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Stan Settles

'62, Industrial Engineering



When Stan Settles first came to LeTourneau University in 1960 to study engineering, it was not love at first sight.

“When I arrived here, it was still LeTourneau Tech,” he said. “I was driving a pickup truck, but I had a trailer behind me that had a dragster on it. Oh, they weren’t too sure about all this!”

Settles said the army barracks on the campus didn’t quite live up to what he had imagined after reading about the school in the NOW magazine that his mother had subscribed to.

“I had done my first two years in chemical engineering at Colorado School of Mines, but then I got around race cars and interested in making parts,” he said. While he felt Colorado School of Mines compared to MIT and CalTech in prestige, Settles said LeTourneau was the right school for him.

“I had a math teacher here that was way better, a far better teacher,” he said. “Very few faculty members focus on the learning rather than the teaching.” That was something Settles would remember when he later became an engineering professor and department chair at University of Southern California.

Settles worked at the LeTourneau factory and took classes in the alterday program.

“Back in those days, I would work in the factory on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday Thursday and Saturday, I would have classes,” he said. The next week, the schedule would alter. “The hands-on experience fit me.”

In the spring of his senior year in 1962, his industrial engineering professor asked him if he had ever thought about going to graduate school.

“He told me to consider it,” he said. Settles said that professor had ties to both Purdue and Arizona State University, and since LeTourneau Tech was not an accredited engineering program at that time, getting into graduate school was not a trivial deal. Settles took the graduate acceptance exam and got in. Since his parents had moved from Colorado to Phoenix, and his wife was expecting their first child, it was a slam dunk that they would go to Phoenix.

His plan was to stay in Arizona while he got his master’s and Ph.D., then go teach. To make money to support his family while he was in graduate school, he started working with a company called AiResearch making gas turbines and jet engines. He went to his boss to quit in 1969 to take a teaching job that paid more, but instead, his boss offered him a 43% raise to stay.

A 30-year career in design and project engineering, manufacturing and general management with Allied Signal Aerospace, now Honeywell, ensued. Settles also taught engineering as an adjunct faculty member at ASU from 1966 through 1991.

Settles was elected in 1991 into the National Academy of Engineers, one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer. Selected for his “outstanding contributions to industrial engineering and manufacturing practice, and for leadership in advancing collaboration between industry and academia,” Settles may be the only LeTourneau alumnus in the NAE, an organization dating back to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

“I got elected when I was still in industry,” Settles said. “Out of about 3 million engineers in the country, there are only about 2,200 members.”

His career path included working a few years on NSF and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, then he went to USC where he taught engineering courses for nearly two decades as department chair of the Daniel J. Epstein Industrial & Systems Engineering Department and as IBM Chair in Engineering Management. Settles retired as professor emeritus in 2015.

Settles’s advice for college students today is to find mentors, which he says was an important key to his career success.

“Life is a people game,” he said. “We talk about the technology and math and science and all, but it’s more of a people game. LeTourneau gave me that kind of background. There are a bunch of brilliant people out there, but the people part doesn’t work for them. I didn’t realize that until I looked back.” ■

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