Engineer to educator

rich.jpg

Jerry Rich, EE’74, in his classroom. (Photo by Jeff Amberg)

In 2004, Jerry Rich, EE’74, took early retirement from a 30-year career as an electrical engineer with Eastman Chemical Co. and went back to school to become a teacher. After a couple of prerequisite courses at a local technical college, Rich entered a “career changers” program at the University of South Carolina. His first year of teaching was 2006.

“This is my sixth year of teaching fourth grade at White Knoll Elementary,” Rich says. “I teach math and science and like to think that I am training future engineers.”

Before Rich retired from engineering, his sister lent him a book by Bob Buford titled Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance.

“I read the book and realized that, in the eyes of many people, I had probably been fairly successful,” Rich says. “But was I really significant in the lives of others? After a couple of years of contemplation, the opportunity to make a change led me to pursue a teaching career.”

Teaching is in Rich’s blood. Both of his parents were longtime teachers. His mother began her career in a one-room country school that housed eight grades. In high school, Rich took a science class his dad taught.

Rich prefers to teach elementary grades — a time, he believes, before disciplinary problems keep kids from learning.

“I decided that younger students have not yet learned how to misbehave, and maybe that is whereI belonged,” Rich says.

In his spare time, Rich runs — a lot. Later this year he plans to run the Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina. It will be his 52nd.

“A friend of mine told me that when you turn 40, your body begins to fall apart,” Rich says. “I refused to believe that and decided to do my best to prevent it. So far, I have run 51 marathons. One in each state and one in Washington, D.C.”

All that running seemed like a natural progression for Rich.

“In 1993, I took a little trip around 48 states and managed to go inside all the state capitol buildings as well as Washington, D.C.,” Rich says. It was a 15,000-mile journey that took a month to complete.

“Years later, the idea of running a marathon in each state seemed to be a natural (at least to me) follow-up,” he says. “I made sure to visit the capitol buildings when I ran my Juneau, Alaska, and Honolulu, Hawaii, marathons.”

Both running and teaching help Rich find significance in his life.

“The most rewarding part of teaching,” Rich says, “is when a struggling fourth grader looks up at me after a one-on-one math session, smiles, and says, ‘Oh, now I get it.’”

When he began his quest for significance, Rich set a goal of teaching for five years. At the end of that five, he decided he could survive five more years.

“I guess that gives me four more years to determine my next career,” Rich says. “Real retirement, whatever that is, is probably not one of the options. Fourth graders help you stay young.”

Around the Puck

Seeking TBI therapies

By Delia Croessmann, croessmannd@mst.edu Complications from TBI can be life altering. They include post-traumatic seizures and hydrocephalus, as well as serious cognitive and psychological impairments, and the search for treatments to mitigate these neurodegenerative processes is on.

[Read More...]

Understanding the invisible injury

Students advance traumatic brain injury research By Sarah Potter, sarah.potter@mst.edu “Research is creating new knowledge.”–Neil Armstrong  Research keeps professors on the vanguard of knowledge in their fields and allows students to gain a deeper understanding of their area of study. For students and recent graduates researching traumatic brain injury (TBI) at Missouri S&T, the work […]

[Read More...]

Analyzing small molecules for big results

By Delia Croessmann, croessmannd@mst.edu At only 28 years old, Casey Burton, Chem’13, PhD Chem’17, director of medical research at Phelps Health in Rolla and an adjunct professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, is poised to become a prodigious bioanalytical researcher.

[Read More...]

To prevent and protect

By Peter Ehrhard, ehrhardp@mst.edu Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are an unfortunate but all too common occurrence during military training and deployment. Because mild TBIs often present no obvious signs of head trauma or facial lacerations, they are the most difficult to diagnose at the time of the injury, and patients often perceive the impact as […]

[Read More...]

Q&A

Toughest class … ever Some of your classes may have been a breeze, but others kept you up at all hours studying, and some of you struggled just to pass. As part of his research for the S&T 150th anniversary history book, Larry Gragg , Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, asked […]

[Read More...]