Union Notables

Armand V. and Donald S. Feigenbaum    classes of 1942 and 1946

Donald S. and Armand V. Feigenbaum. Photograph by Peter Blankman, 2004, image courtesy of Office of Communications, Union College

When Armand Feigenbaum expressed his desire to become an engineer, his father advised him to first learn how to make things by hand. Therefore, after graduating from high school in 1937, he started in his native Pittsfield as a General Electric toolmaker apprentice. He attended Union College, where he studied engineering and was editor of Concordiensis, graduating in 1942. Following in his footsteps, his brother, Donald Feigenbaum graduated from Union in 1946 after serving in the United States Navy.  Armand went on to earn a Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while on the General Electric payroll as its director of quality for the entire GE operation in Schenectady.  From 1958 to 1968, Armand served as GE's Director of worldwide manufacturing operations and quality, while Donald, who was rapidly promoted to manager in GE's jet engine business, left the company in 1961 to become general manager of International Systems Company.  In 1968, the brothers founded General Systems Company, an engineering firm that designs and helps implement operational systems for corporations worldwide.

Armand Feigenbaum's global reputation as a thinker and leader in the field of quality control was cemented with the publication of his seminal book Quality Control: Principles, Practice, and Administration in 1951. Called "a landmark in the history of the theory of quality," this foundational work, translated into twenty languages including Japanese and Chinese, has been a main source for anyone working in quality management. The book has been republished several times and honored with a 40th anniversary edition under the title Total Quality Control. Armand Feigenbaum recognized that if a company is to survive and thrive, quality must be everybody's job and not restricted just to quality control departments as had been past practice. He also quantified for the first time what it costs to achieve quality, and the cost of failure due to lack of quality control. His fundamental insights and detailed expositions continue to affect the way companies approach quality management throughout the world.

Armand has received hundreds of awards and recognition from all corners of the world. Within the United States he served the American Society for Quality (ASQ) as President for two consecutive terms. In 1965, he received its Edwards Medal for "his origination and implementation of basic foundations for modern quality control" and was the first recipient of its Lancaster Award. He is one of a handful of Honorary Members of ASQ. Union College honored him with its Founders Medal and an honorary doctorate in 1992. He has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.  He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of Massachusetts.  He received the 2007 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest American honor for technological achievement.  The award was presented by President Bush at the White House. The ultimate honor, however, is that others are honored in his name: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has established the MassExcellence Feigenbaum Award, and ASQ annually presents the Feigenbaum Medal to a young quality professional who has displayed outstanding characteristics of leadership, professionalism, and potential. 

Donald Feigenbaum's work and publications in the field of systems technology have profoundly influenced the origin and application of systems engineering principles,  principles that have fundamentally impacted modern management practices.  His approach has consistently increased customer value, lowered operating costs, and improved innovations at many major companies throughout America and the world.  A Business Week article summarizes this approach as "pragmatic and saving big bucks." Union College honored Donald's achievements with an honorary doctorate in 1996.  In 2003 he was awarded the "Outstanding Engineering Alumnus" award.  He has been awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of Massachusetts.  He has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Science by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. 

Donald and Armand have co-authored several books. Their 2003 The Power of Management Capital is in essence "a rule book for management and leadership innovation in the 21st century." The book looks at the basic drivers of productivity and profitability and integrates tested management concepts into a single holistic approach. In 2009 the brothers built upon their earlier books and put together a roadmap to promote constant innovation and growth called The Power of Management Innovation.  Throughout the world, the Feigenbaums continue to successfully implement their fundamental principle, that "management is not an art, it is a science."

Both Armand V. and Donald S. Feigenbaum are engaged in many charitable causes, especially for the benefit of their hometown, Pittsfield, and Union College. Union College's administration building was dedicated in their honor in 1996.