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Most people learn about work-life balance when they become adults. For alumnus Gregory F. Milzcik, work-life balance is something he has been perfecting since he was 14 years old.
A native of Chicopee, Mass., Greg grew up in the shadow of Westover Air Force Base. As a youngster, he developed a fascination with the mammoth B-52s roaring out of the base directly above him.
“I can remember how the old J-57 powered B-52s slowly lumbered into the air with such thunderous noise that my grade school teachers would have to stop teaching as the school windows would violently shake,” recounted Greg, one of six children born to working class parents.
Tragically, his parents both died when he was still young, leaving him no time for childhood flights of fancy.
Greg compensated for the loss by developing an independent and determined nature. At 13, he moved in with his older brother, a master mechanic who taught him, “how to bend a wrench.” A year later, to support himself, he took a full-time job at night.
As high school graduation approached, Greg admitted that he had no notion of a career path. His high school guidance counselor affirmed his doubts by advising him that college was probably not a good fit. After testing well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, Greg turned his attention to the U.S. Marine Corps, joining shortly after high school graduation in 1977.
Greg, who is currently the president and chief executive officer at Barnes Group Inc., notes that the skills he acquired in the military continue to be essential in the contemporary business environment. After being discharged from initial active duty, he remained in the USMC reserves and found a position as a machinist.
To complement his growing mechanical expertise, a new thirst was emerging for Greg. He became focused on advancing his education.
“Thomas Edison State University was a perfect solution for me,” said Greg, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree in 1994. “In total, I banked credits from five different colleges to complete my degree.”
While completing his course work at night, he landed a job with General Electric Company and began working on programs involving nuclear reactors, hydro and gas turbines along with servicing a wide range of industrial equipment.
Thriving in the aerospace industry, Greg was rapidly promoted through a succession of positions, from shop foreman, to department manager; and later, to the position of program manager. At the age of 27, he was given his first general manager position, assuming overall responsibility for his business unit’s revenue and costs. As time progressed, he expanded the size and scope of his responsibilities, holding a progression of executive positions for leading aerospace companies, including Lockheed Martin. After leaving Lockheed Martin, he took a series of executive positions at Barnes Group Inc. culminating in his ascent to the position of CEO in 2006.
Greg’s story is a classic example of how education can open opportunities and allow an individual to fulfill their greatest potential. “There are many things that make the United States exceptional,” he noted. “In particular, the opportunity to succeed in education, business and life – opportunities denied to a large segment of the world’s population. I am proof that with hard word and determination you can accomplish anything in America.”