Virginia Tech® home

Earl F. Myerholtz

Earl F. Myerholtz

Industrial Engineering
Class of 1948, BS

In December of 2002, Northrop Grumman Corporation became a $25 billion global defense enterprise, providing technologically advanced, innovative products, services, and solutions in defense electronics, systems integration, information technology, nuclear and non-nuclear shipbuilding, and space technology. Northrop’s value had just increased substantially, becoming the nation’s second largest defense company, because it acquired TRW’s interests in these areas.

Looking back at the history of TRW, one of the men who transformed it into a highly profitable company was Earl Myerholtz, a 1948 industrial engineering graduate of Virginia Tech. At TRW, he was asked several times to streamline operations throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In one instance, he combined TRW’s tool-cutting operations, saving the firm some $5 million annually. He achieved similar success at another TRW location, recording another $3 million in annual savings.

At another stage of his TRW career, he assumed directorship of its bearings division. It was 1975, and the Japanese had started a thrust in this manufacturing area. Mr. Myerholtz went head to head with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, forming a task force to suggest the U.S. raise tariffs on imported bearings. With the task force, he successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress and TRW held its own in the bearings marketplace.

TRW provided Mr. Myerholtz with the opportunities to meet his personal career goals. “My plan was to enter the aerospace and defense business. I felt that my technical skills gave me an advantage in this area,” he says. He started at TRW as its Corporate Director of Manufacturing Services in 1964. In 1966, he became the Vice President and Division Manager of the Mechanical Products Division. Five years later, he was named the Vice President and General Manager of the Marlin Rockwell Division. In 1979, Mr. Myerholtz became the Vice President and General Manager of the Industrial Products Group where he remained until his retirement in 1986. He introduced productivity measures such as employee team management. He was also instrumental in the introduction of the co-op program at TRW, developing a strong relationship with Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.

A native of northwest Ohio, Mr. Myerholtz first attended the University of Toledo as a chemical engineering student prior to World War II. But in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army after his poor eyesight would not allow him to join the Navy or the Marines. He recalls his persistence at enlisting: “I had so many friends going into the service I felt an urge that I should be there too.” A bout with pneumonia probably saved his life during the war. He was stationed in southern Belgium just before the Battle of the Bulge. His medical condition forced his evacuation to Scotland in December of 1944. After he left, he sadly learned his company suffered 70 percent casualties.

After his recuperation, he returned to the Continent where he spent the remainder of his time as a first sergeant in the infantry. He enjoyed his leadership role, and it made him question his choice of chemical engineering as a career. “I knew I wanted to enter management. During the war, the Army sent me on a brief tour of duty to Blacksburg to increase my technical competency. I spoke with Earl Norris, Dean of Engineering at the time, and with Paul Norton, who was the IE Department Head at Virginia Tech. He also owned a materials handling business in Columbus, Ohio. After my discharge from the Army, I had decided to switch to IE, and the reading materials on the IE profession frequently referred to Professor Norton. So I decided to enroll at Virginia Tech.”

The fact that he had met Betsy Draper while he was on his tour of duty in Blacksburg was a pleasant bonus. He and Betsy married in June of 1946 and they lived in Pembroke. Recalling the daily commute, Mr. Myerholtz sounds like a productivity expert: he says he could make the trek in 22 minutes on a good day.

Upon his graduation, Mr. Myerholtz had 12 offers of employment. He selected General Electric because of its highly-touted management/training program. Within two weeks of starting his career in the test-engineering program, he was suggesting some production changes to the administration of GE’s headquarters in Lynn, Massachusetts. Consequently, they moved him immediately into the management/training program. Next, he recommended to GE how it should change its management/training program. Management took his advice and, subsequently, Mr. Myerholtz held a series of upper-level positions at GE before he moved to TRW.

Mr. Myerholtz was active for many years on the IE Advisory Boards at Virginia Tech and at Georgia Tech. He was also a board member for the following organizations: Women Christian Association Hospital of Jamestown, New York; St. Luke’s Hospital of Cleveland, Ohio; the YMCA, and the Salvation Army. He served as Chair of the Board of the Anti-Friction Bearing Manufacturers Association and as President of the Jamestown Area Manufacturers Association. He was Vice President at Large and member of the board of the Institute of Industrial Engineering. He received the Outstanding Trustee Award from the Greater Cleveland Hospital Association in 1994.

At Virginia Tech, he is the 1999 recipient of the Marvin Agee Distinguished Alumnus Award of the industrial engineering department and a member of the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100.

He retired in 1986 and continues to reside in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Widowed in 1998, he and his wife Betsy are the parents of two daughters, Sue Cameron and Pamela Brose. He has five grandchildren.

Class of: 1948
Year Inducted into Academy: 2003