He may be old enough to remember Teddy Roosevelt as "a very likable fellow" who regularly visited a Washington, D.C., elementary school wearing striped pants and a satin waistcoat, but Chaplin "Chap" Tyler is still a working author and activist determined to help younger people achieve success in the business world.
Most recently, the 99-year-old Hockessin, Del., resident and his wife, Elizabeth Trier Tyler, donated $1 million for educational initiatives within the University of Delaware's College of Business and Economics. Tyler, a chemical engineer who spent the bulk of his career at the DuPont Co. and then worked as a consultant to the Coca-Cola Co. until age 82, has previously contributed $2 million to UD.
"I was prompted to offer these gifts because of my great confidence in the people at the University of Delaware," says Tyler, who just published one book and is currently writing another volume, to be published when he reaches the 100-year mark. "Some people talk about 'giving until it hurts.' I think you should give until it feels good, and it makes me feel very good indeed to support business students at the University of Delaware. I see it as an investment in the future of this country."
Tyler's generosity will benefit the 1,783 undergraduates and 700 graduate students within the BE college, University President David P. Roselle notes. "Chap Tyler has been a tireless friend to the University," Roselle says. "He is a remarkable person whose continued commitment to education has been an inspiration to those of us who have been privileged to work with him."
Dana J. Johnson, dean of the B&E college, says Tyler's gift should allow UD to expand and enhance a variety of programs designed to provide hands-on experience to business students. "Our BE program consistently ranks among the top 20th percentile when compared with similar programs nationwide, and it's getting stronger all the time, thanks in large part to loyal friends like Chap Tyler," she says.
In his latest book, Building for Success in Business: Your Mid-Career Years, Tyler says business schools should prepare students to handle real-world problems, by emphasizing fundamentals, and by integrating theory with practice.
Tyler's book offers advice for those he terms "middlers"-business people between the ages of 23 and 42 who are navigating the road to success. For Tyler, that road began in the nation's capital, where he was born on March 28, 1898. "You couldn't imagine a nicer place to grow up," Tyler says of Washington, D.C. "I attended grade school with Teddy Roosevelt's son. The president would come to our school, having walked the half-mile from the White House. He came alone, with no press and no security staff."
When Roosevelt's son traumatized the teacher by leaving snakes in her desk one day, Tyler recalls, the president announced that "attending public school is a privilege as well as a right." He then threatened to pack his son off to private school, prompting applause from one beleaguered classmate, Tyler recalls.
Raised by his mother during the school year, Tyler spent summers in New England, helping his maternal grandparents tend a farm. In a voice that still reveals his New England roots from time to time, Tyler remembers learning carpentry and working with lobster fishermen in the waters off Marblehead, Mass. In fact, he is a licensed boat pilot who once took the wheel from an inebriated yacht captain during a business excursion. Yet, he never found time to buy a motorized boat of his own. "Only a rowboat," he shrugs. "It didn't fit in with what I was doing."
After receiving degrees in chemical engineering (Northeastern University, 1920) and business administration (Boston University, 1922), Tyler earned a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1923. (He also received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1961, from Northeastern.)
At the start of World War I, Tyler completed an examination to become a U.S. Navy flyer. But, the Navy was slow to respond to his application, and by the time they offered Tyler a position, he had already signed up with the U.S. Army. He was assigned to work overseas, assisting members of a Harvard Medical School hospital. As a radiologist, he says, "My job was to write a report and pin it on the patient, to let the doctors know what was wrong."
At MIT after the war, Tyler served as a research assistant/associate within the Industrial Cooperation and Research Unit, where he nurtured a flair for report writing. Unfortunately, his supervisors were more interested in original research, and they urged him to pursue a doctorate or seek other work. "I was canned, but given a very convenient interim in which to look around," Tyler says.
Anxious about his future, Tyler offered his services to the McGraw-Hill Co., where recruiters were initially reluctant to hire a rookie-until one of their veteran editors unexpectedly died. Tyler was promptly hired to fill the empty slot, as an assistant editor for Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering magazine. Then, at age 28, he wrote a book titled Chemical Engineering Economics, which quickly became a best-seller, prompting the DuPont Co. to recruit him to conduct economic project analysis- at a 40 percent pay raise.
Tyler, a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, served for four years as a member of Delaware's Higher Education Advisory Commission. His career highlights also include an appointment as technology consultant to President Harry Truman's Materials Policy Commission and his status as a lifetime trustee emeritus of Northeastern University. In 1992, the University of Delaware awarded Tyler a Medal of Distinction for professional achievement. He is also a member of the B&E Advisory Committee.
Based on the aging research he conducted for the Coca-Cola Co., Tyler noted that "anyone who lives longer than 80 years is overcoming a very strong statistical trend." Only one person in 10,000 reaches the age of 100 in the United States, he says.
But, don't think about throwing a birthday party for Tyler. "I've known three people who reached 100," he explains. "They each had a huge party, and they were dead within a couple of months."
Instead, Tyler will celebrate by publishing a book now in progress, to be titled The View From 100. "I've had a crazy quilt of a life," Tyler says. "Travel and leisure time are great, but I always want to be doing something to justify my
existence, and to share with others the good
fortune that has been bestowed upon me."