I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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Riveting life harvested for lecture
By Barry Schrader.................................November
Gary Wells may not call it this, but I would say he experienced
his 15 minutes of fame this fall when he was honored
as Professor for a Day at the University of Illinois Department
of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
part of the recognition, he was asked to deliver the annual seminar
lecture, and he titled it How Relationships and Experiences
Formed and Enabled This Ag Engineer. I listened to a tape
of his talk, and it was full of lessons learned that would serve
the students in that department well when they leave their sheltered
college life and enter the working world where nothing is stable
Wells shared the story of his humble
upbringing during the Great Depression in a farm family of eight
kids in downstate Rock Island County. He learned the lessons
of hardship from a family that had to produce its own food, make
clothing from seed and animal feed sacks, and live day to day
within its means.
He is a stellar example of someone
who moved from poverty to success by hard work, ingenuity and
building good relationships along the way. He told those college
kids that experience is a lousy teacher. It gives you the
test first and the lessons later. But man does it stick, and
I could hear the
positive audience responses to his instructive advice interjected
with some humor, which made his talk more engaging.
a hard life as the second of eight siblings, he managed to graduate
as valedictorian of his class, but his folks had no means to
send him to college. However, an aunt who recognized his potential
Gary Wells, at right, is honored by the University of Illinois.
Shown with (at left) Dr. Loren Bode, past head of the ABE Department
and Dr. K.C. Ting at the podium just prior to his lecture of a
Closeup of Gary Wells
parents she would loan him the money to enroll in college. Although
Wells was needed on the farm, his mother realized college was
a good idea because he could get an education and earn money
to help his other siblings go on to school.
off he went to the University of Illinois where he not only applied
himself to his studies but also earned scholarships and many
honors. He graduated first with a bachelors degree in Ag
Engineering and General Agriculture, then a masters degree
in Ag Engineering. His career ladder began with International
Harvester, and the contributions he made included new designs,
strategic planning, and later, managing five strategic business
units all at one time.
He was also promoted
to director of North American Ag Parts and Service Marketing
at its world headquarters, then director of Grain Harvesting
Products worldwide. More advancements led him to become director
of Product Reliability, then North American director of Engineering
of Crop Productions and Crop Harvesting Equipment. After a merger
with J.I. Case, he moved on to Benteler Industries in Kalamazoo
as a vice president and head of such groups as corporate industrial
engineering, information technology and general plant manager.
He later decided to go it on his own and formed a consulting
The story goes on, but he emphasized the
importance of building good relationships with peers and bosses,
making friends, and maintaining a balance with family life, plus
community involvement and church.
He left the
audience with a quote from Garrison Keillor of Prairie
Home Companion fame: The wish that you be well, do
good works and stay in touch.
ag engineering students got an earful that day, and if they follow
his advice, surely their lives will be richer and more successful
than those who missed that one lecture of a lifetime.
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DeKalb, Ill 60115