If you spend your free time thinking about the work, how it can be better; if you never seem to go home on time of an evening and you keep getting to work earlier, and in the middle of the night you wake up thinking of some idea that would solve a problem you've been working onĐall that shows you're wrapped up in the work, and that way you can be successful.

If you're not doing those things, you're in the wrong job.

 


Magazine
Fall/Winter 1999

Tom Creigh '33
Chairman emeritus, KN Energy Inc.

What 20th century event had the most significant impact on your profession or field of study? What lesson do you take away from that event?

Near the end of World War II we experienced one of the landmarks in the natural gas energy business.In a sense we'd always had a fuel that was cleaner and easier to use, but we had a heck of a time in the early days competing against coal.

Then World War II came along, the government froze wages, and John Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers, figured out ways to circumvent that with portal-to-portal pay and more medical benefits for the miners. As a result of these additional wages and benefits to coal miners, selling coal got to be more expensive. Suddenly, natural gas was not only the cleanest fuel, but also the cheapest, and that's when our sales really began to take off.

John Lewis wasn't trying to help the gas industry, but I've often said that those of us in the gas business ought to put up a statue to him: he was the best natural gas salesman there ever was.

Personally, what is the most meaningful life lesson you have taken from your vocation or avocation?

I've always enjoyed working on puzzles, and in the working world, you run into all sorts of puzzles: why do you have a personnel problem; how do you move more gas from one place to another without spending too much money; or, how do you get along with this regulatory agency. There's just one puzzle after another, and that, to me, has been fun to work on. All those puzzles have made for a real enjoyable lifeĐand finding solutions for a few of them helps, too. Those puzzles are put before you as a challenge to tempt you to find the answer, if you will, and you get a whole lot of satisfaction if you do.

A second lesson: If you spend your free time thinking about the work, how it can be better; if you never seem to go home on time of an evening and you keep getting to work earlier, and in the middle of the night you wake up thinking of some idea that would solve a problem you've been working onĐall that shows you're wrapped up in the work, and that way you can be successful.

If you're not doing those things, you're in the wrong job.

What person(s) or mentor(s) have had the most significant impact on your life? Can you describe how that person affected your life?

In 1933 when I graduated, jobs weren't exactly growing on every street corner. I thought I wanted to go to a big city and be an investment banker, but didn't find any roads leading that direction back then. I was fortunate to be directed to a dynamo of a person—L.E. Fischer, president of Illinois Power Company, presidentt of Union Electric, presidentt of Iowa Power and Light. He was a marvelous person. He didn't have any children of his own, but when he ran into a person in the field whom he admired, he would find out who his adult children were and try to hire them! I was hired by him and worked with him the rest of his life.

Fischer was a mentor who had a strong impact on me. He taught me to take charge, be informed, and to always look for a better way.

In your experience, what is the greatest misconception the public has about your vocation (or field of study) or the people in that vocation?

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