One That Got Away
Well, every winner except for Derrick Redding’91.
Redding received the Blue Skies Award during the 1991 Commencement ceremony, although the official record of his victory was somehow lost to history.
When the magazine approached him about the omission, Redding, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., responded with a sense of humor, which—along with a print of a hot air balloon by New Yorker cartoonist Warren Miller’60—unites Blue Skies alumni.
“The Ann Arbor police discovered that I had one of these Warren Miller prints and noticed that the 1991 edition was never issued, per the latest Beloit magazine,” he wrote by email. “Since I couldn’t provide a certificate of authenticity for the Warren Miller print … the Ann Arbor police determined that my print was stolen. I need to confirm that Beloit College will be dropping the charges the Ann Arbor police filed against me for possession of stolen art work.”
When Redding isn’t eluding the art police, he’s president of EG TranSpire, an auto parts manufacturer, originally responsible for developing plastic wheel covers. Over the years, he’s also worked for Johnson Controls and Toyota, in both the United States and Japan. While on the Associated Colleges of the Midwest’s Urban Studies semester in Chicago, Redding worked with the Japan Machinery Federation, which eventually led him to apply for and earn a spot teaching in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.
Redding’s interest in manufacturing actually began at Beloit. He sought out Professor of Economics and Business Les McAllister, who recommended economist Lester Thurow’s book, Zero-Sum Solution. The book opened his eyes to the importance of manufacturing and led him to his double major. “I studied physics so I could have an engineering background and economics for the business background,” he says.
There was an added benefit to majoring in physics at the time. Redding recalls being the sole physics major in the class of 1991. His professors gave him the chance to zone in on what interested him. There was an opportunity cost though, he says: “I couldn’t miss class.”
Later, a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago and a master’s in engineering from MIT fulfilled what he began at Beloit.
As a Beloit student, Redding played basketball and was active in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and student government. He also played a role in easing the student body’s transition to a 21 and older drinking age by joining a small group of students tasked with facilitating more on-campus events and concerts—Students Looking Out For A Better Social Life. But, like any group, it needed an acronym. “As a joke I threw out ‘SLOBS,’ and unfortunately the name just stuck,” he says.
That sort of quick thinking remains a key part of Redding’s life. “I spend about 20 percent of my time on innovation,” he says, “But you can’t innovate unless you know how to handle different pieces: engineering, testing, earning customer approval, and, finally how to build it.”
Clearly, this manufacturing executive with a passion for making things has made something of himself.