How does a kid from Detroit grow up to be a world record holder in motorcycle land speed racing and PHD metallurgist who helps fight global hunger in his spare time? Read on to find out:
Where did your creative spark came from?
I was born and raised in the Detroit area until 6th grade when we moved to a small farm 50 miles outside of Detroit. When you’re a farmer, you get involved in fixing and making things.
My whole life, I’ve liked building things.
When I was a little kid my dad had a pile of wood in the corner of the garage and some hand tools that I was always free to use. As a teenager, I was into building hot rods and drag racing motorcycles.
Where did your life take you?
After high school, I enlisted in the Air Force to keep from getting drafted during the Vietnam War. I spent four years in the Air force before getting into Michigan Technological University in 1970. I worked straight through the summers and got my PHD in metallurgical engineering in just about six years. I spent much of my career in surface analysis, which is an analytic technique to look at the surface, chemistry, and metallurgy of materials. Eventually, I started my own company, and then retired in 2011.
I’ve got two vintage 1955 Indian motorcycles, one of which I race — land speed racing in Utah. I established land speed record for my class of motorcycle in 2013 and raised the record in 2016. I’ll be going back this summer to attempt to break my record again.
So, I have hobbies that I’m deeply involved in, but after retirement, I was looking for something to do, not only fill time, but to feel like I’m paying back.
My wife is a registered nurse at the retirement community where the founder of CTI, George Ewing, was living. She and George had become good friends and he was always showing her his latest inventions. One day she came home and said, “George is going to be on TV tonight and we have to watch.” I watched the story on George, and looked at the CTI website and knew wanted to get involved, even if it just meant sweeping the floors.
What inspires you?
I enjoy doing something for somebody who’s not going to be doing anything back for me.
I never knew of efforts like CTI’s to work with very poor farmers. I was more aware of what you read in the news of big programs using automated equipment, but none of it helps the small individual farmer. I probably never even realized how many people are farming on 1, 2, or 3 acres and producing barely enough to feed themselves. I think CTI’s approach is having a big impact by taking these complex machines that we take for granted and turning them into simple machines that are affordable and reliable.
The volunteers I work with primarily are Don and Vern. I think the world of both guys. They’re able to contribute something I’m not and I contribute something they’re not. So, it’s a team effort to try to solve a problem and create a solution that’s lasting and valuable.