Warren Mickens has been a Rose-Hulman trustee since 2000 and a donor to his alma mater even longer. He established a scholarship fund to help make a Rose-Hulman education available to students currently under-represented on campus. He and his wife, Joyce, a former elementary school teacher, strongly believe that for graduates to be fully prepared, they must learn in an environment where students, faculty, and staff represent the widely diverse world, and wants to ensure Rose-Hulman is a part of that education.
"It is important to stay active with your undergraduate institution and to give back," he says. "
Saying he gives as he can while he has two of his own sons in college—a son studying pre-med and biology and the other an engineering student—Mickens downplays his contributions to Rose-Hulman. In reality, he has given much to the Institute. He has not only donated monetarily, but also of his time. He returns often to campus for board meetings, and to speak to students about business and life.
Mickens' career has been one of great accomplishment. After receiving a degree in mechanical engineering in 1977, he worked for three years at Cummins Engine before earning an MBA from Harvard University.
"Both academically and culturally, Rose-Hulman was more stressful than Harvard," he says.
Now in his "second career," after an unsuccessful attempt at retirement, Mickens has been vice president of operations for CenturyLink since early 2008. He manages a team that provides support and service functions critical to the division's daily operations, including customer support, service delivery, process management, project management and collections.
Before joining CenturyLink, Mickens was vice president for Alcatel in Wellington, New Zealand, and supervised engineering and operations for Telecom New Zealand on an outsourced basis. He also served as vice president of network planning and engineering for AT&T/Ameritech, vice president of strategy and interconnection with SBC Telecom, and vice president for operations for Ameritech Information Industry Services.
Mickens is known through his industry as a problem solver, according to Tom Mason, emeritus engineering management/economics professor and long-time friend and mentor. Mickens was also a driving force in launching Rose-Hulman Ventures, and he continues to help the Institute increase diversity in science and engineering.
"To be successful as a leader or entrepreneur, students must learn to innovate—and to do that effectively, they must see problems and solutions from different perspectives," Mason says. "Warren continues to push us on this front and remind us that the markets are global and diverse, and we must be, as well. He has great credibility because he himself is an example of this, and a reminder that the American dream is alive and well."
As a young African-American growing up in Gary, Ind., Mickens took to heart the advice of his father, a steel plant worker who died when his son was just eight years old. "He says that an engineer can always get a good job," Mickens recalls.
"I considered schools like Marquette, Creighton, and the military academies, but Rose-Hulman seemed the right fit for me to provide the best career opportunities."
As a big guy, and one of only a handful of African-American students when he arrived at Rose-Hulman in 1973, Mickens stood out on campus. "I had no ability to be anonymous," he recalls. "I had gone to an all-black high school, so I was unprepared for that. No one told me what it would be like.
"I was not the happiest person my first two years," he added. "I've mellowed since then. But I still have a responsibility to help change things—to make Rose-Hulman a better place and a more diverse environment. That is not just a service to under-represented minorities; it improves the level and breadth of education for all students. Our corporate partners have told us this over and over."