What follows is the question-and-answer session with three generations of ASHRAE members — Edwin, Rick, and Robert Kennedy. Edwin, age 82, is retired from General Electric and The Trane Company and is currently a consulting engineer for Air Rover Inc. Edwin’s son, Rick, age 53, is a senior account executive at Alfa Laval, Inc. (Richmond, VA). Rick’s son, Robert, age 25, is a sales engineer with CMS-USA (Atlanta, GA).

Q. How long have you been in the hvacr industry? Please provide a rundown of your career to date, identifying where you have worked in the hvacr industry and what you did at these places.

EDWIN: “Since my days in high school I always knew I wanted to be an engineer. I attended Newark College of Engineering where I earned a BSME in 1942. As the war was winding down in 1945, I thought I would like to design steam turbine, and applied to General Electric (GE) for work.

“They started me on the Test Engineers Program, and my first assignment was in the Air Conditioning Department. I liked what I saw and decided it was the business I wanted to stay in. After 39-plus years, I retired from GE/Trane in 1984. I was fortunate to see the Air Conditioning business grow into what it is today. There were times with our many problems with compressors failure I wondered if we would succeed.”

RICK: “I have been in the hvac industry since 1972. I started with GE Central Air Conditioning in a two-year training program at Appliance Park, Louisville, KY. During my last six months in Louisville, I was an instruction for the CAC Institute, traveling to the GE zone offices, teaching our dealers about sizing and installation of GE equipment.

“During 1974, I worked for GE in Chicago as a salesman, selling to our dealers in Illinois. I joined Powers Regulator, a controls company, in 1975, and was transferred to Atlanta, GA. There I was a contract salesman for new building construction.

“In 1977 I joined Robertshaw Controls Company as service manager. I managed the service department and sales force.

“In 1980 I joined Johnson Controls as a district salesman. I worked for Johnson for 15 years. During this time I was top salesman three years, earning the ‘Inner Circle Ring’ and two diamonds. “My most memorable sale at Johnson was selling Delta and American Airlines on a solution to maintain temperature while a jet was in the gateway. If you notice, on every Delta and American jet, there is a Johnson thermostat on the bulkhead, next to the exit door. Since this thermostat is in the jet, it is always sensing cabin temperature. Originally, they had a sensor that hung in the jet way and was put in the jet when it arrived. By the time this sensor stabilized, the jet was ready to leave. It never maintained a comfort level in the jet. Now when the jet arrives at the gateway, the sensor wire is connected to this thermostat so the external a/c system can cool/heat the cabin.

“After installation of all these thermostats, JCI people started asking questions about who had sold this ‘free advertising’ job. JCI ended up doing an article in their in-house newsletter.

“In 1994 I joined Alfa Laval as a senior account executive, selling brazed and-plate-and-frame heat exchangers to the hvacr industry.

“My biggest job with Alfa Laval has been helping in the design, testing, and selling of the Alfa Laval AC250 brazed heat exchanger in the K-mart secondary loop system for their refrigeration racks in their super stores.”

ROBERT: “I am the newest to the hvac industry in the family. I started my current position with CMS-USA almost a year ago now. Before then I had been doing sales for the telecommunication industry. Moving into hvac industry was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

“I remember years ago asking my father how he got a job as fun and interesting as his. The day I left for training with CMS he said that I now had one as well. There is a lot to live up to in this family and I am anxious to get started trying to make them proud.

“I am a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. During school, I worked in sales for Best Buy, which is where I got a lot of my sales experience. After I got my degree, I took a job doing telecommunication sales for a company called Nettel. About seven months into the job, the company went bankrupt and I was forced to find a new job. It was about this time that I got the offer to train for this company, CMS. I was very excited to be moving into the industry that my father and grandfather have been part of for so long. I spent the last eight months in Italy training to be the sales rep. for the U.S. market.”

Q. Did you influence your son to get into the industry? If not, why not? If yes, why?

EDWIN: “I tried to get Rick into engineering, but after one year he decided marketing was his interest. I pushed him hard to join GE in air conditioning sales. Although he was a top salesman for GE, he got caught in the 1970s slow down and was laid off. The rest is history.”

RICK: “I definitely influenced my son, Robert, to go into the hvac industry. A very good friend of mine, Paolo Olivieri, owns a coil machinery company in Alonti, Italy — CMS. Although CMS sold in the U.S., they wanted a bigger presence here and they asked me to help incorporated CMS-USA.

“During the ASHRAE show in Atlanta two years ago, Paolo, my deceased wife, Christel, and myself convinced Robert that joining CMS-USA would be a good career move and that we might eventually start a family business, once a plant was built in the U.S.

“My youngest son, Chris, also wants to join CMS-USA after he graduates from the University of Georgia. Although Christel died this past year, her dream was for ‘her boys’ to work together in this industry.

“On a personal note, I have always thought of my dad as the smartest engineer alive. He was very influential in my deciding to join GE. Since he was and is well respected in the industry, I felt I had to do an exceptional job — to keep the good name going.

Q. What do you like about this industry? Are you proud of the fact that each has stepped into this industry? Why? What does it offer you?

EDWIN: “The thing I like most about this industry is the challenges we faced. While with GE, I worked on gas and oil-fired equipment, fuel coolers for the Air Force, drinking water coolers, residential air conditioners and heat pumps, and commercial air conditioners and heat pumps.

“One of the most interesting challenge was in the early 1960s when it was decided we had to improve compressor reliability. I led the project to improve systems, assuming nothing could be done to improve reliability in the compressor. Another engineer led a group to improve compressors, assuming nothing could be done to help reliability in the system. Fortunately, both groups succeeded and today compressor reliability is excellent and below 1% in five years.

“Another very interesting project was to design heat pump systems with the GE ‘Spine Fin’ heat-transfer surface.

“I like the challenge of the business so much I am still working as a consulting engineer for Air Rover Inc. There I have designed air-conditioning equipment used in the ‘J Star’ system used in Desert Storm. I have also designed a hermetic system to cool crane-control cabins used in steel mills, where the temperature is over 180 degrees F.

“Most recently I have been working on systems the will hold the discharge temperature on an air-conditioning unit to +/- 1 degree, by matching the evaporator output to its input.”

RICK: “The thing I like about this industry the most is the people. Through my years in the hvacr industry, I have become life-long friends with many people. This is a close-knit industry where it seems everyone knows everyone. I am so very proud that I have followed in my dad’s footsteps and that Robert has followed in mine.

“Our industry is constantly changing and demands that we continually learn about new refrigerants, compressors, applications, etc. This keeps us on our toes and a high level of enthusiasm. Working in this industry gives us the rewards of knowing that we are helping keep people comfortable and safe.”

ROBERT: “The thing I like the most about this industry is the dependability of it. If there is one thing I learned is that there will always be a need for heating and cooling.

“This is such a close-knit industry that even now I am meeting people that my father used to bring to the house or take to dinner. I like that at the ASHRAE Show it gives everyone a chance to see each other again, as well as build new relationships. I really like that I am taking part in one of the largest industries. I find myself talking more about the use of hvac and how it effects us from day to day.”

Q. When you three get together, are there many discussions regarding the hvacr industry? If so, have any discussions ever become heated, for whatever reason? Or, are these discussions usually “learning the trade” talk? And, how often do you three get together? Very often? Rarely?

RICK: “With mom and dad living in Tyler, TX, and Robert, Chris, and I in Atlanta, we get together two-three times a year. Robert and I are always trying to impress dad with our knowledge of the industry. Robert is always looking to me for advice, as I do with my dad. Since dad is engineering manager of one of my oems, Air Rover, I am constantly harping on the benefits of brazed heat exchangers. Although we never argue, we are continually exchanging ideas on better ways of designing, controlling, and building equipment in our industry.”

EDWIN: “As Rick said, whenever we all get together we do discuss the hvacr industry. I will admit that he has tried to get me to use his brazed heat exchanger, but we have problems handling the dirty water that the units see.

ROBERT: “Like my father said, it makes it difficult to meet with my grandparents living so far away. But we do get together about four times a year.

“In the past, I had to work to keep up with conversations. I found that my father and my grandfather would both get off in hvac talk and I would try to keep up, but never had anything to add. Being in the industry now, I feel that I have finally joined the club. I understand what they are talking about now and am even able to join in and add to the discussions.

“I am very fortunate to have so much experience in my family. If ever I have a question, I can usually get an answer from the two of them. I learn more about the technical side and how it works from my grandfather, where I get the rest from my father. They both have been very supportive and I have never been so happy with a job before.”

Q. Do any of you try to influence others to join the hvacr industry? What does this industry lack in order to get more in this career?

EDWIN: “I don’t see many young people these days but, when I have the chance, I try to encourage them to look at the industry. As Rick said, one son is already in the industry and the second will probably get into it. A third grandson is planning on teaching mathematics and coaching baseball. We do need good math teachers to instruct new engineers.”

RICK: “During my years in the industry, I have lectured at ASHRAE and RSES meetings. I have also taught controls and control systems at technical trade schools. It is a wonderful feeling to get in front of a bunch of people and ‘spill your guts’ on the virtues of our industry. I have found, however, that a lot of people just do their job and go home. We need to find ways to get more people involved in the training of people just entering the industry. I have found that talking about our industry during ‘Career Days’ at high school is an excellent way of enlightening young minds about our industry.”

ROBERT: “I have been trying to talk several of the people I know into the industry. With the way things are changing in the technology industry, I feel that this is one of the most secure industries out there. I try to stress how much need there will be for people in this field in the years to come, and how interesting and always changing it is.”

Q. Do you three plan to attend the 2003 AHR Expo in Chicago? If no, why not? If yes, why?

EDWIN: “As of now I have no plans to go to Chicago, but who knows what will happen? It takes a young person to walk around one of these shows, especially a big one in Chicago.”

RICK: “Robert and I will definitely be manning our booths at the 2003 AHR Expo in Chicago. We are hoping that dad will have the chance to attend also. His knees aren’t what they use to be, and as you know, there is a lot of walking at these shows.”

ROBERT: “I am not sure about grandpa, but I know that me and my father will be there. It is hard on grandfather with his knees to attend the shows, but I know that if he can, he will. As for me and my dad, I am sure we will be there sharing the experience again this year. The last show was a great chance. I think he really liked taking me under his wing and showing me the ropes. I hope that years from now I can do the same for my kids.”

Publication date: 04/01/2002