Alumni gather for breakfast - and news about ORIE
More than 30 ORIE alumni, guests, and faculty came to the Weiss Lounge in Rhodes Hall during Reunion Weekend for breakfast, a chance to get reacquainted, and to learn about developments in the School. Attendees represent a cross section of the careers and their evolution that ORIE alumni have pursued over the years.
Professor Adrian Lewis told the group that “after three years, this is my swan song as Director.” At the breakfast, he turned with a grin to recently named Laibe/Acheson Professor of Business Management and Leadership Studies David Shmoys and asked “David – do we know yet who the new Director is?”
Lewis noted that ORIE is ”building on our longstanding traditional stable strengths: great undergraduate and graduate programs, and a wonderful faculty” while “we are passing through a compressed window of dramatic change, with many faculty coming and going, and the advent of the new NYC Tech campus.”
The stable strengths include: an undergraduate program that remains one of the most popular in the College “despite being typically unknown to freshmen;” an M.Eng. program for which Director Kathryn Caggiano “hand-picks a class of 90-odd from 900 applicants;” and a doctoral program which "remains our pride.”
On the other hand, “mostly due to demographics” ORIE saw a turnover of faculty several times the expected one or two during his three years as Director, with five new faculty recruited and on board as part of a university-wide renewal process. At the same time, ORIE has been “in the thick of” Cornell NY Tech, Cornell’s new campus to be built on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Like faculty renewal, NY Tech is “a once-in-a-generation project for Cornell.”
Lewis presented Acheson/Laibe Professor of Business Management and Leadership Studies Emeritus Jack Muckstadt with a commemorative album of photos of his career and retirement events.
Several alumni at the breakfast have been witness to a previous once-in-a-generation project, the transition of ORIE to a preeminent operations research institution five decades ago.
Meyer Gross ’58 said that when he was a Cornell student ORIE was called Industrial and Engineering Administration. “We worked with cut out templates and positioned them in a building plan to lay out factories,” he recalled. In his first four Cornell years, Gross completed most of the requirements for what was then a five-year degree, and so was able to do his senior project and complete a year of law school in the fifth year. He transferred to Columbia to complete his law degree, and is now retired from a career as an intellectual property lawyer.
“I took the third course given in computer programming given by Richard Conway,” Gross recalled, noting that it was a highlight of his Cornell education. “It is impossible for me to recognize ORIE [compared] with what we had 60 years ago,” said Gross, who added that “we older alumni wondered if we could even qualify for a CU education as it is today.”
In addition to Gross, two other early ORIE alums attended the breakfast, both celebrating their 50th reunion: Warren Walker and David Woehr. Walker was also celebrating the 45th anniversary of his Ph.D.
Walker ’63 (at left, with Muckstadt) went on from his Cornell BA in mathematics to become a graduate student in ORIE, earning his Ph.D. in 1968. He recently retired as Professor of Policy Analysis at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands but continues to teach there.
Walker spent his career working on real-world public policy applications of operations research, mainly with the RAND Corporation in New York City, Santa Monica CA and the Netherlands. His work has dealt with such diverse areas as fire department and other emergency services, water management, criminal justice systems, transportation systems, financial systems, and military personnel. At Delft, he is "now teaching younger persons how to do this," he said.
"My Ph.D. in OR was the best preparation I could have received for my eventual career as a policy analyst," Walker said. "I have continually used the concepts, tools, and methods that I learned at Cornell."
Walker’s classmate David Woehr (seen here with Andrew S. Schultz Jr. Emeritus Professor William Maxwell, who taught him simulation) graduated with a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis on information processing, and received a M.Eng. in ORIE. Woehr had a career at Kodak, which he joined in 1965 after serving in the U.S. Army. He "spent most of his career doing development work in operations research, including mathematical optimization and simulation studies, but changing career paths after a few years to financial management," he said. "But I continued to find invaluable the analytical and problem solving skills acquired at Cornell in ORIE. They were a great foundation for a business career."
Rashid Khan ’73 traveled to his 40th reunion from Islamabad, Pakistan, where he had a 24-year career in international banking (“I couldn’t get a job in engineering when I graduated – even U.S. citizens were having difficulty at that time of recession,” he said.) He describes himself now as a “reasonably successful telecommunications entrepreneur in Pakistan.” In addition to his ORIE B.S. degree, Khan holds an M.B.A. from Cornell.
Khan (at left, with classmate Vincent Variano on the left) mentioned speaking recently with a few current international Cornell students. “They feel totally taken care of both by the community and the teachers – a feeling I had when I joined in 1969 from 7000 miles away,” he said. Khan is impressed with both the breadth and excellence of Cornell and the “incredible commitment of its alumni,” but feels that Cornell is not heard of as much in the media as its peer Ivy schools. However “the Roosevelt Island campus will be a game changer going forward,” he said.
Other class of 1973 alums attending the breakfast included Robert Amsler '73 M. Eng. ’74 and Vincent Variano '73. Amsler remembers that “my simulation program for the M.Eng. thesis was a very full, very long tray of punched cards that was fed to Cornell’s IBM 360 computer.”
When Amsler (at right, with Adrian Lewis) joined Westinghouse Electric, his organization there was transmitting control systems data to the corporate mainframe computer via punched cards. He soon discovered the virtues of computer terminals and an IBM package called MAPICS, for Manufacturing, Accounting, and Production Information Control System, which many ORIE alums have encountered over the years. Amsler was instrumental in getting Westinghouse to use it. “I basically supported, defended, altered, interfaced and exploited MAPICS for most of my career, right up to the conversion to Oracle and my subsequent retirement” in 2011 from his division of Westinghouse, which by then had been sold to Emerson Electric.
Variano said he pursued a career in traditional industrial engineering, “initially in health systems, then in electronics and consumer packaged good manufacturing and distribution,” he said. “”Today I continue to use my Cornell analytical tools to optimize Staples’ worldwide supply chain.” He observed that ORIE has made “quantum leaps” since his days on the hill when “we used a slide rule, pencil and paper for all computations during exams and homework.”
Several alums are becoming regulars at ORIE alumni events: Saul Fishman ‘78, Charles Tall '78, Harry Rudolph ‘78 (all seen at right), Steve Follett ‘78, Robert Mitchell ’77, M.Eng. ’83, MBA ’83, Jordan Lambert ’79 M.Eng. ‘80, Eric Laub ’81 M.Eng. ’83 (left) and Todd Rethemeier '93 M.Eng. '04 MBA '95 have attended breakfast and/or other events, such as Jack Muckstadt’s retirement celebration, in recent years. Mitchell is with telecommunications company Avaya. Fishman has been a principal member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories since receiving his MS in operations research from Stanford.
Follett (at right with Maxwell) is the third-generation CEO of Follett Ice, manufacturer of ice-related products. Follett’s parents Don ’52 and Mibs ’51 have made a $500,000 faculty renewal pledge resulting in ORIE Assistant Professor Andreea Minca’s designation as Andrew S. Schultz, Jr. ’35 Ph.D. ’41 Sesquicentennial Fellow. Steve Follett has been a speaker at Cornell’s Engineering Enterprise Colloquium and hosts frequent annual visits to the company’s plant in Easton PA by ORIE students.
Rudolph came to the reunion from Seoul, Korea, where he went in January 1995 “for a three year assignment and then had fifteen one-year extensions.” There, he works for major global automotive component supplier Delphi. In addition to his work in Korea Rudolph is “also setting up some joint venture companies in Russia and India.”
Tall is the founder and CEO of Archelon, a Frankfort, Germany, based firm that “optimizes returns with the most advanced trading methods and communication technologies.” Lambert is principal consultant at Linium LLC in Albany NY, which designs and implements technology solutions for commercial, healthcare and government clients. In 1989 Laub founded Pragmatic Inc, a simulation and optimization management consulting company in Belmont MA, following stints at Procter and Gamble and simulation company Istel, which became part of AT&T. Rethemeier is Managing Director at Hudson Square Research.
In addition to Laub, the 1980’s were represented at the breakfast by Richard Hirschland ‘83, Kumaravelan Thillairajah '83 (both at right), Michael Zonnevylle ‘83, Jorge Daniels ‘88, Lori May '88, Anne Shelton ’88, Gregory Wolfe ‘88, and Andy Berquist, M. Eng. ’83.
Daniels came to the reunion from Barcelona, Spain, where he has headed construction company Alttus Group there since completing his MS in management at MIT. May is an independent software professional. Shelton is a senior investment officer for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. Wolf recently joined the University of Massachusetts Medical School as Chief Information Officer, having previously worked for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and Athena Health.
Hirschland is a Division President at Carestream Health. Zonnevylle (left) heads Zedtech, a company that "provides manufacturing and consumer businesses with operations and industrial engineering support.” Thillairajah is Founder and CEO of web applications firm EAI Technologies.
Berquist has “been using OR throughout my career in Telecoms through consulting and capacity planning roles.” He is currently working in capacity planning for iBasis, an international telecommunications company. He has been the client for two ORIE M.Eng. projects, including one for Global Capacity that won the top prize in ORIE’s annual Silent Crane and Hoist competition.
“The recent changes in ORIE to focus on ‘information’ engineering are very appropriate,” he said. “Most of my day-to-day work that’s not management relates to managing information. It would have been a big help to get some introduction to information engineering in school.” Berquist is enthusiastic about “the New York campus with closer ties to real commercial ventures. There’s a much better chance to work with ORIE in this form, from a commercial perspective,” he noted.
Rajiv Patel ’93 (right) and Jeffrey Luszcz ’94 both came to the reunion from San Francisco. Patel is a managing member of Farallon Capital. He was a Merrill Presidential Scholar at Cornell, and went on to get an MBA from Stanford. After working at NASA Ames Research Center and Cacheon, Luszcz founded Palamida, which provides software and services that automate the detection and management of software components and their licenses to lower the risk of using unauthorized third-party software inside customer applications.
21st century alums
Among the most recent alums at the breakfast were Samantha Owades ’08, Christina Prevalsky ’08, Julie Katz ’08, and Kia Hope Jeter ’08. Jeter completed her M.Eng. in ‘08, as did Tudor Mustata ’07. Since graduating, Owades (right) has held a variety of positions at JP Morgan. Prevalsky is a senior analyst at FI Consulting, "a management consulting firm specializing in custom analytics, model advisory and support, and custom application development." Katz is vice president for ecommerce product development and launch at Bank of America. Mustata is an equity research analyst at Nomura, having previously worked for Bank of America.
The tenth reunion class of ’03 was represented by Vivian Lubrano '03(at left), and Susan Engleson '03, Jason Li '03 (ORIE and CS), M.Eng. '04 (CS) and Alejandro Paredes Garza '03 (all seen below). Paredes Garza works for building materials company Cemex in Houston, Lubrano is a research associate at Alliance Bernstein, and Engleson works for comScore (“Analytics for a Digital World”) in Washington, DC.
Li was a double major in computer science and ORIE as an undergraduate, and completed an M.Eng. in computer science. “It has surprised and fascinated me at how much of a serendipitous convergence there seems to be between computer science and operations research,” he observed. “The advent of ‘big data’ and the troves of information that are available nowadays in such a readily consumable/analyzable form is staggering.”
Li went on for further graduate work at Johns Hopkins University and now works at Aspect Security, a Columbia MD consulting firm focusing on the security of web and mobile applications.