by Brian Nelson
Assistant Professor, Computer Information Technologies
It was in the late ’90s when I first encountered Kent. He was a student in my fall Linear Applications 1 class. He was just another kid sitting in the back of the classroom sporting the long hair, T-shirt, jeans and grubby tennis shoes ‘look’ that was so prevalent back then. A colleague of mine, Don, remarked about seeing Kent in my class. Don wondered how Kent was doing since when he taught Kent a couple of years back in the high school electronics program, “He was nothing but a screw-off,” Don said. I told Don that surprised me a little since Kent had yet to show any signs of being one.
Kent attended every class and was starting to ask questions during lecture. He nearly aced the midterm. By the end of the semester, he had become one of the best students in the class. His lab reports were exceptional, and when he handed in his final I was interested to see how he fared–again he came close to perfection. The next time I saw Don I reported this to him to which he remarked, “Anything’s possible I guess.”
Christmas break came and went and when Linear Applications 2 began there was Kent with a calculus book! At some point, I asked him about it and he explained that he was taking a Pre-Calc class as he had decided to become an electrical engineer like me. I congratulated him on that and told him that Calc books were going to become his best friends. His work in the classroom continued to be excellent. Don continued to be amazed.
Fast forward 5 or 6 years, and I’m at MSU picking up one of my children after they had taken the SAT. It was graduation day at MSU, and the place was buzzing. The day was a warm spring one, so I stopped and visited one of MSU’s gardens on the way home. While there I heard a voice say, “Mr. Nelson!” I turned and there was Kent in a graduation gown. He thanked me, explaining that he just got his master’s degree in electrical engineering and was trying to decide whether to pursue his PhD or take a job in industry. Certainly our school motto rang true that day. Kent has since become the lead power supply design engineer at MSU’s Cyclotron Laboratory.
Anything is possible I guess.