Leslie R. Driskell
Class of 1933
duPont Manual Training High School Alumnus, Class of 1933 ½ (valedictorian)
455 Greenhurst Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15243-1919; 412-341-4997
Les has achieved international prominence as a consulting engineer, author and teacher specializing in industrial process control systems and control valves. Recognized as an authority on control valve sizing, he developed an equation for the flow of compressible fluids through valves that has become an international standard.
Prior to his career as an independent consultant, Les worked as a process control supervisor with Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, and Dravo Corporation, Chemical Plants Division, where he headed a 100-man electrical engineering department.
Les has authored four textbooks and co-authored four others, all on control valves. He has written over 40 published articles, lectured extensively and taught over 100 short courses worldwide—including Japan, Kuwait, Venezuela, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada.
Now retired, Les lives in Pittsburgh with Doris, his wife of 73 years, and son Dan.
Les Driskell was born August 10, 1916, and grew up in the section of Louisville’s Germantown known as Schnitzelberg. His home library consisted of one dictionary, which he read sitting out on his front stoop. Neighbors, thinking it was the Bible, assumed he was studying for the priesthood. He did not sleep in a heated room until he was 14, the same year he entered duPont Manual Training High School.
As he recalls, Manual in those days had not only extensive woodworking, sheet metal, foundry, forge and machine shops, but also offered courses in electricity, surveying, and a four-year program in mechanical drawing. Les remembers the school was particularly strong in mathematics, physics and chemistry.
In his fifth semester Les won an award from the Harvard Club of Kentucky for “Fluency in the English Language and Knowledge of English Literature.” One of his classes, physiology, was taught by Manual Alumni Hall of Fame member Clarence Beutel, an uncle of his future wife Doris Beutel. (Since his parents were frequent guests of Doris’s grandparents, Les had known many of the Beutel family members since childhood. In fact he first met Doris at Quarry Hill, the family estate, when he was two and she was an infant. Despite his request, he was denied permission to hold her!)
After skipping a semester to graduate at 17, Les took top honors at Manual and delivered the valedictory address in 1933. [Article from local paper attached.] He received a scholarship to the University of Louisville that covered only the $30 incidental fee. Unable to afford the $350 tuition charged to students living, as he did, outside of the city limits, he dropped out after one year and went to work as bookkeeper and stenographer at Falls City Dental Laboratory in 1935. The job paid $6 for a five-and-a-half-day week.
His next jobs were personnel manager at Glenmore Distilleries in nearby Owensboro for $85 per month, then technician at Seagram-Calvert Distilleries. By 1942—on the strength of his self-study and audited courses at U of L—he had become instrument supervisor on multiplant operations. During this time he accepted an offer to teach night courses in industrial instrumentation and pyrometry in Jeffersonville, Indiana, for Purdue. They were college level courses sponsored by the U.S. War Training Program and paid $6 an hour.
Following a stint at Riggs-Distler in charge of all instrumentation at a $45-million Neoprene plant, Les went to E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., eventually taking over all instrumentation and pressure vessel testing. Tests qualified him for electronics duty in the Navy, but the Selective Service decided he would be more effective for the war effort by doing what he was doing. Seeking advancement after the war, he moved to Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter in 1947, taking a job with what eventually became the Chemical Plants Division of Dravo Corp. Over the next three decades Les rose from senior engineer to manager of Dravo’s 100-man instrument-electrical engineering department.
While at Dravo, Les began writing articles for engineering magazines. These led to offers to teach and consult, as well as work on standard and practices committees of a process control engineering society, the Instrument Society of America (ISA). Retiring from Dravo in 1979, Les embarked on a 20-year career as a consulting engineer, lecturing and teaching over 100 short courses on control valves all over the world, serving as an expert witness in court cases, writing over 30 articles and four textbooks. His work on standards for control valves for the ISA during this period led to his developing an equation for the flow of compressible fluids through valves, which has become an international standard.
Les retired in 1999, and now at 94 still takes an interest in his high school alma mater, reminiscing about his teachers and classmates as he browses two books on Manual’s history: 100 Years of Tradition and Stand Up and Cheer!
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