Professor utilizes wealth of business knowledge in the classroom

Reporter and Reporter

Hamilton Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship Gene Poor initially had no plans of going to college, but his decision quickly changed.

Poor became a successful business man, taught at the College of Technology, was invited by College of Business to teach entrepreneurship and wrote numerous books.

Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, Poor didn’t pay much attention in school, as he planned to work for his father full-time after high school.

He had no intentions of going to college, but despite his father’s encouragement to quit high school and work for him full time, his mother didn’t allow it.

However, after “barely” graduating high school, Poor headed to work with his dad at a Pepsi Cola company.

“I headed to work Monday and was fired on a Tuesday … He thought I was trying to start a union, which is absurd,” Poor said.

Yet, Poor’s career path soon changed as he attended Kent State University to study industrial education, but not until the spring quarter of the following year, due to his poor grades.

“I was a lost soul. Two high school teachers saw more in me than I saw in myself. They encouraged me to go to college, and I said, ‘If you sign me up, I’ll go,'” Poor said.

As a student at Kent State University, Poor met a professor who changed his life. He admired his job as a professor and was promised a job at Kent University following graduation.

Poor graduated in 1966 with a master’s degree in industrial education. He then got at a job at Kent State University as professor for two years.

Randy Starkey, the first student Poor taught at Kent State University, currently works for Poor at his company, Life Formations.

Starkey views Poor as a mentor and a friend and has learned many things from Poor, including one that has served him best – problem solving both by example and instruction.

“Poor’s the finest character imaginable. … He’s the kind of person who has a lot of friends and you know you can always call him,” Starkey said.

After a protest shooting about the Vietnam War in 1970, Poor decided to leave Kent State University and set his sights on Bowling Green.

Poor choose to teach at the University after hearing a professor who taught at the University speak at a conference. Poor admired the speaker’s “speaking style.”

After settling in at the University, Poor earned his doctorate degree in higher education and planned to teach.

Poor first taught at the College of Technology in the Visual Communication Technologies program.

Stephen Jenkins, an adjunct instructor at the College of Technology, said what makes Poor special is being successful and believing in the things he’s talking about.

“He helps students understand what their dream is and take practical steps to pursue that dream,” Jenkins said.

About eight years ago, Poor was invited to join the College of Business, as it was looking for an entrepreneur. Since he started a lot of businesses – including Life Formations, Easy Street Cafe on South Main Street and some consulting firms – Poor was a great fit.

“One of the things I tell my students is that they shouldn’t get to know professors, because they changed my life. … I was initially going to be a truck driver and didn’t know what college was about,” Poor said.

At a recent high school reunion, Poor asked one of his former classmates about who surprised him the most, and the classmate replied that it was Poor, because he changed the rules.

“I was the wildest card of the bunch. … My life went from least likely to graduate from high school to probably the only person with a Ph.D.,” Poor said.

While currently teaching entrepreneurship at the University, Poor explains to his students that they’re the average of five friends they “run around” with. When Poor stopped “running around” with his friends and instead “ran around with” professors, it made sense for him to be around people who helped him get to where he wanted to go.

“One of the things I say in class is that 80 percent of you want to be rich and 50 percent want to be famous, but you don’t run around with famous or rich people,” Poor said.

Poor also tells his students there are two important days in their lives: the day they were born, and the day they figure out what they were meant to do.

Poor encourages his students to do what fulfills them and believes that the first job they get can cast their fate, because following graduation people take the first job they get and can quickly get caught up with marriage and children, he said.

“There’s dignity in all work. I would have been happy as a truck driver, but I wouldn’t have known what was possible,” Poor said.

While teaching, Poor also tries to entertain his students and believes that professors have to give it all they’ve got because they’re in competition with other things their students are interested in.

“It’s show business with an agenda,” Poor said.

Poor insists that there are a lot of great teachers at the University and believes students should go to lunch with a professor every semester because if they’re not, they’re missing the biggest “heart” of college education.