Captain Hank Hatch, teaching West Point plebes, c. 1966.
The great Henry Ford once said, “You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again.” At Dawson & Associates, that’s how we feel about our team and it’s especially gratifying when others feel that way too.
Recently, the Society of American Military Engineers unveiled a video featuring Lt. Gen. (Ret) Hank Hatch, who joined us in 2012. In addition to serving as Commanding General and Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hank served as SAME’s president.
As the video notes, one of Hank’s biggest challenges was learning how to teach West Point plebes right after lunch. Here’s Hank in his own words:
“Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to give talks on a variety of topics including sustainable development, strategic planning, partnering between owners and contractors, project management, and capacity building in the developing world. This began while I was on active duty and has continued over the 22 years since my retirement from the Army.
“Occasionally, I’ve been asked how I developed a knack for delivering somewhat stimulating talks – was I trained, did I have the right mentors? I reply with a smile and twinkle in my eye that I learned to inject some level of dynamics, humor, and thought-provoking material combined with good eye contact with the audience while teaching at West Point as a young captain.
“That was a real challenge. My students were ‘plebes’ (freshmen) and my classes were during the first hour after lunch. One has to picture these young cadets encouraged to ‘eat a full and satisfying meal’ by the upperclassmen, climbing to the fifth floor of the mess hall where our classrooms were (they were not allowed to use the elevators) and finally settling into my class.
“They were all more interested in digesting their lunch and relaxing away from harassing senior cadets than focusing on my lecture on one of the two subjects I taught, astronomy and physical geography. Well, so what? I guess it was more my pride than anything else. I did not want to see drooping eyes and unconscious cadets in front of me as I was giving it my all.
“I decided to develop a style that would make falling asleep in my class impossible! That’s when the dynamics (in pace, volume, moving about the room and making eye contact with everyone) came to be a part of it. Adding an unanticipated question from me to an unsuspecting drowsy student and I had a winning combination. Now some 50 years later, I find myself using those same techniques with the added spice of being passionate about my subject.
“Putting that all together can contribute to an engaging experience for the speaker and the audience – I still enjoy it!”
Henry J. Hatch Senior Advisor
Lt. Gen. (Ret) Henry Hatch served as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1988 to 1992. He joined Dawson & Associates in 2012.