How to Build a CEO; Take One Bored Student, Put Him into an Industrial Arts Class and Add an Encouraging and Supportive Instructor. That Is the Formula That Helped Launch Harvey Dean's Successful Career

By Houston, Ann | Techniques, October 2005 | Go to article overview

How to Build a CEO; Take One Bored Student, Put Him into an Industrial Arts Class and Add an Encouraging and Supportive Instructor. That Is the Formula That Helped Launch Harvey Dean's Successful Career


Houston, Ann, Techniques


"I wasn't a bad student ... just bored! Too much wasted time."

That's how reformed troublemaker Harvey Dean describes himself as a 1960s high school "shop" student from Elmore City, Oklahoma. Dean was an average athlete and mediocre in English, yet he spent four hours every day during part of his junior year in "shop" because he'd been locked out of every other class by the school principal.

Many Oklahoma Baby Boomers remember the industrial arts programs of the 1960s and '70s--more commonly known as "shop." Most boys--not girls--were enrolled in "shop," primarily a cabinetmaking and woodworking program. Since 1985, "industrial arts/shop" has evolved into "technology education." Today more than 17,800 junior and senior high school students are members of the Technology Student Association (TSA), with 164 chapters across Oklahoma.

As for Dean, the former "troublemaker," he became the founder and CEO of Pitsco, a 30-year-old company with 200 employees based in Pittsburg, Kansas. Pitsco is a leading provider of innovative products and curriculum for math, science and technology education programs, annually touching the lives of millions of students nationwide by engaging them in education that's meaningful, engaging and fun.

Pitsco products include gliders, kites, rockets, CO2 dragsters, balsa bridges and supportive materials and software. Most career and technical education instructors are familiar with the company's products.

Although now a success story, Dean recalls, "I was in four hours of industrial arts one semester, because I'd been kicked out of almost every other class. I'll never forget the day that my instructor, Jim Coffey, saw me standing by the heater in the shop, after being 'dismissed' from school.

"He encouraged me by saying that I was going to be successful in life ... that I should not let what was happening to me in school keep me from going on to be successful in whatever I decided to do in life. …

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