CIS faculty member John Turchek celebrates 43 years at RMU

October 30, 2015

There have been many changes in the world of computer technology during the past 43 years. Whether it was the floppy disk in the early 1970s, the creation of the personal computer in the 1980s, the invention of Wi-Fi connectivity in the late 1990s, or the release of the iPhone and other smartphones in the new millennium, there has been one thing has remained constant over the years. There has been one individual who has worked hard and kept pace with the ever-changing world of technology. That one person is John Turchek.

Turchek has been a member of the RMU family for the past 43 years. He has had many titles and positions at the university, but as for now he currently is the department head for the computer and information systems program. His work ethic has caught the attention of most, if not all, of the faculty, staff and students that he has worked alongside with over the years. David Jamison, provost and senior vice president as well as the interim president of the university, praised Turchek for his efforts and dedication.

“For anyone to have held faculty rank in a field that evolves as rapidly as computer information systems for over 40 years requires a person with the ability to adapt,” Jamison said.  “Turchek has demonstrated that ability.”

In addition to Jamison, Jon Radermacher, associate dean for the School of Communication and Information Systems, also has the utmost respect and admiration of Turchek’s hard work and dedication to the university. Radermacher explained that, “He’s (Turchek) the one car in the parking lot on the weekends.”  Radermacher also called Turchek a “hard worker” and a “die-hard.”

“His door is always open, he will help you all the time so long as someone else isn’t in his office,” Radermacher said.

As for Turchek himself, when asked about his career, his eyes lit up and a smile reached from cheek to cheek. From that initial joy, he immediately began to share his journey through his life and career at RMU.

Turchek explained that it started with a photo and a field trip.

That was what he was given to work with on his first day on the job at Robert Morris College back in 1972. He explained that there were two courses taught at the college; one where students saw a photo of a computer and one where they took a field trip to walk by a computer.

“That was what we started with,” Turchek said.

Since then, he, along with his fellow faculty members have spent the last 40 years working every day to improve the computing program at the university and make it what it is today. There were many milestones that were reached over the years that Turchek was very proud of. The first achievement he mentioned was that in 1976 the school was able to create a four-year major for computing.

“To me it was reaching a goal, that we established a four-year degree in computing,” Turchek said.

Soon after, Turchek relished in another proud moment. He talked about how in 1978 he was very pleased to see the first students graduate from the new computing program. Turchek explained that these students were able to achieve their degrees in only two years because they were sophomores who saw the opportunity and immediately switched their majors.

As the years continued to roll by, Turchek took a few pit stops in his narrative to mention some other noteworthy highlights. He explained that the computing program was able to offer a graduate program starting in 1985. Another moment that Turchek remembered was when the program became its own school at Robert Morris in 1991.

From there, Turchek jumped seven years to 1998 when the program was revamped and had created an integrated program. The program was set to take a student five years to complete. Once they completed the integrated program, they would have bachelor’s degree and master’s in computing.

“Seeing the program come to fruition and seeing the graduates and seeing how well they did in the industry was another highlight, without a doubt,” Turchek said.

Moving into the new millennium, Turchek and his faculty members began tackling another feat for their program. This was achieving Accrediting Body for Engineering and Technology accreditation. By the end of 2000, they had achieved this goal. This was a huge step in the right direction for the program because, out of the 4,000 information system programs in the world, only 51 of these programs met the ABET criteria; Robert Morris has two of them.

“That’s bragging, that’s pretty good stuff,” Turchek said with a proud smile on his face.

However, this was not only a milestone for the program, it was also a milestone for Robert Morris as well. Turchek explained that it was important for the school because it was the first program to ever receive accreditation status.

Despite all these moments that Turchek relished in during his interview, there was still one more milestone that he had yet to explain. Turchek’s most proud moment was when the university was given a mainframe computer from International Business Machines in 2011.

“I looked at them and almost choked on my doughnut,” Turchek said.

A mainframe computer is a computer used primarily by large organizations for critical applications, bulk data processing, resource planning and transaction processing. According to Turchek, these computers are very expensive and, for the most part, schools are unable to afford them.  He explained that the mainframe itself costs around $20 million, but there are additional costs associated with them. These additional costs are for housing, security, operation, and upgrades. However, thanks to IBM, RMU did not have to pay a single penny for their mainframe.

Turchek explained that being given this mainframe was a huge success for him, his fellow faculty members, the program, and the university because RMU is now one of the eight universities in the world that has their own mainframe.

“That’s pretty good, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding faculty that RMU has,” Turchek said. “Working with this distinguished faculty has been a real privilege and a great experience for me.”

When asked about the future, Turchek said that he would want to stay at RMU as long as he could and that he has every intention of breaking the 50 year mark.

“I would like to retire here; I would not want to go anywhere else,” Turchek said happily.

As for a personal reflection of his career, Turchek talked about how he hopes that people had received some insight and knowledge from him. Furthermore, he explained how over the years he has enjoyed working with young professionals.

As for what he wants people to think of him and his career, his response was short and simple; “Boy, there’s somebody who really helped me.”

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