Gene Wright has a long history with MSOE, as a faculty member and as a student. “I actually had someone ask me what Oscar Werwath was really like,” he said. “I’ve known, met, and talked to four of the five MSOE presidents but not the founder from 1903. I am not that old.”
Wright has earned both engineering and business degrees from MSOE. He started as an adjunct professor at MSOE in 1988, and is now graduate program director and instructor in MSOE’s Rader School of Business.
From the beginning of his career, Wright learned how to successfully marry technological know-how and business savvy to bring success to the companies he worked for and the start-ups he created.
He started working in application engineering right out of MSOE, but in the second week on the job, management handed him appropriation forms. “Since I was the freshest out of college after having engineering economics, I had to figure out where to get all this business information so they could get money for their next development projects,” he said.
After talking with the company’s marketing and accounting departments, Wright quickly learned nothing happens in engineering until you first have all the business inputs. “I decided then that in a couple of years, I would go to business school,” he said.
In a few short years, Wright would also start his own business. “I was out talking to customers and came back with ideas for products, but the company I was working for said no,” he said. So, Wright started his own small manufacturing firm called Combined Technologies. It didn’t take long for his former employer to take notice and buy his company.
Four decades of engineering and business management experience, along with owning several small businesses, gives Wright an appreciation of how well business and engineering can work together. It’s also why he’s excited to be a Faculty Fellow of the CREATE Institute.
“CREATE is going to make the students even more jazzed about being a part of MSOE,” said Wright. “They’re not going to just be heads-down engineers. They’re going to be value-creators. They’re going to be self-aware and leaders of character. I think it’s going to be great.”
While working to put the grant together for the CREATE Institute, Wright said he and CREATE Institute Director DeAnna Leitzke realized they were building a framework around what MSOE already does well. “We’ve always been about project-based learning, hands-on learning, applied learning,” said Wright. “If we can get everyone to start working together and understanding the concept of value creation in a way that we’re respecting one another, embracing diversity and differences, then we’re better off. That’s what servant-leadership does.”
Wright also considers himself on a servant-leadership journey. “Part of why I teach is because I think that’s how I give back and help people succeed.”
He also coaches small businesses and works for a nonprofit in Boston that assists disadvantaged business enterprises. “We introduced a female-, minority-owned manufacturing firm to some of the professors in the industrial engineering program. Students are now doing manufacturing flow analysis for the firm and creating jobs in Milwaukee.”
In his free time, Wright enjoys hanging out with his family. He has a wife of 39 years, along with four children and four grandkids. Usually on Saturdays, he’s baking cookies or pastries for the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
One fun fact about Wright: He’s an eighth generation American, and so far, has traced his roots back to 1765 in this country.