Larry Leavitt


Professor Manufacturing Engineering Technology 
1984 - 2004

Staff, Faculty and Student stories.

The best part of working at WSU has been the association with the Faculty and Staff.  So many people have been so helpful and friendly.  I cannot possibly give credit to everyone but would like to just mention a few of the fun and amazing events.  I will start out with Roger Anderson because I have mentioned him before.  I first met Roger as he attended one of my classes.  I soon learned that he was soon to retire from the Air Force and was working on his Manufacturing degree in the department.  It did not take long to see just how expansive his knowledge was and how strong his work ethic.  After he retired from the Air Force the department offered him a job helping with all of the technical and equipment needs.  I personally am so grateful that he chose to join the department.  Over the many years that I worked with Roger I never found anything he could not fix, figure out, or do to help me as a teacher.  One of the other faculty jokingly ask him what he knew about shoeing horses.  He said, in all seriousness, not much but I will know more in the morning. Thanks Roger!  

I met Kerry Tobin when he and I were at Brigham Young University working on advanced degrees.  Kerry was an instructor in the MFET department and needed the degree to become a tenured faculty member.  We attended classes together and after a while he asked me if I would be interested in teaching at WSU.   I said no, that I would be going back to work in industry.  In typical “Tobin” fashion, he bugged me until I finally agreed to visit WSU, if he promised not to ask me anymore.  He agreed.   Much to my surprise, when I arrived on the campus, Kerry had arranged for me to not only met the faculty and visit all of the labs; he had also arranged for me to meet with the Dean of the College, Kent Randall.  I was very impressed with everything.  It was very apparent that the learning environment at WSU was very hands on and very technically based.  This was exciting to me since I love “toys”.   I am happy to report that Kerry did not need to bug me anymore because I soon joined the faculty at WSU.  

LaDon Swaner was the secretary in the MFET department when I started working at WSU.  It is safe to say that she ran the department and most of us reported to her for anything we needed.  It would also be safe to say she was “Mom” to all of the faculty.  Always had a big smile and a quick laugh.  The best story I can tell about LaDon was her absolute dislike for black licorice and black jelly beans.  She could not stand the site or smell of them, which made it possible for us to tease her without mercy.  I must also mention that LaDon had a sneeze that could be heard in the entire department.  She would try so hard to stifle her sneezes that she actually broke a rib trying.  When LaDon retired, it was impossible to replace her but all of the secretaries in the department came close to that difficult task.  I am truly grateful for all she did. Thanks, LaDon!  Also, thanks to all of the others, Wendy, Pat and all the rest.

Ginger Hauser was the secretary for the Dean of the college.  Ginger was also much like LaDon in her ability to help and find answers for needy faculty.  For me personally her greatest contribution was helping me complete all of the paperwork needed by the Board of Regents in order to create the four-year degree program in DGET (Design Graphics Engineering Technology).  Very few people will ever know the amount of work Ginger was willing to do on top of her other responsibilities to make the new program possible. This is by no means not all that she did to help me be successful during my time at WSU.  But for me it was the most important. Thanks, Ginger!

I will need to lump all of the faculty members in the department into one big thank you.  Time and paper space will not allow me to acknowledge how much they helped me learn and develop as a teacher.  I hope that someone will be able to add all of the names to this report of everyone that I had the privilege of working with.  I will start the list with the hope that more will be added.  Bob Milner – best machinist I have ever met with no reservations to tell you what he thought.  Kelly Harward – one of the best computer graphics teachers.  Carl Wood – the best engineer in Levi pants and shirt I have ever worked with.  Bob Walentine – Soft spoken, kind and always on an even keel, with a great depth of knowledge.  Rich Orr – another individual with a wealth of knowledge and patience.  Andy Drake – great leader and truly a friend.  Also, a great teacher.  Glen West – helped to develop the engineering courses for DGET.  Roy and Blaine Thornock – Manufacturing instructors.   Ingrid Allen and Meg Leatherbury – Helped to integrate the department with Lady faculty members and to help improve the Architecture and Design Graphics courses.  One last comment about Kerry Tobin – His family let my family live in his house while I looked for a home to rent after I was hired at WSU.  Not many other people would extend an invitation like that.


As much as I enjoyed working with the faculty and staff people on campus, I enjoyed and learned the most from all of the students that I taught and worked with in classes and on Senior Projects.  I never ceased to be amazed at how hard they worked to complete their education and how much they would grow and develop during their education.  I would like to include just a few stories about them.

During one of the basic drafting classes, I would teach sketching techniques.  I would tell the students that they were not to use rulers, strait edges or templates to draw the lines and circles but to just free hand them.  After collecting one of the first sketching assignments, one of the drawings was nearly perfectly done.  I asked the student to come up and talk to me during our lab time and repeated the instructions to just sketch the drawings.  He said that he had just sketched the drawing.  To this I said, the lines were so straight that he had to use a strait edge.  He repeated to me that he had not done that.  So, I ask him to make a simple sketch for me.  I cannot tell you how surprised I was when he made a near perfect drawing.  I asked him where he had learned that kind of skill.  He then told me that he was a certified underwater welder and very fine motor control was needed in that kind of work.  Never again did I question a student’s ability without first asking them what background skills they already had, and I can tell you they came to class with a lot of skills already.  A chance for me to be taught by the students.

I will not give the name of the faculty member who was teaching a hydraulic class in order to protect the innocent.  While teaching the class the instructor referred to male and female connectors that are used in hydraulics.  This is standard industry practice.  After the class was over, one of the students went to Human Resources to report that the instructor had used sexual comments during the class.  This should have been a very amusing event to everyone but turned out to take some explaining to Human Resources.   As an instructor, the students could sometimes really surprise you.  As it turned out everything was OK, but not without causing the instructor a lot of concern.

Senior Projects

Finally, I would like to talk about the Senior Projects that every student was required to take as a capstone class during their Senior year.  I must say that this part of the curriculum, was the most fun.  This was the time that student would apply everything they had learned and what they knew to complete a group design and build project.  I am sure others will explain how much work this was for the students, so I will not try to explain.  What I would like to emphasize is the skills that were shown by the students.  I watch one of the students from an Idaho potato farm build parts for a satellite that would be launched into space.  By the way that same student went to work for Boeing and would later direct a research team of 25 people, with a budget of twenty million dollars, developing new manufacturing processes for the company.  Another student would use TIG welding skills to build a number of bus shelters used on campus as a project.  This student did not learn how to weld with such precision during his short time a WSU.  He had that skill when he started working on his degree but learned all of the other skilled needed to work as a team.  The hallway in the Engineering Technology building is lined with pictures of many of the other Senior Projects that were completed by students in the College.  Each picture has a story similar to the few I have included.  I would like to use a quote by one of the “Lost Boys”, from the movie Peter Pan, to express my thanks to all of the thousands of students I worked with during my time at WSU.  “Now that was a great adventure!”  Thanks to everyone!

(Note:  The following are a few short stories that I remember from working at Weber State University for twenty-five years.  It is impossible for me to include all of the people that I had the privilege of working with and if I fail to include them in my brief accounts it does not mean I don’t cherish their friendship.  I give my permission to edit, remove or change any of my comments as needed to complete requirements of the Department history.  Larry Leavitt)

Computer Graphics Development

The ability to generate drawings and models for design and manufacturing has changed so much over 30 years.  It started by creating drawings on a drafting board and progressed to making three dimensional models on the computer system that could be printed out on wax or plastic machines as prototype models.  These same files could be used to create files that were sent to machining centers to be machined into production parts.  This rapid change meant that the courses being taught were always changing to take into account the changing computer hardware and software.  This included more than fourteen different CAD software programs including AutoCad, Applicon, DOGS (Design Oriented Graphics Software, yes this is a real name.), Anvil 5000, CATIA, Inventor, SolidWorks, ProE Revit, MasterCam, Chief Architech, MaxiCAD, 3DMax and others that are now lost to memory. 

These new software programs could generate production drawing from the computer that could be printed out on large and small printers for manufacturing.  In order to teach this software, the College (at the time called Weber State College) needed to convert some of the class rooms into computer labs with desk top computers and monitors that gave the students a better learning environment.  This also created a problem for the teachers to demonstrate how to use these tools.  Dean Kent Randall (Kent was Dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology) helped the department secure funding to install one of the first, if not the first overhead projectors that was hooked directly to a computer system in a classroom.  It should be noted that this projector cost $25,000 and took Roger Anderson, our technical specialist, two days to focus and adjust.  The instructor had to turn off all of the lights in order for students to see the picture. Now, today every classroom is equipped with a projector that cost $300-$400 and is used by almost all instructors thru out the University.  

Some of the graphic software required very high-end computer systems that cost $15,00 -$30,00 for just one workstation.  This meant that only five or six station were available for student to schedule time on the machines.  But they were able to develop the same skills that were being used by industrial companies.  Boeing Aircraft Corporation used the CATIA software system and worked directly with the department and faculty to provide training.  Faculty were invited to come to the Boeing plants in Seattle and attend the same training as company employees.  Boeing is just one example of the partnerships that the Department had with many companies that helped the faculty teach students and give them the ability to be productive employees when they were hired.  The development of computer labs in the department was an ongoing yearly task.

Some interesting notes:  As the computer labs took up some of the classrooms, this caused a need for more classrooms resulting in some of the faculty coming in on a weekend and removing a wall between two small rooms to create another classroom.  I do not know if we had permission from the campus facilities management and I never did ask, but the classroom is still in use today.  I do know that it was one time when sledge hammers and dirty faces were enjoyed by everyone!  The large computer work stations that were installed in the Technology building required that we install communication from our lab to the campus main computer system.  Working with DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) an Ethernet system was created.  This was the first networking system installed on the campus and would later become part of the campus internet system.  A very steep learning curve for everyone involved.  

Equipment Purchases and Financial Support 

Teaching the latest technology in the department was always a very costly affair but was so necessary so that students could go to work and have the current skills needed.  Our partnership with local companies, efforts of the Dean of the College and Department Chairs, and writing of grants was a major part of this effort.  The following are just a few of the machines that students had access to use:  An Okuma 5-axis industrial machining center that was used to make a number of satellite parts, and parts for Senior Projects.  This machine was also used by one of the local companies to build a prototype for a large Air Force transport plane as part of their bidding process.  It was also used in the advanced machining classes.
A Cincinnati Lathe with power tool holders, was acquired with a large grant from the Cincinnati Corporation.  Again, this machine was a state-of-the-art machine that was used in industry and was used in class courses as well as Senior projects.  I must note again that the installation of these very complex machines fell to Roger Anderson our Technical Specialist.  (More about Roger later.)  Other machines that were purchased included lathes and mills for the basic machining classes, plasma cutters, grinders, large press brakes, CNC punch machines, break presses for forming parts, a 100 ton hydraulic press, a fully functional foundry, laser cutters, plastic injection machines, hydraulic training benches, thermal dynamics testing benches, PLC (Programable Logic Controllers) with work stations, wire EDM (Electronic Discharge Machining) machine, plastic and wax rapid prototype machines, computer inspection machines, a welding lab that is equipped and used by a major welding equipment company for training (Miller Electric), and so many more machines that even I can’t remember them all.  During the 25 years I worked in the MMET department, many of these machines were replaced with new up-to-date machines, always giving the students every opportunity to succeed in the work place.  It has been said that the labs at WSU are one of the best keep secrets in the West.  People from other Universities and school were surprised to find out just how much equipment was available for our use.  Hats off for all the support and work by everyone to create this environment for learning.

October 2021