The Charger Blog

Internationally Recognized Engineer Returns to Campus to Discuss Key to Success

A graduate of the University’s mechanical engineering program, Michael Hartnett ’69 is chairman, president, and chief executive officer of RBC Bearings, which he has helped build into an industry leader during his nearly three decades at the company.

November 19, 2018

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing & Communications

Michael Hartnett ’69
Michael Hartnett ’69 delivers the fall 2018 Bartels Lecture.

Mechanical engineering graduate student Annika Hacker ’19 M.S. was in the audience recently as Michael Hartnett ’69, an internationally recognized engineer, reflected on his career and gave advice to students.

"He said that those with the ability to pick out a relevant problem and stick with it through the tough times will be the ones who stand out, which I thought was very interesting," Hacker said.

Hartnett, the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of RBC Bearings, returned to his alma mater to deliver the fall 2018 Bartels Lecture. The University’s most prestigious speaker series, the Bartels Lecture Series has for nearly 30 years brought prominent individuals – including business leaders, journalists, and politicians – to campus to interact with students.

As part of his day on campus, Hartnett visited classes and delivered a campus-wide address titled "Applied Enterprising, Overcoming the Odds."

"It’s a very competitive world out there for the top jobs, and you need to distinguish yourself – the earlier the better. Science and technology were tools. Innovation was the key."Michael Hartnett ’69

He discussed building the Oxford, Connecticut-based RBC Bearings and developing it into a business that operates 35 plants in four countries. Employing more than 3,500 people, the company is a well-known and respected supplier, with clients that include Boeing, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Under Hartnett’s leadership, the company’s sales have grown from $35 million to nearly $700 million.

The author of more than two dozen technical papers, Hartnett has developed several patents and is well-known for his contributions to the field of tribology, the study of friction. He discussed his paper that that gained him national recognition, encouraging students to persevere.

Hartnett’s talk also resonated with business students, who were eager to learn more about his leadership style.

"I enjoy attending lectures like this because it gives students a real-world experience," said Megan Fischer ’19, a business management major. "I apply what I learn in the classroom to what the speaker says."