Tom Profit is Operations Manager at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, Michigan.
His illustrious career at Specs Howard began 30 years ago. But I knew of his reputation long before I knew him, when he hired me eight and a half years ago.
At one point, I worked for WXYT. The Chief Engineer at the time, Bill Vellner, actually BRAGGED to me that “Tom Profit at Specs Howard is a personal friend,” like I was supposed to be impressed!
Of course to me, the name meant absolutely nothing to me at the time!
Later, a few grads who I had trained at various radio stations had stated Tom’s Transmitter Operations class Was the Toughest One at Specs Howard!
But I could easily tell which students did well in Tom’s class, and which ones barely passed.
After I came on board and before we discontinued the Transmitter Operations class, a couple times, I did some substitute teaching for Tom. The material was simple. At least I thought so. The real challenge was helping the students understand the material, of which Tom is a master of.
Early Tom Encounters recall memories of the first conversations I had with Tom. His sarcastic sense of humor at first led me to believe Something Wasn’t Quite Right About This Guy.
The conversation began with me saying to Tom:
“I talked to Dave Shank…” (Dave was an instructor at that time)
Tom interrupts with a comment drenched in sarcasm:
“Oh you were THAT lucky…”
“Dave said I should call you…”
Dave’s comment later on reassured me: “Tom’s not such a bad guy, except he’s fussy about cold solder joints!”
You’d think it was some kind of illegal substance the way Dave talked about it, but he was referring to the art of making electrical connections using molten tin and lead with a hot pointy tool!
The reality was Tom knew his way around a soldering iron as well as anyone.
Today, Dave Shank is one of the best live sound guys in the Detroit area, and it was he who convinced me to go work for Tom Profit, when in reality, I had no such plans.
In Tom’s past, he was the original WCSX Chief Engineer, and did plenty of the dirty work Chief Engineers do back then, as well as before and since. This was back when stations were still playing actual records over the air. You can be sure Tom changed more than his share of phonograph needles, or styli as we “professionals” called them.
Tom had his First Class FCC license around the time I was still playing DJ with my measly Third Class License when such things existed.
He will begrudgingly admit to "being around that long," but it's one of the attributes -- like it or not -- of most the best engineers in the country.
Tom was still teaching how to calculate “the direct (AND indirect) method of determining a stations’ power” during the two times in my career I had to personally prove to the local FCC that my station was operating legally. I can personally vouch for Tom’s teachings for anyone who had his class back then. He was teaching The Gospel as far as the FCC was concerned!
During the years I have worked for Tom, he has never failed to trust my judgement implicitly as to how to handle a project or solve a problem. This level of respect and trust is greatly appreciated.
I have been in many situations with management who had far less knowledge than me, who were intent on micro-managing the most trivial details, or never being satisfied that I had gotten enough quotes and even though I had done my research,
“ How could such and such equipment cost THAT MUCH!?”
Tom could teach a class to General Managers on how to manage their technical help and the world would be a better place. Of course, he has the reference point of having been there himself, which makes a difference. But he could easily be a grouchy old ogre with his level of experience, but he never is.
As we progressed upgrading the school, I cultivated many relationships with manufacturers and distributors that has benefited the school in many ways including saving us thousands of dollars. When I would make a decision to change suppliers or distributors, Tom would back that decision fully.
Also, he never made me count the number of squares in a roll of toilet paper to make sure we were getting the best value on our janitorial supplies! Thank you Tom.
That frugal General Manager, however, became a friend, and was one of the people who told Tom it was OK to hire me.
We can’t really say, “best wishes for ANOTHER 30 years” as no one can predict the future. No one really knows how much longer Tom expects to subject us to his warped but keenly sarcastic sense of humor, his diverse knowledge of Everything Operations, and his unique wordsmithing expertise
(Find the most obscure word in the English language and Tom will know the definition and use it in a sentence).
What we can say is THANKS for the PAST 30!
It’s true some of MY blood and guts can be found in many the schools’ studios, but not nearly as much as Tom’s……… Congratulations, Tom.