December 15, 2015Aerospace alumnus Captain John “Crush” Gerlach ’06 delighted and inspired students when he spoke at a seminar hosted by the Syracuse University chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) this November. His seminar, “Life Post Undergrad,” combined footage of humanitarian missions that he flew and led in Afghanistan and Iraq with sage advice for the students. He provided advice for students on the first years after graduation, gleaned from his experiences as a student pilot and his early years as a fully-qualified C-17 pilot. He urged the students to become technical experts, saying, “Studying doesn’t end with your B.S. in engineering, but instead should be become a way of life.” He encouraged students to be proactive in finding the necessary information by seeking out experts, and asking lots of questions. He pointed out that in every task that is assigned, successful engineers should look for opportunities and “flourish where you are planted”. Amanda Walkowicz ‘16, president of the SU student chapter of AIAA, said, “Captain Gerlach told the students to maintain a sense of credibility, to carry themselves with a sense of humility and always remain approachable. Credibility allows for one to be an expert in their field, humility allows an individual to tackle tasks in a positive manner, and maintaining a sense of approachability is key to fostering strong relationships with friends and coworkers alike.” Gerlach gave many examples of the importance of these values in his life and said that he could not stress them enough. The take-away message could be summarized as, “Own your successes and failures,” and learn from your mistake so that you do not repeat them. “Many of the students who spent time with Captain Gelrach agreed to carry those life lessons with them into the future,” added Walkowicz.