When I was in the 9th grade, my friends and I would go to a park in Staten Island to shoot off model rockets. I always knew I wanted to be a part of the space program.
So when it was time to start researching colleges, I went to the library and looked up technical majors that could help me achieve my goal of building real rockets—the ones that could reach the moon. I ended up picking FIT for its proximity to Cape Canaveral and started out my freshman year as a space technology major. I soon joined a fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, and from our fraternity house on the Indian River, you could see those very same rockets I wanted to build light up the night sky.
Unfortunately, the space program started a major downturn in the early 1970s with launches being canceled and the space shuttle program still years away. Space technology no longer seemed like a viable option for me, so I ended up changing my major to physics. I graduated on time, moved back to my hometown in New Jersey and took a job in an unrelated field—medical sales. I did not enjoy being a salesman, but there was one man I worked with who could sell anything to anyone. I asked him how he did it and he simply said, “Everybody is a salesman; you just haven’t found your product yet.”
I eventually started looking for a new field where I could apply the skills I learned from my degree at FIT. Nuclear power was a new and exciting field and it was being called the “fuel of the future.” I knew I wanted to get involved and applied to 54 different utilities. I remembered a Pi Kappa Alpha brother of mine, ROGER RYALL ’72, was working at a nuclear plant south of Miami and I reached out to him for advice. He told me it was a rewarding career and a great place to work. Four months later, I started working at Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in the Reactor Engineering Department as an engineer trainee.
On my first day of work, I was shown the control room and was immediately impressed by it. It was like being on the bridge in the Star Ship Enterprise. The first job I had to complete was to calculate the reactor power and calibrate the nuclear instruments that the operators use to control power in the plant. I used what I learned in thermodynamics classes to complete these tasks. My FIT education was brought to life.
I moved into management after roughly 10 years in engineering. Using the experiences and skills I learned at FIT, I was able to advance to the highest levels of management. In my 40-plus years in nuclear power, I have held almost every management position in the plant, including engineering director, plant manager and vice president. During my career, I worked at five different utilities and six nuclear plants across the country.
One of the more interesting assignments I completed was to represent my plant and company at an international plant managers conference in Prague, Czech Republic. I had the opportunity to meet many plant managers from around the world and share ideas. Thinking back to my first post-graduation job in sales, nuclear power became my product and I could sell it to anyone. In 2013, I retired as the vice president of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant just east of Cleveland, Ohio. Nuclear power has been a very rewarding career that I would recommend to anyone.
FIT has been an integral part of my life since I set foot on campus in the fall of 1969. In 1976, I met my wife Lynn in Melbourne, and we were married two years later in the Botanical Garden at FIT. Together, we have three adult children who have been visiting Melbourne since they were born. My son, John, has followed in my footsteps and works as a supervisor in nuclear power in Pittsburgh. My daughter, Kristine, is a physician living and practicing in Philadelphia. My youngest daughter, Carol, is a personal trainer based in New York City. My wife, who I shared 39 beautiful years with, passed away from cancer earlier this year. We spent our winters on the beach in Indialantic and our summers in Ohio boating on Lake Erie. I remain active as an FIT alumnus throughout the year and have maintained lifelong friendships with my Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers.