Chapter 01: Always a Builder

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Chapter 01: Always a Builder

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Mr. Daigneau begins this segment with a brief view of his family experience growing up in Cleveland. He explains his interest early in life in the sciences and engineering. He notes his fascination with "how things went together: he built a layout of trains in the basement and worked with old gas model airplanes. He notes that we has a Boy Scout and received an Eagle Scout award. Next Mr. Daigneau talks about his experience in college at the Case Institute of Technology which would later become Case Western Reserve. He was shocked to discover how hard he had to work to maintain good grades in college, and struggled in his freshman year. However "failure was not an option," and he learned how important it was to be patient, to apply himself, and to recognize the difference between knowledge and memorization. He received his BS in 1968. Mr. Daigneau next talks about his decision to study for an MBA. He explains that his degree from Case Institute was very theoretical, a combination of structural and mechanical engineering to prepare people for the aerospace industry. He in fact believed he would work for Boeing (and was interviewed) but he didn't see himself working happily in that setting.

Identifier

DaigneauW_01_20131003_C02

Publication Date

10-3-2013

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Personal Background; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Professional Path; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Evolution of Career

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So I just wanted to start with some general background. If you could please tell me where you were born and when.

William Daigneau, MBA:

I was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1946.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

And your birth date?

William Daigneau, MBA:

It is June 1, 1946.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

In 1946. Did you grow up there as well?

William Daigneau, MBA:

No, my father worked for a large bearing distributer, and part of his job was to open new stores, primarily throughout Ohio. So for example, my middle sister was born in Dayton, Ohio, because he was opening a store there. He was in Mansfield when I was born. And then when I was about two years old, we moved to Cleveland. He stayed in Cleveland, so I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Okay. And did your mother work?

William Daigneau, MBA:

No, she worked at home and basically took care and raised us kids.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

How big is your family?

William Daigneau, MBA:

I have two sisters. One's basically twelve years older than I am, and my middle sister or the middle child of our family" she's four years older than I am, so I was the baby.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

The baby of the family, right. Tell me, did your interest in the sciences and engineering begin real early? How did that happen?

William Daigneau, MBA:

Well, it's interesting. When you do aptitude tests, I always scored high in mechanical skills. So my interests were always how things went together. Throughout school I did very well in math and all the sciences and struggled with English. I was always fascinated by history. So just as I grew up and evolved, as I got to the point where you're starting to have to decide, well, where are you going to go to college and what are you going to major in, I gravitated toward engineering because it was how things basically went together, which kind of fueled my mechanical interests.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Did you have hobbies when you were younger that sort of enhanced those skills?

William Daigneau, MBA:

Toy trains" basically, in the basement I'd build a train layout. I was always interested in that. I had an airplane" the old gas models where you had to spin the prop to get it started, and then you could fly the airplane. So I always had those kinds of toys" blocks, erector sets, all the toys that interested me in, as I said, how things worked and all that, so yeah, all those hobbies. I was a boy scout. I got the Eagle Award. That basically fueled my interest in the outdoors. I'm very comfortable outdoors.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

I should say that this home is actually your ski home.

William Daigneau, MBA:

Yes, it is. It was bought primarily because it sits equidistance from four major ski resorts.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So tell me how you chose your college. You went to Case Western Reserve for your Bachelor of Science.

William Daigneau, MBA:

Yeah" I mean" I was a very good student in high school, so I was primarily looking for places that" because we were firmly middleclass growing up" I mean" comfortable, a modest home, but it wasn't like I could just go wherever I wanted to. So I was looking for colleges that based on my grades and my SAT scores would offer me a scholarship. I applied to Stevens Institute in New Jersey, for example. My fallback was Ohio State. At the time, they had Fenn College, which was a co-op. And then at the time, it was Case Institute of Technology. That was prior to the merger with Western Reserve. Even though Western Reserve" if you know anything about that is"

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

I don't.

William Daigneau, MBA:

It's in University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio, and at the time, Case Institute of Technology sat exactly right next to Western Reserve University. So eventually the two merged. They actually merged in the year I graduated. I was the last class who had a choice between a degree from Case Institute of Technology or the new university called Case Western Reserve. Since I'd spent three years at Case Institute, I got the Case Institute degree. I was the last class to get that degree.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

How did you" ? As you look back, how do you evaluate your education at that phase?

William Daigneau, MBA:

My problem was things came so easy for me in high school, so I never really had to worry about homework. I mean, I'd buzz through my homework assignments, always tested well. Then I got to Case Institute of Technology" this is like playing college ball and then going to the NFL. All of a sudden you realize everybody sitting in the same room with you is smart or smarter than you are, and they're all doing homework. And I didn't really have that honed skill because I'd never had to do it. So my freshman year, I struggled a lot at Case Institute. I had to learn how to study because the coursework was much more elevated than high school. So I struggled in my freshman year. The closest I came" the first time in my life" to failure," and in my family" my father did not have a college degree. He wanted all his children to graduate from college. And failure was not an option. My father had passed away by then, but it's deeply ingrained in your psyche by then that there are no C grades. You don't bring home a report card with a C on it. That's average. You're not average. So that had been built into me by the time I got to Case Institute of Technology. So here, for the first time in my life, I could fail. So I had to double my efforts. I had to basically learn how to study because I didn't know how to do it.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

It sounds like that was a lasting lesson for you. What shape did that take? What did that teach you in the long run?

William Daigneau, MBA:

Well, it teaches you" I mean" you can succeed. You can overcome. Other than those random events in life that will befall people that you can't do anything about, like getting struck by lightning, somebody hitting you, being at the wrong place at the wrong time" I mean" you can't really prepare for that stuff. But anything else, anything else you can overcome. It requires patience and application, et cetera, but you can learn anything, and you can do anything. That's a wonderful thing about the human race. That's why we've survived as long as we have. We figured out how to deal with the mountain lion. (laughs) So that kind of" if I could apply myself, I could learn this. I'd have to learn new things. As I said, how to study, because just reading it once" sometimes you'd have to go back and reread things over again until you really understood what they were talking about. It also taught me there was a difference about knowledge and memorization. To understand something is much different than just to know the facts of it. So anyway, my grade point average, I'm proud to say, dramatically improved, though my freshman year was a drag on it. (laughs) But I kept on so that by the time I graduated I was back to my father's A's and B's.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What year did you graduate?

William Daigneau, MBA:

I graduated in '68. High school was 1964. College was 1968. I will say, back in those days, there was no five years going to school.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Yeah, a different scene.

William Daigneau, MBA:

It was you finished in four years. So you had to take credit hours" seventeen, eighteen credit hours every semester.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Yeah, I remember that, too.

William Daigneau, MBA:

The good ol'days.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

The good ol' days. Now, I did notice that you also have an MBA. Did that come later, or did you work first? How did that fit into the scheme?

William Daigneau, MBA:

Well, at the time I went to Case Institute, they were quite open that the degree from Case Institute qualified you for one of two things, because it was basically a highly theoretical degree. So it either prepared you for graduate school, or it prepared you to go work for somebody who would invest a lot of time in training you for the practical realities of, in my case, engineering. So as I say, I basically" after four years at Case, I was done, finished. I needed a break. So going to graduate school, I had no interest in that at all. So I went to" I originally thought I'd go into" my degree was basically a combination of structural and mechanical engineering. It had been created basically to support people going into the aerospace industry. For example, air planes; there is a relationship between the size of the engine that creates the thrust, and the weight of the airplane. So the heavier the airplane gets, the larger engine you need. Well, when you go to a larger engine, what does that do? That increases the weight of the airplane. So now you have" there is a real relationship between" so you try to get, obviously, in order to keep these engine sizes down, as light of an aircraft as you can possibly make. Well, when you go to make a lighter aircraft, then things like vibration and fatigue" metal fatigue" become major issues. So my degree basically helped" supposedly prepared me to help design aircraft that were structurally sound but didn't weigh much and could withstand the vibration of takeoff and landing and all of that stuff. So I interviewed for" I thought I was going to work for Boeing. As a matter of fact, my senior year they sent me the Seattle newspaper to my dorm room because they were sure I was going to go to work for Boeing. So the interesting story about that is that I'm looking at a brochure that they sent me about join Boeing." It was a promotion for young engineers to come and join their team. I looked at this picture, and it looked like an aircraft hangar. And that aircraft hangar was full of drafting boards, and at each drafting board was someone sitting there working. So I looked at this huge thing, and all of a sudden I saw myself as one of those people, sitting in this room the size of a hangar, and I thought, I don't want to do that. I'll get lost in that."

Chapter 01: Always a Builder

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