ECE ILLINOIS alums are some of the most interesting people we know. To celebrate them, we’ve decided to ask them questions both serious and fun. Here, you’ll find their Ten Answers.
Don Brewer (BSEE '68, MS '69) is a third-generation professional engineer (PE) who has worked in a variety of fields and industries, including vehicle systems at Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), Caterpillar Tractor, and in manufacturing systems at places like Western Electric and CIMCORP (GCA Robotics).
He's a licensed PE in Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and currently provides technical expertise for wife Nancy's online home decor boutiques. He was recognized as a Knight of St. Patrick in 1968.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
I was given an assignment that five previous engineers had taken on. It seemed a hopeless task. I started asking many questions of all the test floor users, formulated Excel spreadsheets for IEEE tests, as well as the return on investment to make a justification for the upgrade.
The proposal went all the way to General Motors headquarters in Detroit for approval. It was turned down, as expected. But as fate would have it, EMD was transitioning to the AC locomotive from the DC locomotive architecture. The AC locomotive required a new inverter, which also needed a test floor station. The ROI for the inverter testing prevailed, and the test floor upgrade was approved.
It was a collective team effort and multiple participants brought successful inertia. As a result, EMD approved a new $16 million test floor.
What's your favorite memory from you time on the Illinois campus?
The St. Patrick dances. My wife loves to dance and she is a great dancer. We were on our honeymoon during our senior year!
How do you overcome a challenge?
Sleep on it. Somehow my brain processes information overnight, and things seem clear the next morning. Time helps one focus on the fundamental issue, and allows you to group and focus your resources.
What's your secret talent?
Enthusiasm coupled with gratitude, and energy coupled with a positive, optimistic perspective.
Why is STEM education so important to you?
It's a way to mentor to the next generation, the future contributors to our society and humanity. It’s about continuing the legacy of our education and travel experiences, and is the responsibility of our citizenship in our world.
What's the best advice you've received? Listen, from Stephen Covey. And, before you speak, think. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it needed? Is it kind?
What's your favorite book, and why?
Ben Franklin, America's Original Entrepreneur by Blaine McCormick. It shows how Ben worked to improve his character, his profession, his local society, and his community and nation. He was America's first entrepreneur, and investigated electricity, too!
In what circumstances are you most productive?
On my wife's third reminder to get it done. Priority has been escalated to a level three. Deadlines.
If you could have dinner with three people, alive or otherwise, who would you choose?
My mom, dad, and grandmother. All have passed, but I have questions left to ask and joys to share from our grandchildren.