I have been very lucky to not only have met the benefactor of my chaired professorship but to also have enough of a relationship with him that I can communicate and share experiences with him.
In 1998, I became the John F. Smith Memorial Professor at Operations Management at the Isenberg School of Management. I was the first female appointed to a chaired professorship in the University of Massachusetts system, consisting of 5 campuses, including the UMass Medical School in Worcester.
Part of having a chaired professorship, I believe, is stewardship, and that should entail not only, according to its definition, of: responsible planning and management of resources, but also staying in touch with the benefactor/donor, if that is at all possible. The chaired professorship that I hold was made possible by John F. Smith Jr. or "Jack Smith," an alumnus of the Isenberg School of Management, class of 1960, who endowed the professorship in honor of his father, who was also a UMass Amherst alumnus, but of its Stockbridge School. Jack Smith Jr. was the chairman of the board of General Motors from 1996 to 2003 and the CEO from 1992 to 2000. He has been a member of Delta's Board of Directors since 2000, so, clearly, transportation is in his "blood" and we have a common passion for operations management. What has always impressed me about Jack Smith, is his incredible intellect and memory as well as ideas for innovation.
Yesterday, I shipped off a package to Jack Smith, with two letters, one detailing some of the accomplishments of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, that I founded and have directed since 2001, and our great students at the Isenberg School, and a holiday letter. I also enclosed in the package three books: Competing on Supply Chain Quality, co-authored with my former PhD student, Dr. Dong "Michelle" Li, Dynamics of Disasters: Key Concepts, Models, Algorithms, and Insights, co-edited with Professors Ilias S. Kotsireas and Panos M. Pardalos, and STEM Gems, by Stephanie Espy, in which I was honored to be one of 44 inspiring female role models in STEM for my work on networks. All these books were published in 2016 so they should make for some pleasant holiday reading.
Jack Smith has come back to UMass and the Isenberg School on several occasions, since I became a chaired professor, and we also have a classroom named in his honor. He, along with other luminaries, such as Ken Feinberg and Jack Welch, also UMass Amherst alums, serves as an honorary co-chair of the UMass Rising Campaign. A video for the campaign, in which I also speak, can be accessed here.
In fact, one of the seeds for supernetworks and our center germinated when Jack gave a talk at UMass and spoke about interfaces between telecommunications and transportation in the context of vehicle mobility and it was clear that networks of networks or supernetworks would be an area that would generate theory and applications for years to come, which it has! Our Supernetworks book, which I co-authored with Dr. June Dong was published in 2002.
Below are some photos taken on one of Jack's visits to the Isenberg School, when he visited the Supernetworks Lab. Many of the Center Associates featured in the photos, have since received their PhDs, and are now professors. Several, who were undergraduates then, such as David Soffer and Christina Calvaneso, are having fascinating professional careers in business. A full list is available here.
This blogpost is also a thank you to Jack Smith, whose support has enabled us to have a thriving, award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, a center that builds bridges and has collaborators from multiple continents, and a home where speakers and visitors always feel a warm welcome.