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From Nuclear Engineer to Novelist

Engineers excel at math and science; that’s a given.

But a retired nuclear engineering executive realizing his dream of becoming a novelist?

That’s not something you hear every day.

However, it is true for Visiting Assistant Professor of Management Stanley Wilczek.

Wilczek spent 30 years at Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (now National Grid), a Fortune 500 company, where he served as vice president of nuclear support in charge of about 800 employees, and as vice president of customer service in charge of about 1,000 employees.

“In high school, I wasn’t a fan of English and social studies,” said Wilczek, who didn’t think he’d find those subjects useful as an engineer. He was wrong.

“I was required to write technical documents and operation plans, and I learned my writing skills on the job—my bosses taught me,” said Wilczek.

He also began reading more and more as the years progressed, and he had some story ideas of his own that he tucked away in a file. Able to retire at age 50, Wilczek decided the time had come to begin work on his first novel. The Kept Secret was published in 2006. His second novel, The Soma Man, followed in 2008. His third novel is set to be released late this fall.

“My engineering/analytical skills helped me to write intricate plots,” said Wilczek, whose novels are of the mystery/thriller genre.

The Kept Secret addresses terrorism and was influenced by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, in which Soviet nuclear missiles were discovered under construction in Cuba. Wilczek was 12-years-old at the time, but the Crisis left an “indelible impression” on him.

“I remember the air raid drills, and watching the news on a black and white TV,” said Wilczek. “My idea [for the book] was, what if Cuba still had a nuclear bomb? What if they weren’t all sent back to the former Soviet Union?”

Wilczek’s research for the book revealed other truths about the Crisis. He let his imagination run with the facts in his fiction.

His second novel, The Soma Man, addresses immortality, something that Wilczek, “a Baby Boomer,” often ponders.

“What if we could live forever?” said Wilczek. “What are the ethical issues involved?”

Like with his first book, Wilczek conducted research for The Soma Man, focusing on what happens during the aging process.

His third book, in the final editing stages, is about a woman whose ex-husband wreaks havoc on her life, then dies. However, the acts against her continue after his death and she wonders who is carrying on with the deeds, what’s going to happen next, and how she can stop it.

In addition to writing, Wilczek first began teaching at the college level while employed by Niagara Mohawk.

“I taught some engineering classes at SUNY Oswego about 20 years ago,” said Wilczek. “I was asked if I’d like to teach communications and marketing, too.

“After Niagara Mohawk, I began more adjunct work at a number of area colleges,” added Wilczek, who joined Keuka’s ASAP (Accelerated Studies for Adults Program) about four years ago.

He teaches classes in both the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management and Master of Science in Management programs.

“I enjoy working with adults—it’s a lot of fun,” said Wilczek, who draws on his work experience while leading classroom discussion.

“Having been at the officer level of a Fortune 500 company, I’ve hired/fired, been involved in lawsuits, reorganization—I’ve done it all,” said Wilczek, who at one time was the youngest VP in the company. “I feel lucky; I was in the right place at the right time.”

And the teacher emphasizes the importance of good writing, communications and presentation skills in his courses.

After all, he is an engineer.

Wilczek will take part in a book signing at the Keuka College Bookstore after commencement Sunday, May 30.

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