Burnett Member Spotlight: Floyd Hillman

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Upon earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (1959), Floyd joined The Boeing Co. in Wichita, Kansas. He had additional postings in Huntsville, AL, working on the Apollo moon mission and Seattle, WA where he retired after 36 years. Floyd’s early years were in Wichita and Hutchinson, Kansas, and the family moved to Lincoln at the start of the seventh grade. Floyd played in dance bands and enlisted in the US Navy Reserve Security Group to help pay his UNL costs.

What was the first job you ever had?

Paper carrier for the Lincoln Journal for about three years starting in the ninth grade.

Best advice anyone ever gave you?

I don’t recall any “That’s It!” moment. However, the contributions of three folks to my experiencing a successful career and life do stand out.  Professor Harper for impressing the need for situational awareness and thinking on your feet when in the laboratory or other transitional situations;  Dean Green for emphasizing the need for continuing education, engineering ethics and professionalism, including obtaining the Professional Engineer certification ( I did); and Professor “Doc” Elliot who demonstrated that humor is possible while learning about all sorts of  life and casualty insurance contracts; knowledge that was very helpful after graduation as I transitioned to an independent adult making prudent decisions regardless of sometimes overzealous agents!

Who is someone from history you’d want to invite to a dinner party if you could and why?
I’ve recently become interested in the ancient civilizations; especially those along the Nile River. And, as an engineer at heart I’d like to invite a chief engineer from the “Pyramid & Temple Design & Construction” organization from about 2600 B.C.

What is the first question you’d ask that guest from history?
Describe the material handling techniques for getting the one- and two-ton limestone and granite blocks from quarry to installation in a pyramid or temple.  Then there would be a hundred more questions — no time to eat!

What is the one song you would be sure to play to set the mood at the dinner party?
Music to set a mood uses timbre, harmonies, and tempo rather than words. So, I’d probably use my big band arrangements of “Sentimental Journey” and “Slow Boat to China” along with ballad selections from the Glenn Miller ballads song book that use his clarinet lead voicing.

What is the question that you like to be asked the most?
Folks who don’t have a technical background that ask why I still approach and analyze things like an engineer; “…You retired from Boeing 20-some years ago.”  My reply is I practiced engineering at Boeing, I was developing as an engineer from grade-school days by reading an old edition of the “Book of Knowledge” encyclopedia during anti-polio afternoon naps and learned many technical things like about 2- and 4-cycle engines; from grade school and on I wanted to be an automobile designer, which led to designing, building, and submitting six cars to the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild competition.  This eventually led to acquiring a 1963 Riviera — a classic car with many lines like my 1954 Fisher Body entry (first state award which paid freshman tuition!)

Why do you plan to leave a gift to the University of Nebraska in your estate?
My parents instilled in me the practice of charitable giving including paying or giving back to those that that enabled me.  The education I received at UNL prepared me, a bottom quartile graduate, so well that I could contribute to the certification of the B-52G my first week at Boeing! The “payback account” was already accruing payback chits. I learned many years ago from the plaque on the Mueller Bell Tower that it was his payback for his free education. As my career and investments increased far beyond my early predictions, I recalled the plaque on the bell tower and decided to include the university in my estate planning to pay off all of my payback chits.

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