Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Quiet Hero; Professor George Flowers Works His Life’s Plan

When asked to be interviewed about his career at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, electrical engineer and teacher George Flowers said that he hadn’t done anything particularly special and wasn’t sure an interview was necessary.  Mr. Flowers retired from the College in December 2012.

After a full career as an engineering manager at Virginia Power, Mr. Flowers began his second career as an educator at the College in 1994 as a Division Chair, and later as the Parham Road Campus Director.   Along the way, he also taught students in math and engineering.  For ten years he taught two classes a semester, three semesters a year, with about twenty students per class.  That’s a lot of students, a lot of lives touched, and a lot of meaningful work.  Most would agree that’s something special.
After graduating from Duke University, he took a job in the Newport News shipyards as an electrical engineer working on nuclear submarines.  Later he earned his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Virginia. During this time he made a life plan of working in industry, then serving in some public capacity, and then taking all the lessons learned back into the classroom.  Before he could complete a doctoral degree, he was asked to help with his father’s waste management business.  Then, it was on to Virginia Power, building and operating nuclear power stations, and earning a Masters in Business Administration degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. 
When he retired from the power company, he revisited the life plan he had made at age 26 and decided to continue following it: to use what he had learned in the private sector to help others through education.  “It was my obligation,” he stressed.
During his first few weeks at the College, the community asked the Engineering and Applied Sciences Division, Mr. Flowers and his team, for an education plan to help attract a new industry to the greater Richmond area – semiconductor manufacturers.  He helped to set up and lead a consortium of VCCS colleges for semiconductor technician training in the mid-1990s.  Later, he helped the College and Infineon sponsor a two year Electronics Associates Degree at Infineon’s location.
As a study aid, he created dozens of calculator and spreadsheet models for his math and engineering students.  Former students still call him to let him know that they use his models in their day-to-day problem solving efforts. 
In 2011, after the College had been awarded two federal grants to its Automotive Technology Group, Mr. Flowers stepped in as an electronics engineering advisor to guide the team as it developed new course curriculum for diagnostics and repair for hybrid and electric vehicle components.
When talking about the future, Mr. Flowers has plans to travel and volunteer.  “The College is part of my life and always will be,” he said.  “The College family is really special.”  He and his wife Alice have endowed two full student scholarships at the College.  “We had a lot of help with our own education, and we wanted to give a little back.”  Helping others up until his last day at the College, he advised a young transfer student on her options and opportunities.   He was still working his plan and doing something which may not have seemed “particularly special” to him, but the student will remember and perhaps create her own life plan which involves helping others.