Alumni Feature: Tom Castino BSME '60
Q+A WITH TOM CASTINO
What extracurricular groups or activities were you a part of at Illinois?
Having taken up to 22 hours each semester in my junior and senior years, I did not have any time for “extracurricular activities.” However, I did manage to participate in various ASME activities as a student member; most Engineering Open House events; and certain special for-credit (1/2 to 1 hour each) Saturday classes, including the Illiac course (prototype all-relay computer).
Did anyone from the department have a particularly important influence on you while you were a student?
Yes, most definitely… Professors Dale Griffie and Will Stoecker had a profound impact on my approach to solving technical problems, recognizing what levels of hard work were required in specific real-world situations, and doing these things always with an eye on what was the honest, ethical, and right thing to do. In fact, when I became a candidate for president and CEO of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in 1989, these specific characteristics that I learned under these professors were clearly told to me as the very reasons I was selected by the UL board. I became president and CEO in April 1990 and served until 2002 and until June 2003 (when I retired) as Vice Chairman of the Corporation and Board Trustee.
What motivates you, as an alumnus, to give to MechSE?
This question is easy to answer… It is to give back with a thank you for all the university gave to me: 1) a top-notch technical education and a diploma that is recognized everywhere, 2) an understanding of what real-world work is made up of and how it impacts success or failure, 3) incorporating ethics and doing what is right, and 4) being a leader in order to bring about relevant change.
Do you prefer your donations to be mostly in the form of your time, your talent, or your treasure?
Time, talent, and/or treasure are each equally important, but each individual giver has different work/life situations and, therefore, will be influenced by these situations and draw upon what is available at the time. In my personal situation, I give my time and talent (such as it is as I age) to the university through my participation on the Alumni Advisory Board, supplemented by treasure (annual unrestricted contributions).
If you could give any advice to a large group of current or prospective MechSE students, what would it be?
Here are my 5 rules/guidelines:
- Be sure (as you can) that the MechSE course path that you have selected is or could become your “passion.” If not, you will labor more than necessary and may not succeed.
- Be resolved and prepared to work very hard. It will serve you well in school and at your eventual job.
- Never ever seek to just meet course/curriculum requirements. Always meet/set higher standards of excellence. Go beyond what is required, wherever possible.
- To the greatest extent possible, develop all mechanisms available to enhance your ability to communicate knowledge, solutions, decisions, and ideas—technical or otherwise—to others via the written and spoken word. Failure to do this almost always means subpar career development.
- Be honest, ethical, and a truth-seeker in all you do. It will be noticed in the longer run! It will lead to being trusted with the most important work and positions of leadership.
What thoughts would you share with other MechSE alumni about giving back?
Keep these thoughts in mind as you ponder giving to the university:
- The university gave you a very high level of engineering knowledge, and you absorbed all you could. You are/have applied it to real-world work. You achieved a level of success based upon what the university gave you. To a significant degree, you are what you took from the university. Now, give back so that others can follow you; build a legacy through your giving. Nothing you do will ever be as important from an engineering career standpoint.
- The University of Illinois is a very special place. Students graduate from this place and become leaders, doers, and leave much upon which the future can be built. Keep it special through your giving.
These are just a few of the reasons I have made a lifelong commitment to give to the university on a regular and on-going basis.