After Arnold Most graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1964 with one of our early Industrial Engineering degrees, he arrived at powerhouse IBM with many other engineers from the most prestigious universities in the country. At that time, UMass was still trying to establish its reputation and break away from the old Mass Aggie image. Most’s rise through the ranks of the IBM hierarchy during the early days of the semiconductor boom was proof positive that our engineering education had already arrived.
“My UMass education made me very competitive with other engineers when I arrived at IBM, where there were graduates from the most famous engineering schools in the land,” he explains. “I came to IBM at an ideal time, because it gave me an opportunity to get in on the development of the semiconductor at its inception. I was very well-prepared.”
During the next 30 years, while working in IBM facilities in and around the Poughkeepsie, New York, area, Most rose from his original position as an industrial engineer in 1964 to become a development industrial engineer, a project manager for several programs, an advisory industrial engineer, a senior industrial engineer, and a consultant for the IBM Consulting Group, with increasing management responsibility.
Since Big Blue is the world’s fourth largest technology company and second most valuable global brand (after Coca-Cola) with a history dating back to the 19th century, Most’s productive career there makes his UMass education even more rewarding. And yet that wasn’t even the biggest boon he got from his time on campus.
“The main benefit I got out of UMass, actually, was that I met my wife here,” he says. “And I also had a lot of fun.”
The campus, of course, was a far different place in the early sixties than it is now. Most and his twin brother grew up in Greenfield, Massachusetts, along with his older brother.
"All three of us are engineering graduates from UMass," he says, "and went to Greenfield High School."
Like many Massachusetts residents from modest financial backgrounds, Most chose UMass for economic reasons.
“My parents really encouraged us to attend college, but they didn’t have the money to help us,” he says, “so I knew I would be working my way through.”
He and his twin lived at home and commuted together, which really slashed their cost of living, especially since gas in those days was a cool 17 cents per gallon (ahem!). Most worked as a janitor in a dormitory during his spare time and also tutored football and basketball players, “which was really kind of a thrill, because we had very good football and basketball teams. In fact, in my senior year of 1964, our football team was undefeated.”
He remembers there being only two engineering buildings, Marston Hall and Gunness Lab, back then, and he received a well-rounded education in mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering, in addition to his industrial engineering curriculum. He earned his nickname of Sparky, bestowed on him by his classmates in a welding lab, through his gift for creating fireworks in the laboratory, much to the amusement of his lab mates, but not necessarily his professor.
“I really enjoyed my life at UMass,” he remembers. “Of course, I was dating my future wife, so that brought me to campus on the weekends. We also had classes on Saturday morning. Then there was winter carnival, the football and basketball games, and the Military Ball. Every guy had to participate in ROTC for his first two years. On Friday nights, we often had a bonfire and pep rally. The campus was really beautiful then. It was before any of the high-rise buildings went up, and you could see the surrounding countryside in any direction. It was really a pretty setting and a very rich experience.”
One of the things he remembers, which his kids have a hard time believing, is that in those days the women in the non-coed residence halls had a strict curfew. “So every Saturday night, just before the curfew, we’d get stuck in a traffic jam in front of her dorm when I was trying to drop her off,” he says. “There would be a mad dash to get all the dates back on time.”
Most also remembers the town of Amherst with great affection. It was already the kind of charming place that made the area hard to leave. This was long before it was ranked as the best college town in America, when local residents were still trying to keep Amherst’s fatal attraction a secret.
After his graduation in 1964, Most had a number of job offers, but he had his heart set on IBM. “I remember telling my mother,” he exclaims, “if IBM calls, just say yes!”
He doesn’t regret any of his major choices from that era, meaning his wife (first on the list), UMass, or IBM. They all worked together to create a very satisfying and rewarding life. Arnold and his wife now have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren.
“Being an integral part of that key period in history, when IBM was so instrumental in the early development of the semiconductor,” he recalls, “that’s an accomplishment I’m proud to have had as a part of my life.” (September 2010)