Celebrating Sixty Years of Teaching and Learning
March 4, 2023
By Holly Hinson
From slide rules to computers that can process data at speeds up to 10 billion operations per second, Dr. Larry Tyler has been at Speed School of Engineering to see and engage with global changes that once couldn’t be imagined. An icon and a legend, Tyler has spent a record six decades of continuous tenure educating engineering students at University of Louisville. It’s almost impossible to calculate the impact Tyler has made on generations of students, on Speed School, and the university itself.
A beloved and respected figure in engineering, Tyler has been honored numerous times with a Speed School Outstanding Teacher Award by Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, received an Outstanding Achievement in Education Award in 2017 from Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, was named as Departmental Professor of the Year by Speed School Student Council, and has been a frequent winner of the annual Faculty Favorite Award.
Tyler said his longevity and continued passion for Speed School is directly related to the students and the ongoing opportunity to support them in their burgeoning engineering endeavors. “They are absolutely what keeps me going and happy in doing this work,” he said.
The Louisville native currently team-teaches Engineering Fundamentals to first-year students with Dr. Patricia Ralston, once his protégé and now his colleague and partner. Now Chair of the Engineering Fundamentals Department, Ralston said Tyler gave her confidence and inspired her to be an educator.
“In the fall of 1975, I entered Speed School from a small rural high school and was inadequately prepared for the rigors of an engineering school,” said Ralston. “But Tyler believed in my raw talent and taught me that I was only limited by how hard I was willing to work. That was transformational for me, she said. “He continues to inspire me to do my very best for our students and for UofL.”
With so many years as an engineering educator, Tyler has made an impact on innumerable other students who credit him not only as their first Speed School professor, but their first mentor.
Tyler Poteet, a 2017 Industrial Engineering graduate and now Vice President of Louisville-based ASI Visual Collaboration Systems, said Tyler was a legend in Speed School, but always accessible and willing to help any and every student.
“In my time as a student, he was so quintessential Speed School,” said Poteet. “He was larger than life, but when you got to know him he was a cool guy as well, which endeared him to me,” he said.
“You could tell he loved what he was doing – you’d see him on a green screen teaching on video using new technology and new ways to make learning different and more exciting,” he said. “After all his years, he was still thinking, ‘How do I grow as a teacher? He motivated me not only in the classroom but in Student Council, to believe I could make my own small impact at Speed School.”
One enduring legacy of Dr. Tyler’s tenure are the multiple generations of families who have been taught by the professor. Exactly 40 years apart, (1975 and 2015, respectively) Tyler taught both Masoud Taheri and his daughter Sarah in their first year at Speed School.
“Like thousands of students before me, I had the privilege of having Dr. Tyler as my first mentor at UofL,” said the elder Taheri. “Teachers shape our lives and give us the raw materials needed to build our future,” he said. “Dr. Tyler demonstrated an unbiased and equal treatment of all students regardless of race, religion or nationality, which made me feel welcome at UofL.”
Sarah Taheri, a 2019 Mechanical Engineering graduate, said after decades of teaching, she expected Tyler to be on ‘autopilot’ by the time she entered Speed School. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “He teaches each of his students with the same care and compassion year after year. Sixty years later, he still makes every student matter and feel special,” said Taheri. “I’m grateful both me and my Dad had him as our first professor and mentor at Speed School of Engineering.”
Marcia Brey, currently Vice President of Fulfillment and Distribution at GE Appliances, met her husband Greg in 1994 while both were students at Speed School and wanted to thank the professor in a self-submitted video for all he has done for the two of them and for the University. “We started dating in Calculus 3, and both of us graded papers for Dr. Tyler,” she said. It’s a true family affair for the Breys as now both of their sons are pursuing engineering careers at Speed, and still being taught by Dr. Tyler.
A modern-day Renaissance man, Tyler has a rich life outside academia, having previously worked in the early 1970s as an audio producer of a local television program, “Stereovision” with Public television KET Channel 15. He is a lifetime member of the American Federation of Musicians, and spent years playing saxophone at bar mitzvahs and performing at clubs and bars around town.
In addition, Tyler is an expert on wooden roller coasters, and in 2007 received an award Great Coasters International Award for Contribution to Wooden Roller Coasters. Former student Jeffrey Pike shared his love of coasters and now designs them on a national basis for Skyline Attractions.
He first became interested in engineering in high school because he was enamored with math and cars. “I’ve always been intrigued with the transformation of energy into moving things,” he said. Today, Tyler owns seven vehicles, including the first car he ever bought, a 1965 Chrysler 300 L Convertible, so rare only 12 were ever made. Other vehicles include a 2014 Camaro, a 2017 Mustang Convertible and a hybrid vehicle.
Several years ago, Tyler had a near-death health scare and received an emergency liver transplant. Today, he continues to manage that and other health issues but amazingly, has only missed one actual day of teaching in his entire career, a fact he is quite proud of.
As an educator, he has taught about thirty different engineering courses over the years, including topics as varied as Modern Production Management, Thermodynamics and Nuclear Engineering, and encouraged and mentored thousands of students. “I’ve had a lot of students that I’m very proud of and it makes me feel good to have been involved with those lives,” he said.
Tyler hopes to maintain good health and doesn’t plan to retire until Speed School celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2025.
He will celebrate his wedding anniversary of 60 years as he celebrates his teaching anniversary. Tyler’s daughter earned multiple degrees at University of Louisville including one in Russian studies, later returning for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Industrial Engineering, as well as an MBA.
With sixty years at the same institution, many people ask Tyler why he has stayed so long at University of Louisville. “I get along well with the administrators and I enjoy interacting with students and teaching math,” he said. “I think God put me on the earth to be a teacher, and I hope to do it for the rest of my days.”