and, sometimes, even chaos. Progress may be defined as bringing order into change. The availability of adequate response time for suitable planning is essential for achieving progress. The first response to change is always fear. But intelligent analysis and planning produces hope and then confidence that change can be controlled and productivity actually improved. Adaptability is necessary in today’s changing world. The key to the future is the ability to correctly anticipate the inevitable changes that will occur. The internationalization of technology and information flow has resulted in a world without borders, the integration of peoples, corporations and nations. This “globalization” has been facilitated by the best engineering innovation contributing to world-wide trade via containerization and off-shore procurement and manufacturing.
However, in this new global world, the united states is facing many dangers. For example, China and India graduate 25% and 28%, respectively, of all students in engineering disciplines and these totals surpass all the engineering graduates in North America. China has become the largest English-speaking nation in the world. In 1900 the most advanced, prosperous nation in the world was Great Britain. The effects of two wars has reduced, in less than 100 years, this nation to an average European Entity while the Soviet Union and the United States rose to prominence after World War II. Inability to accommodate union and the United States rose to prominent after world war II. Inability to accommodate change resulted in dissolution of the Soviet Union and threatens to compromise the position of our own county in the world, while Japan, China, India, Latin America, and Arab nations continue to advance at an aggressive rate. Rapid change causes fear, anger, denial an resistance in the third world resulting in civil war, insurgency, and terrorism which threaten future progress and peace throughout the world.
The answer to these problems due to change is to correctly identify the problems, formulate international solutions and implement them in a wise national solutions and implement them in a wise and fair manner. It is necessary to create a sense of urgency among policy makers, construct and empower a team with an action program, visions of the future and universal communication skills, and then consolidate the progress achieved in the long term. Response to change is the key to survival, growth and prosperity throughout the world.
Dr. Armen’s excellent presentation was followed by the usual question and answer session. One attendee brought up the fact that the recent organizational changes in ASME were not organizational changes in ASME were not universally popular and diminished participation in local activities. Dr. Armen assured the audience that these changes were absolutely essential in the globalized world. ASME’s expansion into an international engineering organization has dramatically increases world-wide participation and put ASME’s finances on a much more stable footing. Once again, change is unsettling, but response to change is essential in the modern world. Change in mechanical engineering education is ALS. Required. For examples, there must be more course work ,on electronics, computers, and the biological sciences in American Engineering Schools as we prepare ,our students for the changes of the 21st century.
Great President’s Night!