Bill Golomski Remembered - ASQ

Bill Golomski Remembered


I was shocked and very much saddened to learn that Bill Golomski had passed away. I am sure that many others felt the same way, for Bill had far-reaching influence and was a presence in many people’s lives.

Bill was extremely influential throughout the field of quality management for a long time. While I knew Bill for 14 years, having met him in 1988, it is clear to me that I knew him during only a small part of his career. For example, Bill was president of ASQC in the late 1960s, about 20 years before I even met him.

Bill’s resume is, of course, extremely impressive. Throughout his career he published more than 100 papers and several books, and won numerous awards. I am not going to recite his accomplishments here. Frankly, this list, while fantastic, does not capture Bill’s real influence or character. Rather, here, I will reminisce a little about what I knew about Bill and his influence on me.

I met Bill 14 years ago when he began to teach quality management courses at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago (where I was a new assistant professor of statistics). At that time, a number of the statisticians there had become interested in quality management, which, of course, was receiving tremendous attention both in business and in the popular business press.

Like most statisticians, my initial interest in quality management was as an area of application of statistical methods. In fact, I think that the interest of many statisticians in quality was due largely to the enhanced status that the quality movement gave statistical methods (and thus, statisticians) in the business world. With a couple of notable exceptions, I think this describes the motivation for the interest in quality of most of the faculty members of the statistics group at the Graduate School of Business at that time.

I no longer remember the details, but somehow I ended up sitting in on an MBA course that Bill was teaching that was titled something like “Strategic Quality Management.” For me, this course was transforming, and literally altered the course of my career. Suddenly I began to see quality management not just as a technical discipline, but also as a fundamental theme for organizing the firm and as a vast and rich topic drawing from many fields such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, as well as the obvious technical ones. Bill’s interdisciplinary knowledge was very broad and his thinking about quality management was very advanced and highly innovative. In fact, because of Bill I actually became more interested in the organizational aspects of quality management than the technical ones that related directly to my field of statistics.

When I met Bill he was also involved in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. He was among the first panel of judges in 1988 and shortly after became a member of the Board of Overseers. I do not need to tell the readership of the Quality Management Journal (QMJ) about the importance and influence of the Baldrige Award. The Baldrige Award was another area where Bill influenced me directly. He introduced me to the award, encouraged me to become an examiner, and served as my mentor. The early years of the Baldrige Award were fascinating and exciting as the award and those involved struggled with defining quality management in the context of American business. Bill had profound influence not only on me personally in this context, but also on the Baldrige Award process more broadly, both through his formal role and through his influence on many of the people involved in the award at that time.

Bill also founded QMJ and was its first editor. He was very interested in the development of quality management as a legitimate field (including legitimate among first-rate academics). In that context, Bill was very interested in stimulating high-quality academic research on quality. To this end, he created QMJ under the auspices of ASQC. While ASQC and others deserve credit as well, I have the distinct impression that the creation of QMJ was due to Bill. As the journal’s first editor, Bill was very concerned about the quality and innovativeness of the articles. To set the standard for the journal, and in a true quality fashion, he would sacrifice schedule for quality when necessary in the early issues. When I became the second editor of QMJ, Bill continued to serve as my advisor and mentor in dealing with the numerous issues that arise with a young publication, and we routinely talked about the research published in the journal. I am sure Bill was very pleased and proud that the research journal he founded has endured.

Bill was a walking history book about the development of quality management in the United States. Whenever I wanted to find out how something had really happened (or for that matter, really was happening) in the development of quality, I would ask Bill. He always knew. And time has proved to me that both the history of the field that he recited to me and his interpretation of events were extremely accurate.

I want to summarize by reiterating that Bill really was a profound intellect in the field of quality management. I have sometimes thought that when W. Edwards Deming spoke of “profound knowledge,” well, Bill had it. He had an extremely rare combination of broad theoretical knowledge that drew upon diverse fields ranging from technical statistics to sociology, extensive practical experience, historical perspective, and a wide network that meant that he was “in the know.” Talking to Bill about any aspect of quality was always fascinating and he frequently brought into such discussions unexpected perspectives from diverse fields. Bill had the ability to have profound impact on the thinking of both academics and people in industry. And more than just having the ability, he actually had the impact.

In closing, I want to say that Bill was an extremely generous mentor to me personally. He generously shared his knowledge and experience, advised me concerning specific issues and situations, steered me to many of the most interesting opportunities of my career, and always found time. He was a friend. Bill was a generous man, and I am sure there are many others for whom he was also an important mentor. For me, Bill was always there to turn to for counsel, perspective, and advice and in this sense he was always a presence for me throughout my career. I still feel his presence. I had much more to learn from Bill, much more that I expected to have a chance to learn from him. I believe that he had much more to contribute to the field of quality management as a whole. We have all suffered a great loss.

George Easton
Past Editor,
Quality Management Journal
Emory University

I knew, and was friendly with, Bill Golomski for more than 45 years. It started in the 1950s when we both worked for Oscar Mayer & Company in Madison, Wis. Bill was director of operations research, while I served as statistical analyst in the corporate product (quality) control department. He left Oscar Mayer to become vice president of another meat processing company, John Morrell and Company, and subsequently assumed management positions with Schlitz Brewing Company, H. J. Mayer & Sons Company, Golden Sun Feeds Company, and Detroit Coca-Cola Bottling Company, all before forming his own consulting company.

Bill was always actively involved in ASQC and held many important positions. In 1957 he served as chairman of the Milwaukee Section. During 1966-1967, after serving in various capacities for ASQC, he became its national president and then its board chairman. Bill received many well-earned and coveted honors during his long career, including being named an Honorary Member and Fellow of ASQ; winning ASQ’s Edwards Medal and Grant Award; being named a Fellow and Life Member of the American Statistical Association; being Chief of Choctaw and Seminole Nations; and many others. Of special significance was his election to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. His citation for the latter reads: “For contributions in integrating customer-centered quality and engineering design.”

Bill was a very busy person. He was in great demand as a speaker worldwide because his message was always clear, concise, and relevant to his audiences. He was a prolific writer, having authored hundreds of articles and several books. He was an outstanding teacher as well, especially in the fields of statistical applications and quality management. Bill was involved in so many areas of interest that he could converse intelligently on any subject and be a master of all of them. Through his heavy schedule of travel, consulting, teaching, speaking, and involvement, he retained a fine sense of humor.

Personally, I learned many things from Bill as I pursued my own career. He was always willing to share his knowledge and information and offer priceless advice as a professional and personal friend. Bill will be sorely missed and always remembered.

Hy Pitt
ASQ Fellow
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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