You’re 60 years old. You’ve had a successful engineering career, spanning four decades and several continents, and you are retiring as president and chief operating officer of a mining company with a thousand employees. Businesses are clamoring for your expertise as an independent consultant, and job offers come in from South America and Africa. What would you do next?
Finding himself in just this situation, John Grubb PhD ’08 decided to go back to school, earn a doctorate and fulfill a long-term goal of teaching future mining engineers. A 1969 graduate of Virginia Tech, Grubb began teaching at Colorado School of Mines when he enrolled in the doctoral program in 2006. His mining engineering courses were so successful that he was asked to stay on as an adjunct professor after he graduated. He accepted the job, but, after weighing the salary against other tax considerations, he took the position as a volunteer.
“My industry was very good to me,” Grubb says, simply. “Now I want to give back.” He’s now teaching classes in mine ventilation, coal mining methods, mine management and mineral resource development.
Holding a PhD is important for his credibility, but Grubb’s greatest resource in the classroom is his experience. During his 40-year career, he’s managed more than two dozen mines and overcome countless challenges. At a copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, he prevented closure by solving some complex environmental problems; and when he realized a Zimbabwean mine was simply too dangerous to operate, he made the tough decision to close it down.
Students value the wealth of experience he brings to the classroom: “He drew on his own real-life experience to put together detailed scenarios of what they might encounter. I use some of the principles I learned from him every day in my current job,” says Brandon Sullivan ’09, a former student who now works as a mining engineer at West Elk Mine in Somerset, Colo. “He prepared me better for entering industry than any other professor at Mines. Any time I had a question, he had an answer.”
While Grubb brings the real world to students, he also brings students to the real world, organizing and paying for numerous student field trips. “Being in a mine is part of the education of a mining engineer,” says Grubb. “To actually see what we were learning about, that was huge for a lot of students,” says Sullivan. Grubb and his wife have also donated some new equipment to the mining engineering department, providing students with access to state-of-the-art technology.
Lizeth Chamorro, a graduate student in mineral and energy economics who worked for nine years in the mining industry, says Grubb’s course expectations are high but rewarding. “The fact that he doesn’t take money to teach, he just wants to share his life experiences,” Chamorro says, “I think it’s really remarkable, and really valuable.”