Frank Tempesta, E ’62, ME ’64
When it comes to cooperative education, it would be hard to find a bigger fan than Frank Tempesta.
Tempesta recently retired as the president and CEO of Textron Systems, the parent company of Avco Corporation, where he started working forty-five years ago as a co-op student. And Tempesta makes sure to give back to the co-op program—at any given time, there are 15 to 20 co-op students working at Textron. “Having been on both ends of it, I think co-op is an absolutely terrific program,” he says.
When Tempesta started at Avco, he specialized in aerothermodynamics—developing heat-shield materials for the Apollo space program and for Cold War intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“The scientists and engineers there were nationally renowned in their fields,” he recalls. “For a young engineer it was like being in a candy store—it was amazing what was going on there.”
Textron Systems is a $2 billion business, one that designs and manufactures products like the armored vehicles used to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Shadow drones used to collect military intelligence, and search-and-rescue Coast Guard boats that can resume operations quickly even after rolling over in “perfect storm” conditions.
Over his years at Textron, Tempesta has noted the distinct advantage co-op gives Northeastern students. “You can really differentiate a graduating student who has co-op experience from one who has academic training only. One is a couple of years ahead, because they have gained valuable experience being immersed in a work environment that you just can’t teach in a classroom.”
Tempesta points out that while co-op students gain important work experience at Textron, they bring something important too. “When you put these students together in teams with much more experienced engineers, they learn at a tremendous rate. And the students are like a spark. They positively impact the culture; it’s an interesting dynamic.”