12 Jun 2011 Shuttling Knowledge
Teaching was never a goal for Dr. Edgar Manton, A&M – Commerce Regents professor of business administration and management information systems. He would have been satisfied with a life-long career at NASA.
As the chief of the Planning and Technical Support Office for NASA’s Launch Support Operations Directorate at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Manton spent nine years planning, budgeting, contracting, and performing technical management functions that supported the Gemini, Saturn and Apollo programs, with some early work on the Shuttle Program. In 1972, however, Manton recognized it was time for a career change.
“I always wanted to work for NASA, but the shuttle was eight years away,” said Manton. “The last Apollo mission was behind us and NASA experiencing budget cuts, I had a doctorate from Florida State, so I thought why not change my career to academia. I have been teaching for 40 years. I must like it.”
Manton’s affinity for teaching stems from the first group of students he taught at Texas A&M University – Commerce who changed his mind about teaching forever. Upon arrival at ETSU, Manton planned on a short five-year stay despite the high academic rank awarded to him because of his NASA experience. Manton’s long-term plan was to use his new position as a stepping stone to a larger university with a doctoral program.
Noticing the value in teaching at A&M – Commerce, Manton’s reluctance to stay soon dissipated. There were opportunities outside the classroom for students to get involved, and leadership opportunities which allowed him to get to know his students better.
“Staying at A&M – Commerce appealed to me because you could take a student from Sulphur Springs and let them go work at Exxon or L-3,” Manton said. “It seemed like a better place to be, than a larger university where privileged kids go. I felt like I could really make a difference here. This was a place where I could see all of these things happening, the ‘added value.’ I have had other opportunities and job offers, but the students at A&M – Commerce are why I stay.”
During his 39-year tenure, Manton has established the management information systems program in an effort to strengthen the link between the fields of business and computer science. After it was implemented, it was very popular and had the highest number of majors in the department during the late 90s.
A graduate of the Naval Academy in 1959 and commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, Manton has found East Texas to be a great home for his family, and a wonderful place to raise his daughter, Carolyn. He and his wife, Mary, travel more than he could have with NASA, and now, he has been named a 2010-2011 Regents Professor by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, the highest award a full-time faculty member may receive.
“This is a wonderful honor for me,” Manton said. “I am very grateful for the faculty senate who selected me and of course the administration for supporting it, and am very grateful to President Jones and the support that I received on campus.”