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'It all began at Monmouth'

Barry McNamara
04/07/2011
After hearing the Whiteman Lecture delivered by 1980 graduate Kevin Goodwin, perhaps Monmouth College marketing officials should borrow heavily from Motel 6 and use a “We’ll turn the light on for you” advertising campaign.

Goodwin, the president and CEO of SonoSite, Inc., a medical technology company in Washington, said a light came on for him during his sophomore year on campus, and he could even pinpoint the place.

“It’s been a long-held dream of mine to come back to Monmouth College to explain what happened to me here,” he told a large crowd in the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. “Years ago, I had a CEO mentor tell me that what separated me from others was my curiosity. Sitting in that office, I thought, ‘Now where did that start?’”

The title of one his slides – “It all began at Monmouth” – answered that question. Come to think of it, that might be an even better idea for the college’s slogan.

“I was in ‘Intermediate Price Theory’ with Professor (Rod) Lemon,” Goodwin said. “We were learning how to manage a company. Up to that point, I’d been a pretty mediocre student. It occurred to me in that class that I didn’t want to be mediocre.”

Goodwin’s metamorphosis was immediate, and the effects ongoing.

“I got an A in that class, which started a run of 18 As and one B for the rest of my classes at Monmouth,” he said. “And since that time, I’ve never stopped looking to learn.”

Not only has Goodwin enhanced his business administration degree by learning even more about mathematics and economics, he has even studied Brazilian Portuguese because of the vast possibilities he sees in the South American country.

“My curiosity has continued to open doors for me,” he said. “I’ve had epiphany after epiphany.”

One of those epiphanies came while he was still at Monmouth, during his senior year. A member of the Fighting Scots baseball team, Goodwin had the opportunity to attend a lecture at Knox College with Professor Lemon, or to take batting practice with coach Terry Glasgow.

“I told Dr. Glasgow that I was going to attend the lecture, and he was very supportive of my decision,” said Goodwin.

Many good decisions have followed, including a conscious effort by Goodwin’s company “to specialize, to take care of its customers and to keep it simple.” The specialization, Goodwin explained, is in “point of care” ultrasound.

“We ‘democratized’ ultrasound and brought it to everyone,” he said.

The ultrasound industry experienced a positive shift in the 1980s, with the technology increasing to a high level. But there were still problems. Ultrasound machines were large (300 pounds), expensive ($200,000) and slow, requiring two to 10 minutes to boot up. When used in conjunction with emergency medicine, every second counts, and SonoSite’s seven-pound portable ultrasound machines boot up in just 13 seconds, at only one-fourth the cost.

Count the doctors on “ER” among the impressed. Goodwin showed a clip from the popular TV show’s 2005-06 season of medical staff struggling to treat a patient. The doctor played by John Leguizamo “saves the day” with a diagnosis from a portable ultrasound machine, causing Parminder Nagra’s character to simply say, “That’s very cool.”

“Think about careers in the life sciences,” Goodwin told the students in attendance. “It’s an industry with growth promise that is unstoppable.”

He also told them that “this is a great time to be an undergraduate,” and offered the students several tips, including:
  • “Find out what you’re passionate about. That stems from curiosity.”
  • “The tendency to be ‘always connected’ can actually detach you from reality. Be careful how you let technology use you.”
  • “You have to understand data. … Data’s driving everything. You have to be able to take data, make meaning of it and be able to say, ‘Here’s what the facts say.’ You’ve got to be comfortable with statistics.”

Goodwin, who was cited in the introduction as proof that business and science go hand in hand, said that Monmouth College is definitely on the right track with its emphasis on bringing those large disciplines together.

“Integrated learning is where it is going,” he told the students. “Intersecting business and science in your education is a great idea.”

Jump-started by a class he took in 1978, Goodwin’s battery has not had to be recharged.

“I still get up in the morning very excited to go to work,” said Goodwin, whose April 7 lecture coincided with the first day of his company’s 15th year. “It started here. I was vulnerable; as a student, I could have gone either way. I can’t say enough about the Monmouth College experience.”