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Alumnus Story: Henry (Hank) Weiss, MSIE and MBA ’87

Current City:      Silver Spring, MD

Major/Class:      MS Industrial Engineering and MBA ’87

What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?
I worked with the Program for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH) to complete a project we started at the U, and then at a position in environment, health and safety (EHS) in a public utility.

What do you do for a living now? What does a typical work week look like for you?
I serve as a foreign service officer at the Department of State. I worked for many years overseas and now support our U.S. missions and posts in Africa. I cover 10 countries and back up for another 10 posts in Africa. I’ve done operations, facilities and construction management, safety, environmental work, export and promotion of U.S. products and services, budgeting and contracting.

What got you interested in a career in engineering?
My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. at 18 and started a small fruit farm in the Midwest. My family [members] were practical people with a solid work ethic who valued understanding how things work. My folks told me the world is getting smaller every day; you need to know languages and how things work.

Describe your most memorable moment as a student at the College of Engineering (CoE).
I met an outstanding professor, advisor and lifelong friend there: Dr. David J. Sumanth (now retired). He taught us how to apply the projects we did in the CoE program to real-world productivity and engineering improvements. One of our projects was awarded a federal research grant. Dr. Sumanth and I got to share our results with a cabinet-level department in the federal government. This guided me to a practical, in-demand skill set to contribute productivity improvements by applying the engineering and business tools we learned. I have been using many of the skills I learned in the CoE program and from Dr. Sumanth throughout my career.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
Learn languages and seek out good mentors, colleagues and professors with high ethical and moral standards who are servant leaders and understand how the technical and the organizational (including the political) things work at the local, national and international levels.

In what ways did your CoE experience have an impact on your career and who you are today?
Making our communities, our country and our world a better place requires skilled engineers and managers who are team players and servant leaders. The CoE equipped me with a deep understanding of how to improve productivity and contribute to sustainability with local, regional and global impact. I learned from working as part of a team of engineers with a great professor in a practical, well-designed and executed program how to contribute, first in Florida and then in over 30 countries in Africa and Latin America.

Engineering has seeped into my personal life as well. My wife, Bea, is an industrial and systems engineer with a bachelor’s and MBA from Tecnológico de Monterrey and master’s degree from University of Missouri-Columbia. Son Henry has his M.S. from the McCormick School of Engineering from Northwestern University and works at the Illinois Science and Technology Center. My other son, Frank, is a civil engineer and construction manager working on the construction of a 70-story building in front of Navy Pier in Chicago.

How would you describe the College of Engineering in seven words or less?
As great as you can make it!