The age of automation titans

This past week, I paid a visit to my friend Nels Tyring and his wife Joan in Stratham, New Hampshire. Nels has shared on his blog the fact that he is battling cancer, and he’s shared his real feelings on the subject. Nels is one of the titans who helped to create what we do—who defined what an automation professional is and does. He is commonly considered the father of the discipline of control system integration, and is one of the founders of the CSIA, the Control System Integrators Association. He is also a longtime ISA advocate, as well as a successful system integrator. His company, TVC Systems, is being highly competently run by his daughter Linda while her father recovers from the bouts of radiation and chemotherapy he’s been undergoing. Less well known is the fact that Joan Tyring is also undergoing cancer treatment. “I bet this isn’t exactly the sort of togetherness you signed up for over 50 years ago,” I said to her, and she laughed. John F. Kennedy put his name on a book called “Profiles in Courage” which won the Pulitzer Prize. It later turned out that one of his staffers, Theodore Sorenson, had actually ghostwritten the book. The story of Nels and Joan is a true profile in courage. They are facing this challenge with terrific attitudes. “I’m actually getting kind of excited,” Nels said to me, “because I’m going to get to find out what happens next.” I hope that when I am 77 and fighting for my life, I can say that, and mean it, as Nels did. So what are we going to do with our profession when the titans like Nels are gone? Many of the great names in automation and control are in their 70s now, and won’t be with us forever. Who do we have who can continue to define and create the profession of automation professional?