Oral-History:Gus Gaynor

From ETHW

About Gus Gaynor[edit | edit source]

Gerard “Gus” Gaynor has been a long time IEEE member, actively involved with various IEEE committees and boards for over 75 years. Prior to retirement from corporate America, Gas was 3M’s Innovation Director who led major engineering product breakthroughs. Gus served as Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Engineer, President of the Engineering Management Society, and VP of Education, IEEE Technology and Engineering Management.

For further reading, see Events that Influenced my Career, a First-Hand History by Gaynor.

About the interview[edit | edit source]

GUS GAYNOR: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 16 May 2022

Interview #877 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement[edit | edit source]

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center, 445 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Gus Gaynor, an oral history conducted in 2022 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA.

Interview[edit | edit source]

INTERVIEWEE: Gerard “Gus” Gaynor

INTERVIEWER: Michael Geselowitz

DATE: 20 December 2021

PLACE: Virtual

Geselowitz:

This is Mike Geselowitz from the IEEE History Center, and I’m here on Zoom, not in person, with, Gerard “Gus” Gaynor, and we’re conducting an oral history for the IEEE Oral History Project. So, Gus, I’d just like you to start out with telling us a little bit about where, when you were born and your education, and how you got interested in technology and engineering.

Gaynor:

I came into this world on November 20, 1921, in Toledo, Ohio and about four months later my parents moved to Detroit, Michigan. So, my recollections of Ohio are from visits that I made as a young boy while visiting family relatives. My dad, was a professional tailor, made-to-measure tailor, and my mother, of course, took care of the family as most mothers did in the 1920’s. As children , my two brothers and I were the best dressed kids in school, tailor made clothes and hand-made shirts by my mother. We had a great life as a middle-class family. We shared with our parents a love for classical music and the arts, and the life they provided. But this ended quickly. The Great Depression of the 1930’s created serious financial problems in the Detroit and its environs. We moved to a farm, accepted a totally different lifestyle and the good life of a middle-class American family changed drastically. Life was pretty-tough for several years during the Depression because Detroit was hit hardest. But life improved as we marketed our home-grown vegetables and poultry and eggs.

With WW II became a reality I joined the Signal Corps Reserve for six-months of training in electronics and air and ground radar systems. After a short period of basic-training, I was assigned to the 9th Air Force in the European Theatre of Operations.

On return to the US, I matriculated to the University of Michigan to finish my education, received a bachelors-degree in electrical engineering, and after a very short interlude I joined a company that provided switching gear for the Bell’s central switching facilities joined Johnson Farebox Co. a subsidiary of Bowser Inc. and continued with its various subsidiaries for almost 10-years.

Bowser has an interesting history as Mr. Bowser, the originator of the company ,began by manufacturing, dust pans and varroas types of scrubbing boards and built a successful business. He then developed the first gravity gasoline pump that would be required for the auto industry and holds the basic patent. From those experiences, I often recommended young engineers to consider medium and smaller companies because they afforded many opportunities to use personal initiative and gain various types of experience. At Bowser, I worked in cross-disciplinary teams where I expanded my experiences in other disciplines because my Michigan education focused on a firm grounding in engineering fundamentals and not some specialty.

Returning to how I became involved in what is now known as technology. I knew what I was going to do during my lifetime when I was about, probably six or seven years of age. Just exactly what kind, I didn’t know. I played with broken alarm clocks, watched those speed regulators on victrolas, watched the tops of various types if and designs spin, and as I matured, preened to make my own designs from Tinker Toys.

Detroit was a great place to become involved in technology and engineering because the automobile companies, especially Ford, offered visits through their vertically integrated operations; glass making, engine-block casting, engine assembly, final assembly lines all connected with some kinds of electrical gadgetry; excuse the word gadgetry, control systems theory did not exist.

I remember the fascination to go for family walks and stop and watch the printing presses at the Detroit Free Press Plant print, cut, fold, newspapers; usually three issues per day and an occasional fourth issue for some major event.

Two of my cousins much older than I, one in Detroit and another in Pittsburg, created my interest in radio. They were basically ham radio guys, and as a young kid, I became fascinated with all he dials and their ability to communicate with just about the whole world. Also, by all the antennas in the backyards much to the chagrin of their mothers. One of them, especially, who lived in Detroit spent a lot of time with me and even helped me build my first crystal set.

Then, of course, it just continued from there. And, when I went back to the University of Michigan, I joined the IEEE’s predecessor organizations, Institute of Rdio Engineers (IRE) and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE). I joined the AIEE occasionally. At that time, AIEE was primarily interested in power, and I wasn’t interested in power at the time, so I spent more of my time with the IRE, and the Instrument Society of America, where I was the student editor of their publication. ISA managed to commandeer quite a few young students, interested in writing, to take long articles they received and strip them down to the essentials. I learned a great deal about what was going on in the fields of measurement and instrumentation practice. One of the most interesting articles reviewed and shortened was on the ENIAC computer. What an experience. As I reflect on the ISA opportunity, what an opportunity for an engineering student to gain insight to new technologies.

Geselowitz:

So, you went to Bowser, right out of school?

Gaynor:

No, I was working at the University of Michigan Research Lab the last two years of my college program, and I was offered a full-time job after graduation at the UM Research Lab, but two days before graduation, our Air Force contract was cancelled, and my plans for job hunting required immediate attention. The project was cancelled, and in those days, when the government shut down the contract, that’s when you laid down your tools because that’s when they stopped paying. It’s a little different story today. We were working on instrumentation for measuring atmospheric temperature and pressure, in the upper atmosphere and that experience laid down many principles I would follow throughout my life; one specifically, when you get into trouble, go back to fundamentals.

Geselowitz:

So that’s why, so you would have stayed at Michigan, but the government took away the contract, so that’s when you went into Bowser?

Gaynor:

Yes, I would have continued at the Michigan Research Labs and probably received my master’s and perhaps a PhD. No, I didn’t join Bowser after graduation. I received an immediate job offer at an organization that manufactured central office telephone switch gear for the Bell Systems. I wasn’t too concerned of what kind of a job I’d find, so I started in their 12 or 14-week training program. Quickly, I realized that I was repeating what I had learned when I worked at Michigan Bell Telephone Co. during my post-high school days, while in military service and prior to entering UM.

After a week of training, I asked the program manager if I could just take the test and move on. No, you must take the whole course. Well, I didn’t want to sit through the whole course, so that Sunday, I bought the Chicago Tribune, scanned the Want Ads and found what I considered might be a good opportunity. Monday evening, I had an interview, on Tuesday an offer and on Wednesday I resigned from the training program.

And that’s when I joined the Johnson Fare Box Co. (JFB), a subsidiary of Bowser Inc. and primary producer of different types of fare collection systems used on street cars and buses, and high-speed coin counting and packaging equipment. You’re probably familiar with the old bus and streetcar fare boxes? Johnson also produced various types of high-speed d coin counting and packaging equipotent.

JFB introduced the first pay systems that allowed drivers to pay their highway fees as they exited superhighways. I worked on the development of those systems. Those were all mechanical at the time. Eventually, they became a combination of mechanical and electronic. This may sound as a simple design problem but keep in mind the system must separate pennies, nickels, dimes, (sometimes the thickness two thin dimes equal one new dime and sometimes show signs of being used as a screwdriver), and quarters, count the denominations, validate the correct amount before the vehicle is cleared to pass. This was prior to digital computers.

After about one-year at JFB, I was asked to establish an electronics group with the primary program, development of an electromagnetic flowmeter which was expected to be at least a two-year program. When Bowser acquired National Scientific Laboratories (NSL) in Washington D.C. the JFB electronics group was consolidated with NSL. After a couple of years when we reached the testing stage of the flowmeter, the project and several of us NSL people moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana where flowmeter testing facilities were available.

After about 10 years with Bower Inc. I had a brief two-year period with Diversity Corporation, which produced many industrial cleaning products. I was asked to establish an electronics lab to develop a system for dispensing chemicals based on process needs. Diversey provided experiences from controlling soap in restaurant type dishwashers to chemicals used in treating various types of steel, to chromate content in railroad in diesel cooling systems. After a couple of years ‘I acquired the rights to my engineering effort with the agreement that I would provide Diversey with equipment for commercial type dishwashers, and formed my own consulting business, Electro-Mechanisms Corp. which continued for about three years, and then I joined 3M Co.

Geselowitz:

That was about 1962?

Gaynor:

1962.

Geselowitz:

Okay.

Gaynor:

I has what I considered a great career at 3M for 25 years. The opportunities were there waiting for somebody to take them. 3M had its 15 percent program which allowed engineers and scientist to take 15% of their time and work on whatever they chose. I began as a senior engineering specialist, and progressed supervisor instrumentation, manager of the instrument laboratory, Director of the contract research laboratory, manager instrumentation and control systems engineering, Chief engineer Italy, Director of Engineering 3M Europe, and retired as Director of Engineering for the World-wide Operations of the Graphic Technologies Sector.

Geselowitz:

And after your student days until your retirement, what was your involvement with IRE and then IEEE?

Gaynor:

Not much during my work-life. Not much because the jobs I had kept me busy more than full time. I really didn’t get involved with IEEE until about a year after I retired. Joel Snyder was in the Twin Cities at the time. He was head of IEEE USA, at the time, as I recall, and I got invited to this meeting, and after Joel competed his presentation, he asked for questions, and I asked, what’s, IEEE doing for me? Well, he went into the usual comments that we all do, conferences, publications, opportunity for this and opportunity for that, and I said yes what else? That interaction developed into a lifelong friendship, and then he decided that he wanted to put together a magazine for IEEE-USA. So, he introduced me Pender McCarter who headed IEEE-USA Communications.

Geselowitz:

Yeah, Pender McCarter.

Gaynor:

A staff person from IEEE-USA and we began the process for launching Today’s Engineer: I was the founding editor and the editor-in-chief for several years. I managed to raise some $25,000 from the IEEE Foundation and the IEEE Board gave me a rough time. Somebody asked me, what’s your ROI? And I thought to myself, this guy must have just received his MBA because you don’t have an ROI when you start something new. We were successful for a new pub because if I recall correctly, we managed to attract bout 5,000 subscribers but insufficient to be self-sustaining. Then, IEEE USA decided they weren’t going to sponsor it anymore. Today’s Engineer received many awards for IEEE USA. Georgia Stelluto who worked for Pender played a major role in the success of Todays Engineer. Do you know Georgia Stelluto?

Geselowitz:

Yes.

Gaynor:

Georgia worked with me and really was an excellent supporter, and a lot of the credit goes to her for making that magazine successful.

Geselowitz:

So, you’ll be happy to know that they changed the name a couple years ago to IEEE-USA Insight, but it’s still going on.

Gaynor:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Then they went all electronic, all on the web and actually, at the History Center, we do a history column for them every month. What you started is still going on.

Gaynor:

Yes, I still follow IEEE-USA because I’ve been trying to get our organizations involved with them because years ago when we were the Engineering Management Society (EMS), we joined their conferences and put on sessions related management. We had a good relationship, but the later transitions somehow weren’t interested.

Geselowitz:

So that’s how you got involved with IEEE-USA.

Gaynor:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

This is a good segue to ask how you got involved with the IEEE Engineering Management Society.

Gaynor:

I hired a consultant David Curtis while at 3M, who was very active in the Engineering Management Society, and convinced me to participate in an IEEE conference which alternated annually between Boston and New York; I attended some of those conferences with David and we developed a professional friendship. Then, he convinced me to join EMS, and before I even joined EMS formally, I was asked to develop a strategic plan for EMS. Many years later Irv Engelson showed me that strategic plan. I joined EMS and I had positions there as VP of Publications, Executive VP and then President of the organization, and we built that up to about 9,000 members, and then we started going down. Part of it, I think, was due to the introduction of IEEE Xplore because since a lot of people were receiving the publications through their companies from IEEE, I think some people felt that there really wasn’t a need to join a society. Now, I don’t know if that was true throughout IEEE or not, Michael. I don’t have the slightest idea.

Geselowitz:

So it was, Gus, it was an overall trend, but I wonder if, EMS might have attracted more proportionately industry people, and some of our societies are more academically oriented and if, and maybe that’s why they were impacted more. Just a thought.

Gaynor:

That could be. That could be. Then TAB decided that they wanted to consolidate the Professional Communications, EMS, Education, and the spin-off from Reliability Society, Product Safety.

Jane Cerone set up a two-day meeting in Piscataway, that after much discussion recommended that EMS should transition to a Council. The transition was approved in November 2007 for implementation in 2008. We ended up, as I recall, with 11 or 12 Societies as participants. However, we had an excellent AdCom, composed of well-qualified people but not workers, an excellent group of people. However, they were not workers. They were people who participated in our AdComs to come and make decisions but not take on projects. They were not on the AdCom to take on a specific responsibility for any projects, and we had a very difficult time convincing any of those Member Societies to promote the Technology Management Council (TMC) through their newsletters or at their conferences. Tuna Tarim, who was president of TMC at the time, made arrangement for me to give a couple of talks at her parent society’s annual conference and we couldn’t include the Council’s promo on their conference website. I don’t have to tell you what the results were. I recall I had about five people at each of my two sessions.

So, basically, that wasn’t going very well for eight years, and the TMC AdCom decided we’d transition back to a Society, which is the Technology and Engineering Management Society. And now we’re going through our growing pains. Keep in mind we began TEMS with zero members as Councils have member societies but no members. We increased international membership and while that’s good, we’ve lost a part of the US and Europe. I currently serve as VP of Publications.

Geselowitz:

So, you returned to your publication’s roots? You started with newsletters, and now you’re back.

Gaynor:

I’m back to pubs.

Geselowitz:

Back to pubs. Off the top of your head, what the membership is back up to compared to the old days?

Gaynor:

It has been around about 3,000 since we transitioned from a Council to TEMS. We really haven’t had a good membership program. Our membership drives were not well implemented.

Geselowitz:

Okay.

Gaynor:

I don’t think it’s right. It’s not supposed to be a gripe session.

Geselowitz:

All right, then what, so while you were with EMS and then there was EM Council, and then it was TEMS and you were doing a whole bunch of positions and a lot on the pub side, you also did a lot with Tab and Pubs in IEEE, right?

Gaynor:

Right, right started in IEEE on the Finance Committee, followed by two tams on the Society Review Committee, and then I spent another two terms on PSPB a as the only industry voice, I don’t recall how that happened. And then I was on the Product and Services committee for three years and the Chair of the Conference Publications Committee for two terms where we shortened the time to enter conference papers into Xplore. Had a good team of volunteers as well as excellent staff participation that worked for several years and made excellent progress.

Geselowitz:

Weren’t you also on the Teller’s Committee at one point?

Gaynor:

I was on the IEEE Teller’s Committee, oh, yeah, TAB and, oh, look, I could go through a whole list. I was even on the Disaster Relief Ad Hoc Committee. I was on the New Initiatives Committee as the PSPB representative, PSPB Strategic Planning and Management Committee, IEEE Career Services Committee Chair and PSPB Representative to the PSPB Product Services Committee for three years, Conference Publications for four years, Strategic New Products Committee. For IEEE-USA, I served on their communications Committee, E-Book Committee Chair, Pro-Def Con Chair on the Management Track, Business Development Committee Chair, and of course Founding Editor of Today’s Engineer. And I served on Educational Products Committee, I served on their Professional Development Committee and on their Lifelong Learning Committee. And I did a little bit on RAB, Joint Trans-National Committee that they had years ago. Seems so long ago as I look back. They don’t have those anymore and, wrote a white paper for the Trans-National Committee, at the time, 1996. My activities in the, in the Twin Cities Section have been somewhat limited because of all the other international activities I’ve had, but I’ve been invited to many of their programs to make a presentation on various topics.

Geselowitz:

Now, Gus, let me ask you. So, your first encounter with IEEE was Joe Snyder, the chair of United States Activities Board, and you told him, what are you doing for me?

Gaynor:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So now, whatever this is, I can’t do the math, 30 years later or whatever, why did you do, you’ve spent the rest of your life giving to IEEE, so, so why did you give to IEEE and what did you get out of it in return?

Gaynor:

Well, you build personal relationships, you meet colleagues, you learn about their problems and successes that extend your thinking or changing your thinking and hope you have some minor effect at least on others. Everyone did not experience the same working conditions that I did. As the chair of a session at the First International Conference on Engineering Management commented after an IBM gentleman and I presented our papers noted with words to this effect “now that you’ve heard from the boy scouts, you’ll see what goes on in the real world.”

These interactions with colleagues from the 50 US States and Countries Worldwide shape your own perspective about the world and the issues others are dealing with. It’s interesting to hear how your colleagues developed their careers and so on, and you see the problems that other people experienced along the way, I don’t know. I don’t want to say I mentored people, but I think we mentored each other jointly; they from giving me knowledge of how IEEE functions, which is not exactly easy to find out when you start and me, from my industry perspective. So, and then I was also on. At 3M I aways had one foot tin the academic community I was 3M’s representative to the University of Minnesota Engineering group involved in control systems and measuring coating thickness. For several years I sent one of their top professors to work with a group of engineers at the Ferrania, Italy operations for 4-5 weeks.


Geselowitz:

Gus, you mentioned a committee where you were the only industry representative.

Gaynor:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Has that been an ongoing issue for you at IEEE that many of the folks are academics and they don’t see the needs of the industry members?

Gaynor:

Academicians’ think differently than practitioners. Well, certainly on PSPB in the beginning because basically it’s all transactions and journals. Most of the hours are spent on transactions, letters and things like that, on the high, high-level stuff. I guess that’s why they kept me on the board there for another two years just as a guest because when we were fighting the situation in the early days on open access, although, these people were saying, well, the government can’t do that. They can’t do this. They can’t do that. They can’t do something else. They can’t do, well, look. That kind of commentary provides little room for action unless PSPB would stick-its-neck-out and take the lead in organizing many professional groups for support in the effort.

A similar situation occurred when IEEE have membership in Vietnam and certain other places?

Geselowitz:

And Iran, yes.

Gaynor:

And Iran and the State Department, they were saying, well, we’ll tell the State Department; no, you’re not going to tell the State Department no, that’s the real world. It’s going to take more than IEEE; it will require organizing the community of professional to engage the State Department with the proper competencies to pursue such an issue.

Geselowitz:

Interesting.

Gaynor:

I had a great time, and basically, you don’t build a career on your own. I didn’t build it on my own. Gosh, as I consider the people who influenced me in one way or another during my career including my parents and family, I wouldn’t have done it without them.

I don’t know if this is ego or not, but you kind of think you’ve got a little bit to give back to society about what you learned, not that all of it’s applicable to everybody, but you can share your experiences with people and perhaps they may receive some benefit.

Geselowitz:

All right. I think IEEE has certainly benefitted from, from your work over the years. I believe that’s clear. So, that’s a fascinating story. Is there anything else we didn’t cover that you’d like to add about particular people that you worked with? Again, for public attribution, of course, so you’re not going to tell all the stories. Anything you want to add?

Gaynor:

I really appreciated people like Joel Snyder, Merrill Buckley, Ray Findlay, Mike Adler, Art Winston, Chuck Alexander, Irv Engelson, Mary Ward Callan, many Staff people, and volunteers with whom I collaborated over these many years.

Back to Chuck Alexander for a moment, Chuck Alexander brought a little different perspective, and I maintained a relationship with him and followed up with him many years later because he started a program in which I was interested—teaching communications skills not as a course, but as part of their engineering curriculum. And I don’t recall his colleague’s last name, Bob XX, but they evidently were quite successful I think at St. Louis University.

Geselowitz:

Okay. Well, if there’s nothing else you wanted to add, that was really a fascinating hour or so of walk through your life of your IEEE career and your Technology and Engineering Management Society career, so I thank you very much, and I’m going to stop the recording.

Gaynor:

I’d like to add a couple of other things.

Geselowitz:

Oh, sure, that’d be great. I would love that.

Gaynor:

I’m an IEEE Life Fellow, and besides my IEEE activities, I served on the first Board of Directors of the Innovation and Management Division of the Academy of Management, and as I was active with them until about five years ago. I was on advisory boards of Michigan Technological University, Nebraska Center for Technology Management, and Editorial Boards of Elsevier’s Journal on Technology Management, Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, Managing Technology Today, and the Academy of Management Executive. And I was a Fulbright Scholar on two occasions, teaching entrepreneurship and management technology areas.

Geselowitz:

Wow.

Gaynor:

Then I taught at the University of Minnesota in their Management of Technology program for three years, and then as an adjunct at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul for another three years, and in the meantime, I published, six books on various management topics related to engineering and technology management, three by McGraw-Hill, one by Wiley IEEE, and two by the Management Association.

Geselowitz:

That’s really an impressive record. Since you had an involvement with Michigan Technical University, did you know Martha Sloan?

Gaynor:

Oh, yes.

Geselowitz:

Because you mentioned some of the other IEEE presidents. She was a president, she’s retired, emerita now, but she was on the faculty there.

Gaynor:

Right, right. I forgot Martha Sloan, yes. There was another IEEE woman after who went to Michigan State University as a professor. I don’t know if Martha Sloan recruited her. My mistake Michael.

Geselowitz:

Let me see, let me think. Leah Jamieson?

Gaynor:

Not Leah. I know Leah.

Geselowitz:

She is at Purdue.

Gaynor:

Purdue.

Geselowitz:

Right. Kathy Land, a more recent President, was military.

Gaynor:

I know Kathy, yes.

Geselowitz:

Hmmm, I’m trying to think. Karen Bartelson was the other woman, President. But anyway, so you know, you knew them all?

Gaynor:

I knew them all, yes.

Geselowitz:

Terrific. Anything else? Because that’s all very interesting.

Gaynor:

One last thought Michael about what IEEE offers. Become involved with your Society Chapter and meet your colleagues, for your Society participate in publications, conferences, membership, etc., eventually prepare for senior positions in your Society, and accept greater responsibilities. Explore all opportunities for engagement with your colleagues and try to develop a multidisciplinary approach to your engineering activities. our

Geselowitz:

Ok, good, just allow me to turn off the recording here.

Gaynor:

All right.

[END OF RECORDING]