It has been over 40 years since Jerry Thuesen first stepped foot on the Georgia Tech campus as an associate professor in what is today the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). In 1968, with just 16 faculty members, industrial engineering at Georgia Tech had grown to become the largest academic program of its kind in the United States.
At that time, industrial engineering was housed in the A. French Building, located behind Tech Tower. To get to any of the three floors, one could use the button-controlled freight elevator that was enclosed with wooden slats, or take the stairs (which was preferred by faculty).There was only one restroom in the A. French Building, which had stalls, but lacked doors. The whistle from the nearby power plant, which sounded five minutes to the hour, alerting students it was time to change classes, “made your head swivel,” Thuesen recalls. Though the building lacked in modern conveniences, it was impressive in those days that an industrial engineering school simply had a building of its own.
Hired by Bob Lehrer, ISyE School chair from 1966 to1978, Thuesen came to Georgia Tech to teach engineering economics, an area of expertise he shared with Lehrer. During his career, he taught four courses within the engineering economics discipline to both undergraduate and graduate students in ISyE, as well as those in other engineering schools on campus. Class sizes ranged from 25 to 35 students in the ISyE classes and up to200 students in classes from other departments.
In 1971, Thuesen revised and released the 4th editionof Engineering Economy, originally written by his father, H.G. Thuesen, a pioneering IE professor at Oklahoma State University. That same year, Thuesen received notice of tenure via “a handwritten note slid under his office door,” and later in 1977 he was promoted to full professor in ISyE. During his career, he served on the American Society for Engineering Education Board of Directors and the IIE Board of Trustees, and he was the editor of The Engineering Economist.
Aside from his research, Thuesen spent much of his career giving back to the School, by contributing his time as well as through financial support. In 1983, the same year ISyE moved across campus to the Groseclose Building, Thuesen worked with a group of faculty and staff to start the Evelyn Pennington Endowment, the first endowment fund in ISyE. The fund was created in memory of Evelyn Pennington, who worked as an academic advisor and secretary in the chair’s office and continues to support student activities in ISyE today.
“To have a high level of expertise, you must have outside funding. Philanthropic donations allow the School to be competitive and maintain a group of faculty that are respected around the world,” said Thuesen. “Georgia Tech has a strong loyalty from alumni, which is the very basis of being successful at fundraising.”
While at Stanford undergrad, Thuesen played varsity basketball for three years. To this day, he still holds the free throw career percentage record. With his sports background, it comes as no surprise that Thuesen was actively involved in athletics at Georgia Tech. He organized an industrial engineering intramural volleyball team, comprised of faculty members and undergraduate students. The team played so well together they reigned as the School champions from 1970 to 1980. He also played on the Georgia Tech ISyE intramural basketball team and served on the Georgia Tech Athletic Board.
Thuesen retired from Georgia Tech in 1996 after nearly 30 years of service. He continues to support the School through contributions to various funds, and encourages faculty to become active in fundraising efforts on campus.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 ISyE Alumni Magazine.
Industrial and Systems Engineering