I lost a good friend on May 27, just as a son lost his father, a wife lost her husband, two parents lost a son, two sisters lost a brother, and North Carolina State University lost a witty and exceptional teacher. Cecil Bozarth III was all of these things, and more.
I first met Cecil when he walked into our tiny doctoral student office on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August, 1988. He pulled up in his U-Haul, (see newspaper clipping), and came over to meet us in our shared office. Mind you, this office was tiny. Anyone who knew Cecil knew that he was anything but a small man. We heard him walking down the hall, whistling Dixie (or maybe a Jimmy Hendrix tune, another favorite), and as he walked in, he reached out and warmly shook my hand, nearly crushing it in his meathooks. His loud, Georgia twang gave away his origin immediately, and upon learning that I was from Calgary, Canada, he immediately began complaining that we had stolen away his hometown NHL team, the Atlanta Hawks. The Canuck jokes started at that moment, and continued for the next 30 years.
Cecil had some odd habits, no doubt. He let everyone know he had a black belt in karate, and was in the habit of practicing karate kicks in the already cramped office, making all of his fellow graduate students a bit nervous. He also began working with Professor William Berry, who had just joined UNC-Chapel Hill from the University of Iowa that semester. Cecil’s dissertation was in the area of manufacturing strategy, and he began applying a marketing statistical tool, conjoint analysis, to the newly emerging area of operations management. He also worked with Terry Hill, one of the gurus of manufacturing strategy from the UK, and was able to imitate his British accent to a tee. As any doctoral student knows, working on a dissertation has its moments of extreme frustration. After a session with Professor Berry, Cecil would enter our office in silence, pick up his desk and throw it against the wall. No words were spoken. Crickets.
Cecil also happened to love cars. Mainly old vintage ones. He first love was his light blue 1967 Ford Mustang, (all original parts). Later in life, he reconstructed a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe, also using original parts! (Both cars were parked out front at Cecil’s funeral, see picture). We heard from many of his car club friends who were at the funeral, how much passion he had for this hobby. There are probably fewer than 50 Zephyrs left anywhere in the world, so just tracking down the parts from all corners of the globe was quite a feat! But the Mustang was his true love. We drove it to Georgia together, and went to visit his parents in Atlanta. I remember that trip well.
After graduate school, I went away to Michigan State for a stint from 1991-1999, and Cecil went down the road to NC State University, joining the emerging College of Management. When he joined what is now the Poole College of Management in 1992, many of the courses were focused on Economics, with very few true management classes being offered. He joined a group of innovators who created a vision for a business school that would provide a broad, industry integrated curriculum with a focus on technology. He urged me to join this team, which I did in 1999. Recognizing that the supply chain curriculum was very sparse at that time, and that we had two strong competing business schools down the road, we both recognized we needed to do something different, something that would leverage the engineering and technology base we enjoyed at State. Together, we hatched the idea of creating the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, formed in 1999. The idea was that the curriculum would leverage partnerships with industry, to ensure that students came to understand the “real world” of supply chains, through an integrated industry practicum project.
The first companies to join were John Deere, Duke Energy, GSK, General Motors, Bechtel, Bayer, and Caterpillar. Many of these companies are still partners today.
What NC State will miss most about Cecil is his role as a teacher, his true passion. He loved to sit and talk to students, and spent hours working on our co-authored textbook to get it just right. One thing he used to say to me was, “We have to teach to kids, who are maybe from a small town or farm in North Carolina or somewhere else, what a supply chain looks like. Most of these kids don’t even know what it means. We have to express it to them in terms that are simple and direct, using examples that students can understand in their world, and encourage them to learn about supply chains by making it real to them.” Our textbook is populated with those examples, and will live on.
Cecil really embodied the vision of “Think and Do” that permeates the Poole College of Management. He lived it. And he did it with a sense of humor that was always quick and witty, and if you weren’t paying attention, his jokes would fly right over your head. Students loved him for many reasons, but his sense of humor was perhaps his most remarkable quality. He was known around the globe. I Skyped with a professor in the UK today who visited Cecil to work on a project last year. Cecil and Andrea invited this stranger into their home to stay for a week! He was very sad, as were many people everywhere, to hear that this dear friend had passed.
This week the Poole College of Management has received pledges to fund the Cecil Bozarth Memorial Scholarship Fund. It is one way that the students who come to NC State will perhaps stop, and think about what Cecil Chester Bozarth III accomplished in laying the foundations for this great college. I’ll miss you Chester (P.S. I know you how you hated that name!)