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Bill Fenoglio Applied Campus Lessons to Business Success

November 26, 2013

Bill Fenoglio

Life Lessons: Bill Fenoglio gained several valuable skills at his hometown institute. He is a former vice president of General Electric and CEO of two successful business enterprises. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

One of Bill Fenoglio’s proudest moments came in 2009, when his grandson Guillaume Rousson graduated from Rose-Hulman with a civil engineering degree.

“I had just become chairman of the Board of Trustees. I gave him his degree and a big hug,” Fenoglio says. “Now I’m encouraging my second grandson to consider Rose-Hulman.”

Fenoglio knows the great sense of accomplishment that comes with earning a Rose-Hulman degree.

“When I graduated, I felt that if I could succeed at Rose-Hulman, I could succeed anywhere,” says the 1961 mechanical engineering alumnus. “One of the benefits that Rose-Hulman gave me that lasted my whole life was self-confidence. You worked hard and you succeeded in a tough situation.”

Those lessons set the stage for Fenoglio’s successful career. He spent 23 years with General Electric Company, rising to vice president and general manager of the component motors and controls business. He later became CEO of the Barnes Group, a Fortune 500 aerospace components company, as well as president and CEO of Augat, an electrical and electronic components manufacturer.

“At Rose-Hulman, I learned that if you want to succeed, you have to work hard. Nobody is going to give it to you. That’s an attribute you can learn anywhere, but you learn it in spades at Rose-Hulman,” says Fenoglio, who received the Alumni Association’s Honor Alumni Award during this year’s homecoming.

A Terre Haute native, Fenoglio lived at home during his four years at Rose-Hulman. He played baseball, being co-captain in his senior year; was co-editor of the Explorer newspaper; and an active member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. These activities, along with the rigorous coursework, helped develop Fenoglio’s leadership skills, the importance of collaboration, and an engineering approach to problem solving.

“If you look at some problems, they seem insurmountable, and many people don’t know how to start solving them. But what you learn at Rose-Hulman is how to break down a problem into subsets, solve the subsets, and eventually you’ve solved the whole problem,” Fenoglio says.

Fenoglio stepped down this fall after serving four years as chairman of the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustees and 21 years as a trustee. He earned an honorary doctorate in 1987 and helped the institute establish a Strategic Plan that builds upon its past successes.

“Rose-Hulman is a unique college experience: It’s small. It’s personal. It’s a great school,” Fenoglio says. “I know there are other good engineering schools, but they aren’t like Rose-Hulman.”