By NATHAN GREGORY
Glenn Steele has worn a lot of hats in his 33 years as a Mississippi State University faculty member and administrator. Now, he’s getting ready to hang up all of them.
He served as the associate head of the MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1985-1990 after joining as a faculty member in 1979. He took over as the department head in 1990 and remained in that position until 2008. During that 18-year span, he was an interim dean of the Bagley College of Engineering three times — once in 1995-1996 and again in 2004 and 2007. Steele began as director of the MSU Sustainable Energy Research Center in 2006.
After stepping down as a department head, he served as an interim vice president for research and economic development in 2009 before serving as interim provost in 2010. When the Sustainable Energy Research Center merged with four other centers to form the MSU Energy Institute in 2010, he was picked to serve as director.
Before going to North Carolina State University in 1970 to earn both his master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering, he earned his bachelor’s in that same field at MSU in 1968. He worked at the Westinghouse/Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pa. after graduating from NCSU before returning to Starkville.
He said his interest in mechanical engineering preceded his decision to go into that area of academia at MSU.
“My entire career I’ve had an interest in energy and applications of energy technology. I was interested in finding ways to be more efficient with energy and finding new sources of energy,” Steele said. “It’s been a lifelong interest.”
Steele has tallied a laundry list of courses taught. A few of these include laboratory analysis, laboratory design, experimental design and courses related to heat transfer, thermodynamics and energy systems among others.
“Being a professor is a great job. It’s the best job I think I could have had. It’s been a great career. I enjoy interacting with the students,” he said. “It’s always exciting to see them go through the process of learning and come back later and say, ‘This had an impact on what I was able to do. I was able to use some of the things you taught.’”
Steele said he has also enjoyed doing research projects with his colleagues.
“Working with colleagues on research is fun, challenging and exciting. Working on new ideas, developments and research sponsors … have been exciting parts of the job. I’ve had an opportunity to be in administration through a good part of my career,” he said. “Just working with people and the process of helping people do what they do best and trying to make their job as easy as possible has been fun.”
He said of all the jobs he had during his tenure, he particularly enjoyed his 18-year run at the reins of the department of mechanical engineering.
“I just really enjoyed working with the faculty and trying to make continue to make the department of mechanical engineering as good as it can possibly be. In 18 years I was probably responsible for hiring most of the folks that were there when I quit being a department head,” he said. “The challenge and the excitement of trying to bring new folks along, nurture them and raise the bar in the department as much as we could — that’s probably the thing I’ve enjoyed the most.”
He said research areas the Energy Institute has focused on during his tenure as director include a biofuels, environmental effects of energy production, energy conservation and combined heat and power.
Current Bagley College of Engineering department head Charles Waggoner said he has gained a great deal from having Steele as a colleague and has enjoyed the opportunity to work with him.
“I’ve been very impressed with his ability to draw together a broad range of factions across the university and truly integrate things into what is a university-wide effort. That has required a tremendous amount of innate skill for an individual to accomplish that, but also an extremely good working knowledge of the university,” Waggoner said. “All the positions he has held … and the longevity of his tenure at Mississippi State has provided him a sense of how to merge the missions of different colleges and researchers that have compatible interest. He has a very collegial style of engaging and incorporating different groups on campus into the Energy Institute. As for the period of existence of that entity he has been a very engaging director to solicit and support others getting involved.”
Steele said while he’s enjoyed his long run at MSU, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“Thirty-three years is a good number. It’s a good time to step back and do some other things. I’ll have more time to play with grandkids, travel and pursue some hobbies,” Steele said.
A retirement ceremony will be held 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Energy Institute June 6 in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.