"I was as intimidated as you can be," said George Harris, CEO of RF Technologies and a 1979 graduate of the University of Maine.
"I was on their turf, in their facility and they were the customer.I was afraid they would chew me up and spit me out."
But two hours later, it was quite the opposite.
"I was more prepared than they were," said Harris
with a laugh.He
got the contract and ever since, has never questioned his
ability to go toe-to-toe with Ivy League engineers - a tribute, he
said, to the quality of his
education at Orono.
"In my career, I've worked with engineers from big-name universities, and I keep waiting for the big splash," he
said, ticking off names like Stanford, Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago
It hasn't come.
But last week, his
alma mater made a little splash of its own.A pioneer in the use of microwave technology, Harris
was inducted as a Distinguished Engineer into the Francis Crowe Society
, a professional association that recognizes exceptional accomplishments in the engineering field.He
was nominated by Dr. David Batusky, head of the physics department.
"It was very humbling," said Harris
of the honor."I had a lump the size of a baseball in my throat when they told me about it."
As part of the induction ceremony, Harris
addressed this year's engineering grads.He
advised them not be cowed by the reputations of higher-prestige schools, a lesson he
learned that day at MIT
and has been reinforced time and again.
"We bow before no one," he
told the grads.Since founding RF Technologies in 1991, Harris has led his company in the research and development of high-precision components for the broadcast, wood products and medical equipment industries.
Among their current projects is an electron beam accelerator to enhance imaging systems that diagnose cancer.
Three years ago, RFT joined Ferrite Corp.
, a New Hampshire-based company that brought business savvy and capital to the tech-oriented Lewiston operation.Since then, the company has grown at 40 percent a year and moved into a new facility on Gendron Drive, Harris
During the induction, he
received a plaque, a bronze medal on an orange ribbon and the right to be addressed as "Distinguished Engineer George M. Harris," an appellation he
doubts he'll ever use, but which makes him smile, nonetheless.
"It was just a lot of fun," he
said of the occasion.