Phi Kappa Psi – Iowa Beta: 46 Years Later

Welcome to my photoblog, please “Follow” along.  Today’s post is a bit off topic yet it’s an interesting piece of personal nostalgia from my university days.

Back in Apr’16, I had an offer to share my time since university with my fraternity brothers in the latest Jul’16 issue of “Cyclone”, a publication of Iowa Beta at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.  So I drafted my thoughts of times gone by with the final write-up seen below.  First, I thought I’d share some old time images.

Question to my Phi Psi Brothers: Is Mary Ellen Barnes still remembered?

Iowa Beta Chapter Photos 1971 – 1974

I had to look hard to find myself.  I’ve provided a Row / Column reference identifier.

R5 C13

R5 C13

R5 C1

R5 C1

R4 C1

R4 C1

R3 C6

R3 C6

Phi Kappa Psi – Iowa State University – Alumni Brothers

Iowa Beta Spotlight Article – July 2016

(Editor’s Note: We are spotlighting two brothers in this issue, whose careers have been quite different but whose love of photography provides a common thread between them. Be sure to check out their websites for some truly amazing photographs.)

Where to start? Do I go back to 1970 to revisit my freshman year, or do I begin today in 2016? I’ve flipped the coin so let’s go to the (almost) last chapter, first.

Today, I live and work in Chennai, India, often referred to as Old Madras. (I’ve always wondered if those old bleeding Madras shirts from the 1960s were made here.) I enjoy the people and character of India, which is ever-changing with surprises around every corner. However, like other expats here, we at times share a frustration of “what is vs. what it could be.”

During my two years in Chennai, I’ve re-discovered photography across the many different genres (i.e., street photography, infrared photography, portraits, macro photography, landscape) with twice-a-month Chennai Photowalks. I’ve found photography to provide the technical challenge while building my skills in achieving an artistic final image for my viewers. This newfound passion will play well with my travels around China and abroad.

I continue to plan my retirement beyond just the financial aspect with a focus on the “daily what-to-dos” to keep me physically active, ever-learning, and experiencing life. I’ll return to my home in Xi’an, China as my 41+-year career in Quality/OpEx eventually draws to a close. When I hang up my game jersey, it will be kept clean and pressed in case I’m called back to the “Show”. Since Xi’an is the home of the Terracotta Soldiers, I’m sure some of you may have future plans to visit. So, if you’re in the neighborhood, let me know.

On the family side, I have two sons (grown men now) in the Seattle area, with four grandsons and one granddaughter. I’m back in Seattle once a year to catch up, as all the e-mails, videos, and phone calls just don’t make the full connection like seeing people face to face. I’m married to a beautiful woman I can truly call my best friend from Xi’an, China.

I suppose I’m obliged now to provide some overview of my work life. After graduation from ISU in 1974 with my BS in Math and an Iowa Teaching Certificate (actually a punch card), I headed out for the great unknown. After student teaching in Marshalltown in fall 1973, I found my initial calling in the education of young minds.

In May 1974, the New South Wales (Australia) government was recruiting on campus, so I jumped at the chance to be a Maths Teacher in Australia, seeing it as another adventure. This was my first real job, paying $6,750 per year without taxation by either the U.S. or Australian governments. I had it made in the shade, so young in my life. In August 1970, I left for Sydney on an immigration visa (and could have stayed until this day) with another 150+ “imported teachers,” as NSW was experiencing a teacher shortage. I still recall being allowed to go up to the flight deck on the Qantas 747 airliner and talk to the Captain — you can’t do that nowadays.

We received our NSW teaching assignments after two weeks hanging out in Sydney, where we first enjoyed the taste of real beer and formed friendships with other Yanks. I was assigned the SW suburb of Ingleburn HS (~30km from Sydney), where two other American teachers were stationed. With shoulder-length hair, shorts, and knee socks, I taught Forms 6-12, with 11-12 being the Junior/Senior years of high school. At this time, most students left high school after Form 10 and headed out to the labor force at 16 years of age.

Teaching Forms 11-12 was a great experience, as it was about preparing students to pass the national university entrance tests in their last year. In fact, I had the chance to teach Calculus, meaning I had to re-learn it myself to teach properly.

I’ve retained many vivid memories and lengthy stories from my two years in Australia, ranging from travels around the Outback, to driving up the Queensland shore in an Austin Mini, to placing off-track bets on horses (run in the clockwise direction), to watching cricket test matches or playing darts in the Maths Staff room between classes. Travel has always been my engine for enjoyment and adventure. However, after two years, reality set in and I headed back to Ames in 1976 to get a real job, start a career, and raise a family. I knew teaching was not my long-term desire, so I looked toward a career in manufacturing.

I started my first U.S. job with Sundstrand Hydro-Static Transmission, north of Ames off I-35, as a General Bench Inspector on the shop floor. I worked my way up to the office as a Quality Engineer, doing problem-solving and early statistics in Quality/Reliability using SAS for statistical analysis with punch cards. Boy, have we evolved now with the ease of PCs.

From 1982 to 2016, I worked with Graco, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota; ITT-Automotive in Asheville, North Carolina; GKN Driveline in Alamance, North Carolina; Eaton HD Truck in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Magna Powertrain in Syracuse, New York; TRW Automotive in Shanghai, China; and now ZF TRW in Chennai, India, as Resident Director at our JV partner. I’ve been active from the shop floor to the boardroom, yet have always embraced the shop floor, knowing it’s there where the money is made and value gets added.

So let me end with some reminiscences about ISU and Iowa Beta. Yes, I could talk about the swimming pool we had, jumping off the roof top, late night runs to the I-35 truck stop for pizza burgers, road trips to Kansas for the Coors, sleeping in cold air dorms with snow on my electric blanket, being a pledge and trying to wake up the older brothers, or my first concert in a sports coat (never again) to see John Denver. But it’s the Phi Psi values and personal skills I’ve retained from my fraternity experience that I put to use later in life.

The experience which served me best in my work endeavors was the opportunity to feel free and comfortable while standing up and speaking out at our chapter meetings. This is where I first learned to compose my thoughts and speak in an impromptu manner on a particular opinion, observation, or recommendation. To this day, I’m comfortable talking to large audiences with or without a PPT, and interacting one-on-one with other individuals. Thank you, Iowa Beta, for preparing me for life.

For those interested in keeping up with my international adventures and/or re-connecting, please feel free to reach out to me at

My Web site and Photoblog may be found at:

My professional profile may be found at:

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