Raytheon CEO Presents Tuskegee with $25,000 Surprise


“I’m happy to stand here to say Raytheon values its relationship with Tuskegee… Tuskegee University is special.”     – Bill Swanson, CEO Raytheon

TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL − (Thursday, October 2, 2003) − Raytheon’s Chief Executive Officer William A. Swanson is, by his own admission, full of surprises.

"I have a little surprise for Dr. Payton," said Tuskegee University’s second 2003 Executive Lecture Series speaker on Oct. 2. "It’s a check for $25,000."

Swanson thought he’d surprise the University and members of the Raytheon team with the presentation for Tuskegee’s mentoring program. He even offered Tuskegee’s President, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, an apology.

"Sorry to surprise you like that," Swanson told Payton, who quipped, "no, please, surprise me again." With a "great deal of appreciation from Tuskegee University," Payton presented Swanson with a gift following the Raytheon president’s question-answer style address.

Not only was it Swanson’s first trip to Tuskegee, but Tuskegee University is the first university where he has spoken, though he plans to soon address his nephew’s graduating class at his alma mater, California Polytechnic State University.

"The team that interfaces with the University knows it’s special, and they asked me to come here," he added. "As a leader, you judge what is important to the people who work for you … and you learn that you really are in your job as a result of the efforts of others."

Annually, Swanson said, the government and defense electronics company of 77,000 employees hires about 700 graduates. Members of Raytheon’s recruitment team, hoping to snag more Tuskegee talent, took a respite from Tuskegee’s annual Career Fair - that essentially absorbed the rest of the Kellogg Conference Center - to listen to Swanson.

"I’m happy to stand here to say Raytheon values its relationship with Tuskegee," Swanson announced, pointing out that more than 40 Tuskegee University employees, not including interns, are on his staff. "The graduates from here fit very well into our structure because of the foundation that they learned here on campus."

Dr. Legand Burge, dean of Tuskegee’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences and an education panelist on this year’s Raytheon Diversity Forum, was also in attendance. And so were Tuskegee graduates Daniel B. Johnson, ’01 electrical engineering, systems engineer II, Tucson, Ariz., and Gaynelle Swann, ’91, program manager, Precision Engagement, Tucson, Ariz.; and interns Shaemekia White, C.J. Battle, Malia Lake and Charlene Wright.

Wright is a Raytheon regular, having done internships at the Tucson, Ariz., Missile Systems operation in 2002 and 2003.

"The Tuskegee University alumni network out in Tucson is just wonderful and makes you not only comfortable with the company but with the area, as well," the mechanical engineering junior said. "For Tuskegee students to have the chance to experience someone of Mr. Swanson’s caliber really says a lot for us as students and as a university."

After 31 years of service with Raytheon and several years as the company’s first diversity champion, Swanson offered lots of advice for the future graduates and CEOs. Among the litany of success traits he said he either copied or coined over the years were:

  • Learn to say, "I don’t know."
  • Look for what is missing - - many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what isn’t there.
  • Work for a boss to whom you’re comfortable telling it like it is. Remember, you can pick your boss, not your relatives.
  • However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.
  • Don’t be known as a good starter but a poor finisher!
  • Cultivate the habit of "boiling matters down" to the simplest terms
  • Don’t get excited in engineering emergencies - - keep your feet on the ground.

"Remember to thank your professors and return something back to your university if you possibly can," Swanson said after answering questions from the audience in the University’s Kellogg Conference Center. "And remember that the most precious gifts in life are faith, family and friends."

The Tuskegee University Executive Lecture Series launched in February 2003 with P&G President and Chief Executive A.G. Lafley. Future speakers are to be announced. To speak or for more information, contact Tuskegee University’s Office of Marketing and Communications at (334) 724-4553 or 727-8349.

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