Spring 1997

The Dawn of a New Global Era

Editor's Note:

In less than four years, atomic clocks around the world will tick off the last few nanoseconds of the 20th century and a new millennium will officially begin. As WPI approaches the cusp of this new era, it faces a host of challenges and opportunities.

For example, the university's project-based undergraduate program, the WPI Plan, continues to provide an outstanding education to talented young men and women interested in all manner of careers. But one of the hallmarks of educational innovation is continual reassessment, and WPI will need to ask itself whether the Plan remains the best approach for preparing students for the challenges of today's world. In addition, the next few years may provide an opportunity for the university, at last, to gain the national and international recognition it merits for the unique approach to the technological education it pioneered.

The university must also evaluate the social and learning environment it provides its students. Does that environment offer enough in the way of intellectual stimulation, a feeling of community, an appreciation for diversity? WPI must come to terms with how to make use of the dizzying array of new computer and communications technologies to enhance the way it delivers an education to students. It must decide what kinds of academic programs - new and old - will best meet the needs of its students in the decades ahead. And, it must determine how it can best reach out to the world of pre-college education to excite and motivate future generations of technological professionals.

This winter, WPI's Strategic Planning Steering Committee, aided by 13 task forces - more than 60 faculty and staff members and students, all told - worked to draft a new vision for WPI and a set of goals and strategies to help the university realize that vision. Along the way, it addressed these and many other issues that will face WPI in the years ahead. Its report, expected to be approved by the Board of Trustees in May, will36 set the foundation for a new capital campaign.

In this issue, we begin a series of articles that will explore some of these same issues, challenges and opportunities. Our first topic is global technological education. Today, WPI offers students the chance to complete professional-level projects at sites around the world. From these they gain an appreciation for other cultures, develop a new set of personal and social skills, and come back to campus with an enormous sense of self-confidence - qualities that will become ever more important in a truly global marketplace.

With each revolution, the world gets smaller

Computer networks and communication satellites now link professionals at the far corners of the world in real time, enabling products to be routinely designed, built and marketed by multinational, cross-cultural teams. As the daily activities of business and industry are played out more and more on this global stage, engineers, scientists and managers must be prepared to work with people in other lands and other cultures. And companies of every size and shape will find that their success depends on their ability to navigate the complex and highly competitive global marketplace. In this rapidly shrinking, technologically sophisticated and increasingly interconnected world, a global perspective is no longer an option for technological professionals - it is an imperative.

Surprisingly, most technological universities today fail to give their students this critical edge. The exception is WPI. Over the past 25 years, the nation's third oldest private technological university has pioneered global education for technically oriented professionals. Its Global Perspective Program enables undergraduates majoring in engineering, science, management and the liberal arts to experience, firsthand, other cultures and other ways of doing business. When they travel to WPI centers around the globe, they go as working professionals to do urgently needed projects sponsored by international corporations and organizations. "No other university in the nation offers its students this opportunity," notes Hossein Hakim, chair of WPI's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division. "That's why WPI is widely regarded as the undisputed leader in global technological education."

In his talk at WPI's Workshop on Internationalizing Science and Engineering Education in 1992, Ronald L. Zarrella '71, now vice president and group executive, North American sales, service and marketing, for General Motors Corporation, said, "WPI is uniquely positioned to provide national leadership in global science and engineering education." The seeds of the university's Global Perspective Program were planted a quarter century ago with the creation of the WPI Plan. The Plan's unique structure and required projects have proven extremely well-suited to preparing students for the challenges of technological careers. They also provide an ideal framework for a global education program.

Currently, most of the projects completed overseas are Interactive Qualifying Projects. Quite often, the problems that off-campus project sponsors seek to solve require solutions that cross the boundaries between science, technology and the social sciences, making them ideal topics for multidisciplinary IQP teams. Increasingly, students are also tackling the Major Qualifying Project - the capstone experience in a student's major field - at off-campus residential sites. WPI has a long history of offering students the opportunity to complete MQPs that are sponsored by local industry. And in recent years, residential MQP programs in Ireland, India and Puerto Rico have been developed in collaboration with a number of corporations in those locations. Next fall, WPI will open a new residential MQP center at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Goddard has a wide range of specialized facilities and equipment it uses to fulfill its mission of developing satellites and other equipment for scientific investigations in space and maintaining spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks.

Both the IQP and the MQP are typically completed by small teams of students, and each is equivalent in credit to three courses. These significant projects teach students to set and achieve ambitious goals. Because the undergraduate program revolves around these projects, WPI divides its academic year into four seven-week terms (proven to be an ideal span of time for completing a project). These two basic elements - qualifying projects and seven-week terms - along with the flexibility of the WPI curriculum, enable WPI to provide a wide range of opportunities for students to complete project work at remote sites.

Recent examples of how WPI faculty and students have taken advantage of that flexibility include a number of seven-week humanities projects that have been completed in London. In 1994, Edmund Hayes, professor of English, advised students who completed projects in theater. In 1995, Frederick Bianchi, professor of music (see page 4), worked with students completing projects in music. This winter, students completed projects in theater technology with advisor Susan Vick, professor of drama/theater.

WPI opened its first global project center in Washington, D.C., in 1974, and its first overseas center in London in 1987. Currently, the university maintains a global network of project sites that spans four continents. Each year, more than 200 students travel to these sites to complete IQPs, MQPs and humanities projects. The projects are often sponsored by corporations, government and social service agencies, professional organizations, museums and other local, national and international groups.

WPI's global program is the most extensive of any technological university in the country. No other university offers global opportunities in as many nations as WPI. And no other university sends more engineering students overseas. The Institute of International Education reported that in 1993-94, 76,000 U.S. students studied abroad. Of these, only 1,100 were engineering students. That same year, 180 of WPI's engineering students - over 15 percent of the U.S. total - worked on projects in other countries. Next in line, with 80 students, was the University of Illinois, Urbana, whose College of Engineering has about 5,500 undergraduates.

But WPI's advantage goes beyond sheer numbers. Says Hakim, "The content of the international experience WPI students receive is also pedagogically very innovative." As the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in August 1995, the university's students receive "an international experience unlike any other."

"WPI believes that the best way for students to understand and appreciate other cultures is to experience them firsthand," Hakim says. "Completing a professional-level project overseas enables students to experience the reality of living and working in another country with an intimacy and power that no course or textbook can provide. It also immerses a student in another culture more completely - and far more effectively - than simply taking courses at another university, which is the approach taken by most technological universities that send students abroad."

To complete their work, student teams must learn how businesses work in another culture, how people communicate, how one finds information, how one gets around, and how one negotiates the challenges of daily life. WPI student teams are expected to successfully complete their projects and present their results before heading home. It is a trial-by-fire experience that demands much of these young men and women, but it delivers much in return.

Hakim says that WPI students who have completed projects through the Global Perspective Program report that their international experience

  • makes them appreciate how an understanding of other cultures will contribute to their success as working professionals.

  • gives them confidence that they can successfully live and work anywhere in the world that their jobs may take them.

  • profoundly changes and enriches their perspective on the world and its people.

  • The success of the Global Perspective Program depends on a variety of supporting programs back home. For example, WPI offers courses of study in German and Spanish, and through the Colleges of Worcester Consortium students have access to instruction in many other languages. WPI also prepares students for their international project work through on-campus seminars and cultural programs, internationally oriented courses, and preliminary project work. WPI supports its many faculty members who serve as on-site project advisors and global project center directors with a faculty development program, and WPI maintains close contact with dozens of professionals and academics who serve as advisors and liaisons at project center sites.

    The participation and support of global project sponsors are also crucial to the ongoing success and growth of the Global Perspective Program. Many of these sponsors have provided project opportunities for WPI students on an ongoing basis; some have been sponsoring projects continually for as long as two decades. Sponsors receive creative solutions to real problems from third- and fourth-year students with a fresh point of view. Perhaps most important, they gain the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping prepare a new generation of technological professionals who can thrive in the global marketplace.

    As successful as WPI's Global Perspective Program has been, there are opportunities to strengthen it in the decade ahead and assure that the university retains its leadership in this critical area of technological higher education. That was the conclusion of the Task Force on Global Opportunities, one of the 13 reporting to WPI's Strategic Planning Steering Committee. In its final report, issued as the Journal was preparing to go to press, the task force concluded that instilling a global awareness into WPI's students and faculty "is the single most important change necessary to achieve" the university's strategic vision.

    The report recommended that WPI strive to remove the barriers (the cost of studying off campus, lack of clear information about global programs, and scheduling conflicts) that keep more students from taking advantage of global opportunities; invest more time and money in helping the faculty develop a global perspective; and work hard to integrate global issues and content throughout the university's curriculum.

    Key to these and a number of other recommendations, the report says, will be the investment of significant funds. The task force recommended the creation of a $20 million endowment to enable all WPI students to have the opportunity to complete their projects at residential sites around the world, regardless of their financial situation. Other suggestions included a $1 million endowment for faculty development, investments of $100,000 each in two strategically chosen overseas project centers, and funds to recruit and hire faculty members with the background and interests to help bolster the Global Perspective Program. The task force strongly recommended that the university's Global Perspective Program be a major focus of the upcoming WPI capital campaign. "This is WPI's clearest opportunity to make a name for itself, and to articulate to the world (and to ourselves!) what our educational values and mission are," the report said.

    You can find out more about WPI's global academic programs at the web site maintained by the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division. The URL is http://www.wpi.edu/~igsd/.

    Michael Dorsey

    Editor's Note: With the following two stories we continue our coverage of WPI's Global Perspective Program by taking you to England to learn about the experiences of student teams who completed projects at WPI's London Project Center in the fall of 1995 and to meet an alumnus who sponsored one of those projects. The London Project Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, was the first of the university's overseas project centers; it is the model for the wide array of international project sites that have followed. So in a real sense, in 1997 WPI will celebrate the end of the first decade of its highly successful global project program, an initiative that is likely to be a critical element of the WPI of the 21st century.

    Seven Weeks in the Real World

    The novelty of big-city life lured Jennifer Roy '97 to London in the fall of 1995. But when the mechanical engineering major stopped a would-be pickpocket in his tracks, she knew she wasn't a small-town girl anymore. She foiled a robbery attempt when the escaping thief tried to push her turnstile the wrong way in an Underground train station. He didn't get far.

    Roy and 12 classmates got a taste of life in a foreign city as residents - not tourists - while working at WPI's London Project Center. They lived in central London flats, jostled with the straphangers on trains and buses, and put in long hours. They collaborated with British colleagues in a warren of museum back rooms, in the laboratory of a visually impaired man, in industrial offices in a low-income neighborhood, and in a grand Victorian building overlooking the Thames.

    In diverse settings like these, WPI student teams act as consultants for the organizations that sponsor their projects and are expected to produce professional-level work. The students dive into their research. Within seven weeks they surface with concrete solutions and specific recommendations embodied in a final report and presentation.

    Their work also fulfills a major degree requirement under the project-based WPI Plan: most of the students who go abroad do so to complete their Interactive Qualifying Projects, though students have gone to London to work on Major Qualifying Projects and humanities and arts projects, as well. The IQP requires students to apply technological skills to understand and solve a problem with social and ethical implications.

    During a recent term in London, WPI students completed an IQP for the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) that identified ways to reduce Britain's world trade deficit; designed an exhibit on power semiconductors for the Science Museum; analyzed software and hardware for visually impaired computer users in a project sponsored by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB); and evaluated employment and training for the disabled at the nonprofit organization OUTSET.

    The students say the transition to the working world was a revelation. "It's nothing like taking classes," says electrical engineering major Sahal Laher '97. "Everything is a lot more professional." Notes Christine Manganis '97, an electrical engineering major and member of the RNIB team, "It was good to be able to do a project that doesn't simply fulfill a degree requirement. This could really help people."

    Demands of the working world differed from the pressures of WPI. Aerospace engineering major Aaron Newman '97 spent many long days on the RNIB project. "It's a lot more work than a comparable three courses at WPI," he says, but adds, "our IQP accomplished something."

    Between 15,000 and 30,000 British citizens are visually impaired and could be computer users given appropriate access, Newman says. His group worked in North London, in an old laboratory at the home of Angus McKenzie, a visually impaired retired radio engineer with a colorful past. During the Falklands War, McKenzie created decoy military broadcasts. And he once solved a murder by pinpointing a person's accent and location from an audiotape. He and several friends helped the WPI group test various software packages with different screen readers.

    Despite careful planning, the real world often presents unforeseen challenges that require ingenuity and compromise to complete projects within seven weeks. Not everything went smoothly for the WPI students in the fall of 1995. Plans changed; projects evolved. Two project teams wanted to carry out surveys and found they couldn't locate or attract enough participants to create statistically meaningful results. They reported on qualitative information instead. Another group had difficulty persuading senior executives in a particular industry to speak with them to gather information. Government agencies helped fill in the gaps. And one project almost foundered when its sponsor went out of business and all the students' contacts left the organization. But the parent organization took over and the new liaison proved helpful.

    The students generally took the changes in stride. "There are always things to overcome," says Laher. Evaluating employment training and placement for the disabled at OUTSET was a great experience, he says, and helped him make many useful contacts. A native of Zimbabwe, Laher had visited England many times and was partly educated there. But it was during this trip that he developed his clearest understanding of British culture. What made the difference, he says, was "working with professionals - the people who are out there and know what makes the British economy tick." He hopes to return to the United Kingdom to work after graduation.

    While WPI's real-world projects presented a challenging pace, Laher says he relished "having a chance to get away from the WPI classroom intensity." In London, he found an outlet in playing soccer. He traveled across the UK as a team member of the Hurlingham Park Wanderers, a semiprofessional soccer club. "I had a good season with them," he says modestly, having scored 10 goals in 12 games.

    Other students spent their free time in more traditional pursuits, including supporting the local pub and Indian restaurant (the only establishments open after office hours in their financial neighborhood). They also ventured further afield to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Edinburgh, Wales and Ireland.

    "Edinburgh has this really neat mix of architecture," says Newman with enthusiasm. "But the weather was the worst part," adds Roy, who studied Britain's travel and tourism industry for her team's IEE report. Before Newman arrived in London, his only foreign travel had been to Canada. Although he wanted a change from Worcester, his foreign language skills were poor. London seemed ideal.

    Top, from left, Deborah Thurston '97, Jennifer Kelly '97, Sahal Laher '97 and Jeremy Olszewski '97 during their visit to Windsor Castle. Bottom, Kelly and Laher at work on their project that evaluated employment and training for the disabled at the London nonprofit organization Outset.

    "Well, actually," he says with a grin, "you do have to learn another language - British! They have the same words, but for different things." When someone gave him directions that included a "pelican crossing" (a pedestrian road crossing marked by yellow globes), he knew he was far from Worcester.

    Language lessons aside, WPI students come to Britain well-prepared. In the term before they arrive, student teams complete a preliminary qualifying project (PQP) to identify the problem they will tackle and its impact on the sponsoring organization. Through research and personal interviews, they gather data on the topic to see how similar issues have been addressed in the U.S. The result is a proposal that serves as the contract between the team of students and the sponsoring organization.

    As interdisciplinary projects, the IQPs that students complete usually stretch them beyond their major discipline. The London projects are no exception. Newman's group had to install a computer screen reader that required programming additional hardware - and no one on the project team was a computer science major. Numerous trans-Atlantic calls for technical support got them their answers.

    Before working with the Science Museum team, mechanical engineering major Ben Demicco '97 hadn't come across power semiconductors in his course work. Neither had his teammates, so they tracked down a professor in London who was an expert on the subject and arranged a tutorial. They also visited a factory that produces the devices, and a power station that uses them to convert power received from France.

    "We expect students to have the basis for undertaking the project and do a competent job, not be experts," says faculty advisor and former London Project Center director R. James Duckworth, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who traveled with the students to London. "They need to be familiar enough with the field to explain it to generalists and nonengineers."

    By the time students make their final presentations, however, they feel like experts. And after weekly drill sessions, they've also been trained to give expert presentations (without notes) for their host institutions and invited guests. "Most universities wouldn't expect students to perform this way," says Duckworth. "Here, they are given a challenging project that they have to solve using a variety of resources." By the end of the project, he adds, "they've done professional-level work, and WPI has given them these skills." More than 400 students have participated in the London Project Center since its inception in 1987. Twice as many students apply to work on London projects than there are slots available.

    The organizations that sponsor WPI projects are "getting very good value for their investment of time and effort," says Duckworth. They provide office space and support services for the students, plus travel money if the project takes them out of central London. Student findings often raise controversial subjects that internal reports might gloss over, and the question-and-answer sessions at final presentations can be quite lively.

    "If an organization didn't think it would be useful, would it spend its time and money on WPI students?" Duckworth wonders. The growing number of organizations that ask to take on additional WPI projects demonstrates that they value the students' work.

    And more WPI students are eager to travel overseas, take on a big city, and tackle real-world problems. "As we get into the next century, it will be a necessity to have a global perspective," Laher says. "There's so much going on between companies all over the world. We need to understand what other countries do."

    Allison Chisolm

    "Somebody Has To Help"

    Last winter, Henry Strage '54 found an unexpected visitor in the conservatory of his home in the heart of London's Holland Park neighborhood. A wisteria vine growing up the side of the house had found a space between the wooden frames of his window and, simply following its natural course, had pushed its way inside.

    Much like this determined vine, Strage doesn't let conventional expectations interfere with the direction he wants to grow. Now retired, he could simply play with his seven grandchildren, work on his wooden model of the H.M.S. Victory, or potter about his darkroom. But for Strage, "retirement" is merely a euphemism for "next career," one that often takes him out of his conservatory and around the world as a philanthropist, management consultant and teacher.

    It wasn't difficult for Strage to adjust to early retirement in 1991 from his position as director of the London office of management consultants McKinsey & Co. Inc. "It took about a week to adjust to my new life pace," he says. "My blood pressure has dropped 30 percent."

    Henry Strage in Israel at a square honoring his many contributions to the nation.

    Though many retired management consultants take on occasional teaching or consulting assignments, few devote as much of their skills, time and energy to causes they feel as strongly about as Strage does. He teaches and accepts consulting clients, but he also spends at least a third of his time working for organizations that help those often overlooked or ignored: the disabled in developing countries, residents of an impoverished Israeli city, students seeking further education. "I feel very strongly that somebody has to help," he says, "and I'm grateful that I have the capacity to do so."

    WPI has benefited from Strage's help in a number of ways. In recent years, his support has gone to WPI's Global Perspective Program. He funded several Interactive Qualifying Projects at the London and Bangkok project centers, which helped bring the expertise and energy of WPI undergraduates to bear on problems posed by such nonprofit organizations as Britain's Royal National Institute for the Blind. One student team recently evaluated computer software and hardware for blind computer users (see previous story). With Strage's gift, WPI purchased the personal computers and the software packages.

    "The students are interested in nonprofit work, the institutions are profoundly grateful, and the impact is potentially great," Strage says. He hopes other alumni will agree to support more of these international projects. He says he hopes to attract other donors to fund projects aimed at helping the 10 percent of the world's population that is disabled.

    Strage's interest in applying WPI student skills to nonprofit organizations reflects his own experiences with the Inter-Action Trust. Founded in 1969, the trust provides professional advice on organization, structure and management tactics to hundreds of charitable organizations throughout Britain. Advising charities, however, can be frustrating. "They're doubly disadvantaged," says Strage. "They have to beg for money, and they operate without a corporate structure, management or adequate resources. These charities need help as much as any Fortune 500 company."

    In 1986 Strage and his wife set up their own charity, the Alberta and Henry Strage Foundation, to provide seed money to organizations for projects designed to generate gifts from others, and to involve their children in the notion of giving. "In the charity world, there's a lot of money looking for good ideas," he said. He hopes his foundation will find some.

    In addition to receiving his philanthropy, several charities benefit from Strage's counsel and leadership skills. He chairs the executive committee of the International Disability Foundation (IDF) in Geneva, established in 1992 by former secretary general of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar. With its center near the Swiss border in Ferney-Voltaire, IDF serves as a clearinghouse for training, communications and resource support for some 60 global disability organizations, representing the blind, deaf, mentally and physically handicapped, and war victims.

    "Here is an international problem that the world always seems to find excuses not to address," Strage says. "If you're mentally handicapped in Bosnia or blind in Burundi, you're out of luck." IDF pools professional assistance that can help identify needs and manage projects with simple, locally based solutions. For example, Strage says, "There's a shortage of three million wheelchairs in Pakistan. While they cost $3,000 to $4,000 in the U.S., we set out to design a solid, usable wheelchair with a price under $100."

    He sees wheelchair production as the basis of a new, small-scale industry for Pakistan. Six prototypes are in the test stage in Gaza, Palestine. While even the lowest price represents a large portion of a typical Pakistani's income, Strage remains hopeful another philanthropist will step in to create a fund that will enable users to lease the chairs for a small monthly payment.

    Strage has plenty of experience combating poverty on many fronts. For nearly 20 years, he has run an urban renewal program for the city of Ashkelon in Israel. Responding to a worldwide call (code-named Project Renewal) from the late prime minister Menachem Begin to help fight poverty in Israel, Strage oversees projects linking the Jewish community in Great Britain and Ashkelon, a city today of 100,000 people. Each year, hundreds of British volunteers have undertaken hundreds of projects that respond to a broad range of social and economic needs. As one example, British dentists make annual visits to work in a new dental clinic. The breadth of volunteer activities appears to have made a difference as Ashkelon's crime rate and jobless numbers decline.

    Strage also chairs the Balfour Diamond Jubilee Trust, a London cultural institution whose monthly events feature authors speaking on Israel or Jewish topics. Last year they collaborated with the British Council to finance a UK/Israel student fellowship program. Several students have already benefited.

    Strage's family history offers clear reasons for his abiding interest in projects involving Israel and his Jewish heritage. His parents fled revolutionary Russia for China, but in 1930 another revolution forced them to Brussels, Belgium. By 1941 Hitler's march across Europe made them refugees once again. They came to New York City when Strage was seven.

    He became a U.S. citizen, attended Bronx High School of Science, and came to WPI on an athletic grant. A chemical engineer who later earned an M.B.A., he moved into management consulting in 1962. For the next 30 years, he advised chemical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies on how best to manage their businesses. But none of this work made the list of career highlights he wrote for the yearbook the Class of 1954 prepared for its 40th reunion. Instead, Stage named the national and multinational public sector institutions he's helped, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, along with the honorary degree he received from WPI in 1990.

    While his work has brought him great satisfaction, Strage says his family has always come first. "I can count on two hands the number of nights I missed dinner with my family," he says. His two sons and two daughters expected him to attend school functions, as well. Strage admits he brought a lot of work home.

    Retirement beckoned when the work felt stale. "After doing my statutory 30 years, I retired because I thought nothing different would happen in the next five or six years," he says. This from a man whose work helped restructure the government of Tanzania, who undertook the first comprehensive review of Britain's National Health Service, and who found ways for the United Nations World Food Program to keep 80 million people alive.

    As he considered his decision to take early retirement, Strage knew there were many directions he could go. A client offered some sound advice: "Tell people you're retiring, and see what happens."

    After leaving McKinsey, he published a book, Milestones in Management, that has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. With his son Geoffrey '85, he invented The Selector, an interactive touch-screen computer system they sold to Sega Enterprises.

    What happened, Strage discovered with genuine surprise and delight, was that "people were really interested in what I had to say as an individual and not as someone with McKinsey branded on my forehead."

    His phone started to ring. The callers generally fell into three categories: those seeking Strage's assistance for their charities, those hoping to have him teach management courses, and those seeking his expertise for their companies. Strage now runs what he calls a "virtual" consulting firm that links a network of experts with assignments they tackle together by phone, fax and electronic mail, often from Strage's homes in England, Switzerland and France.

    "Without being clever about anticipating the niche, I suddenly have a very interesting consulting practice of my own," he says. When clients hire H.M. Strage & Associates, they benefit from a customized team of expert consulting firms like McKinsey & Associates.

    But McKinsey was far from a large firm in London when Strage arrived there in 1962 for what he thought would be a six-month assignment. Back then, he had just 10 colleagues; 30 years on, McKinsey in London employs 400. In his virtual consulting firm, Strage says, "I only work with people I know." And that network keeps growing.

    "Out in the world beyond McKinsey," he says, "there are lots of interesting people available - retired or otherwise." A team of five in Rome recently helped Strage with a World Food Program project. Other challenges he's faced include evaluating the purchase of an Italian company (while he speaks French and Russian, he doesn't speak Italian and found a friend to help), and advising on a petrochemical deal in China. He's even consulted for a consulting firm, checking on its growth and development strategy.

    He is also active with financial institutions.

    Strage's broad experience in the corporate world certainly qualifies him to teach in any business school. "One has a certain authority after being in the thick of it for 30 years," he says. "I didn't need case studies; I had my own." In 1972 he teamed up with professors from Harvard and Hebrew University to found the Jerusalem Institute of Management, where he still lectures senior executives. He has taught at several joint management institutes, including the University of Rochester and Swiss University at Berne; Georgetown and Wharton (in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia); Harvard and IMEDE (a renowned international business school in Geneva); and the Plenchoff Institute in Moscow.

    "I guess I am a little bit of a ham," confesses Strage. In class discussions, he says, "I quite like the interplay. I love to choose someone who's been quiet for the first half-hour and get them to run the rest of the class."

    He's also trying out a new career as a playwright. His subject? Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, who once lived in Strage's house. With a working title of Beneath This Roof, the play features what Strage refers to as the "curious juxtapositions" of such characters as Weizmann, Winston Churchill and British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration of Britain's support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. "This is a great challenge for me," he says. "It may never be produced on Broadway or in the West End, but someone has already bought the rights for Israel."

    Strage seems bemused by the variety of his "post-retirement" work, but he takes it all in stride. "My father used to say you should plan your life in 25-year chunks - use the first 25 to prepare for the next 25, and then spend 25 years looking for peace and quiet." In a London conservatory graced by a tenacious wisteria vine, Strage has found some peace - until the next phone call.

    Allison Chisolm

    Allison Chisolm is a freelance writer living in Worcester. Her articles have frequently appeared in the Journal.

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