By Carla Short
2017-07-072017-07-10https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
When George Didawick graduated from high school, he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. When he fulfilled his military obligations, he went to work for Western Electric. One of the pivotal moments in George’s career was when he suggested an idea for a cost reduction. One of Western Electric’s Industrial Engineers worked with him to implement George’s suggestion. The IE suggested that George get an engineering degree because he thought George had the thought process that would make him a successful engineer.
George came to WVU to study Industrial Engineering. As an older student who hadn’t had a math class in several years, George initially struggled in math. When he got into his major classes, he did much better because of his practical skills.
When George graduated, he had a number of job offers. He decided to take a job with Pennsylvania Glass Sand (PGS) a business in his home town. PGS produced sand to be used in containers and flat glass. George’s initial assignment was in Tallahassee, FL as a plant engineer. That was the beginning of a 38 year career with PGS.
Over the 38 years of George’s career, PGS went through a number of ownership changes. George became known as the ‘survivor” because he was retained by every new company as they took over PGS. In fact, George continued to gain more responsibility with every change.
George was a Plant Manager at two of the PGS plants. Then he became a Regional Manager. George finished his career as Vice President of Operations. George is now retired but continues to be professionally active by doing consulting. He has also become an avid bass fisherman.
When asked about staying with the same company for his entire career, George said: “Every time I started to lose motivation, I always got a new job.” George also commented that he experienced a lot of different corporate styles and actually had the experience of those who changed jobs.
As George reflects on his career, he thinks about how his being drafted to serve in the military ultimately determined his life’s path. “I could never have afforded to go to college without the GI bill.”
Growing up on a small farm in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, I was the first in my family of two older brothers to graduate from high school in 1964. With average grades, and no to little financial resources, college was not part of my plans for the future. I had been working for Western Electric Company in Alexandria, Va. when my draft notice arrived. After two years of service in the U.S. Army, that included a free trip to Viet Nam, I returned to my former job and, thanks to the educational benefits provided by the G.I. Bill and the encouragement of my wife, I began taking general classes at Northern Virginia Community College while working and learning to be a father to my first daughter. It was during that time that a chance meeting with a method’s manager, an industrial engineer from Virginia Tec, that I developed an interest in Industrial Engineering. With his insight and encouragement along with the full support of my wife, I quit my job and enrolled at WVU for the summer session in 1970. The combination of transitioning to a fulltime student, isolation of married student housing, and a mistake of taking my first ever calculus course during the summer could have been my downfall. Thanks to the mentoring of two professors, Jack Byrd and Don Gochenour, I stuck to my goals and have nothing but the fondest of memories of my years at WVU and the Industrial Engineering Department.
As many I.E. grads did at that time, I had multiple job offers and selected a small mining company headquartered in my hometown of Berkeley Springs. PGS had recently been purchased by ITT, a huge conglomerate, and was expanding and modernizing their industrial sand operations. Over the next four decades PGS acquired and disposed of multiple mining assets, merged with another major glass sand producer to become U. S. Silica Company, changed ownership four times, senior management leadership five times, grew from revenues of less than $100 million to over $600 million and is now publicly traded on the NYSE. My first job with U.S. Silica began in 1973 as a plant engineer in a small community near Tallahassee, Florida. My 38 year career included responsibilities as Manager of Industrial Engineering, Production Manager, Director of Quality Assurance, Plant Manager at two locations, and executive level positions as Regional Operations Manager and Vice President of Operations. Once or twice, I considered leaving, but the frequency of ownership and management change, brought new challenges and opportunities that kept me motivated and afforded a lifetime of learning. A total of ten family relocations also presented various other challenges, but also provided my family the opportunity to experience new people, new cultures, and life in other communities.
Since retirement, I have been consulting in the industrial minerals industry in the both the USA and Mexico. After 38 years, retirement in March of 2011 as the Vice President of Operations for U.S. Silica afforded me the opportunity to catch-up on a divers list of “Honey do” projects, enjoy small-mouth bass fishing with my son, watch seven grandchildren participate in various sports and school related activities and continue with community service activities.
Janice, wife of 50+ years, daughters Gina-school nurse, Laura-Math teacher, Mike- owner/operator Renaissance Spa. Seven grandchildren