Steve Crutchfield

photo of Steve Crutchfield

  • BS in Physics (1972)
  • MS in Physics (1974)
  • spent over 25 years at Ford Motor Company working from a process engineer to associate director of Asia Pacific Programs (now retired)
  • authored more than 20 articles on the physics of pool in the national billiard magazine, Inside Pool
  • gave a demonstration at Miami in April 2018, "Billiards: A Game Best Played at 30 Degrees"

My Profession

"In 2007 I retired from Ford Motor Company, where I had held a lot of different titles during my over 25 years there. I started as a process engineer in a manufacturing plant, and within that plant I took on the role of electrical engineer, then senior electrical engineer, and then a promotion to manufacturing management. At Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, I held another staff job for a few years before becoming the assembly manufacturing manager at a plant in Portugal.

"When I headed back to the States a year or so later, I was anxious to try something a bit different, so I became involved with sales for a separate division that had been spun off from the main company — and I was selling components back to Ford! This position led me to becoming associate director of sales in Ford's Asia-Pacific region, so I spent a lot of time in China, Japan, and other Asian countries.

"Most people who had the beginnings that I had don't end up traveling to 21 countries and getting paid for it. It scares me to think how differently my career might have been without Miami. Not bad for someone who was just a country boy from Indiana!"

Best Miami Experiences

"I first took an interest in math and physics in high school. I had a really good algebra teacher who made it fun, and it felt like a good fit for me. It led me to decide to take physics here at Miami, which turned out to be a wonderful, almost life-changing experience.

"As an undergraduate, I commuted to Miami because my wife and I lived 25 miles across the state line in Indiana, where she was working. I can remember nothing but good experiences with the Department of Physics, which was quite small but enabled a great camaraderie with everybody. We knew all the professors on a first-name basis, and so it always felt like more of a family than an academic institution. Students had picnics at professors' homes and often played softball games against them. Later, as a graduate student, my wife and I moved here to Oxford, and it became a whole different lifestyle, with everything in walking or biking distance.

"One funny story happened when I was about to start my final semester as an undergrad. I made the mistake in not having any discussions about my course schedule with my academic counselor until then, and he looked at my records and said, 'You're just fine — but the problem is you haven't done anything for your phys-ed requirements.' This was when Miami required physical education, so I had to pack 6 credit hours of phys-ed in just one semester. There were days when I would go to tennis, then swimming, and then volleyball — I was worn out at the end of all that!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I attribute my whole Miami experience to having a good career and a good life. As I was looking to enter the job market, what I found was that just coming from Miami alone carried a lot of respect in the business world. Companies want well-rounded people. There certainly are some jobs where they just want a math geek, but for the most part, they want someone who is well-rounded enough to move up the ladder. Big companies are all international now, so it's to your advantage to know geography, history, literature, foreign languages — any liberal arts major has a leg up, and Miami does a good job of providing that.

"I did really well in physics at Miami, but I remember well an economics class where I received the worst grade of any class, mostly due to an extremely large final paper. I went to talk to the professor and explained what my thinking was, and he was kind enough to meet me halfway. I also took two years of German, which I had greater success in and dearly loved, and years later my language skills came in handy when I traveled with Ford to Cologne, Germany for a 6-month program and spoke as much German as I could.

"Of course, if you're going into a technical field like automotive engineering or manufacturing, you'll be involved in math and physics, such as in quality and statistical probability calculations. Employers know that having a physics or math degree means you can probably do a lot of things: engineering, research, design, and much more. My degrees from Miami almost felt like I got a free pass on a lot of things. That's not to say you don't have to learn a lot of new stuff, but Miami helped make it pretty quick and easy to get a handle onto those new technical skills."

Advice to Students

"Even though physics is a great background that gives you a wonderful advantage in the job market, you still have to bring more to the table. You need to be a well-rounded, sociable person who is not limited to just mathematical and scientific knowledge. The business world is always looking for people who really know how to get along with and manage people. It all goes back to the axiom of treating others like you want to be treated.

"I say this in retrospect, since I know about gaps in my own life, but there are some simple, common sense things you can never let go of, like being a well-rounded person. I've continued discovering interests and desires in new things that I didn't have back then, going from thinking that math and physics were the only things that mattered in the world to developing interests in things like history, geography, and literature. I admit that I'm more of a liberal arts person now than I ever was!

"I'd finally like to add that this is my first visit back to Miami in close to 20 years, and boy have things changed. This place looks good. Walking around campus, there's a palpable feeling that I want to be here. Even on a cold gray day in early April you can look around and see that pride and energy — someone is doing something right, so just keep on track while you're a Miami student!"

[April 2018]