Robert E. D. (Gene) Woolsey

Robert E. D. (Gene) Woolsey

Past Awards

INFORMS Elected Fellows: Awardee(s)

Prize for the Teaching of the OR/MS Practice: Winner(s)

Robert E.D. (Gene) Woolsey occupies a unique position among teachers of the practice of operations research. He has devoted himself to ensuring that his students learn not only the theory that is associated with the field, but also the discovery processes, the modeling and the implementation hazards of practice.

The O.R. program at the Colorado School of Mines emphasizes a guild system approach to teaching Management Science and Operations Research in which students work as apprentices to their professors until the professor is convinced that they are ready to work as independent professionals. Recognizing the nontechnical aspects of most real problems, the program, in addition to standard O.R. courses, also includes courses in economics and industrial psychology. The students are taught to have a grassroots understanding of the problem they are addressing, (often by working every job involved in the problem being solved) prior to proposing a solution. In order to graduate, students must solve a real problem and have that solution implemented. Gene continues to stay in touch with his former students. Many have received personal recognition by him in the form of a ‘Diamond Stickpin’ award for saving their employer at least a million dollars in a year.

Gene first attracted the attention of our community with his extended letter to the editor of JORSA, "Operations Research and Management Science Today, or Does an Education in Checkers Prepare One for a Lifetime of Chess," in May, 1972. This was followed by a series of articles in Interfaces stating his own "real-world" approach to teaching and to practice which were widely debated. Gene has published books and tracts which have helped to guide people in their work in the field. His article in Interfaces in August of 1981, "On the Proper Training of Future Management," had a considerable influence on the direction of practice for the whole profession. His continuing "Fifth Column" articles are widely read and are used as teaching material in business schools.

Gene's former students are scattered among the sites where the practice of operations research contributes in a real way to the benefit of our world. He has directly trained hundreds of exceptionally successful practitioners and has indirectly influenced thousands of others. It is, therefore, especially appropriate for INFORMS to award Gene Woolsey the 1999 Prize for the Teaching of Operations Research Practice.