New Wichita State VP excited to help advance the Shocker mission
Tony Vizzini’s interest in engineering – a path that eventually led to his new position as vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State – started as a small child.
Fascinated by the space program, Vizzini vividly recalls nearly the entire Apollo space program.
“I remember the Christmas Eve reading from Genesis by the astronauts on Apollo 8,” he said. “I remember the first steps on the moon. I remember the tension of Apollo 13. My brother and I locked ourselves out of the house prior to the launch of Apollo 15, and I squeezed through the milk chute to get back into the house. I was enamored with the whole concept and decided then that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer.”
The Detroit native made good on that promise, putting himself through college by doing odd jobs during the summer.
He worked in a manufacturing plant making handles for refrigerators and ovens. He worked for Chrysler on the Dodge truck line, and then for Massey-Ferguson, a manufacturer of farm equipment. Vizzini even spent time as a programmer for a company specializing in office computers – in the late 1970s.
Vizzini eventually earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in aeronautics/astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When he graduated, he became an assistant professor at the University of Maryland.
“I enjoyed the academic world, especially when I learned things or was part of the learning process for others,” he said. “My career choice was natural.”
‘We are Shockers’
Vizzini and his wife, Patty, have three adult children. The oldest, Anthony, was born the year Vizzini became a professor. That was easy enough, he said, but two more kids in four years created a bit more work.
“Our eldest was … a good baby, and my wife and I had the power play,” Vizzini said. “Our daughter came along in a little less than two years. So then we were man-on-man. Our youngest was born about 2.5 years later. So then we were in a zone defense. Life with children is exciting and chaotic and wonderful. You find a way of balancing.”
Vizzini said he was involved with his children, but traveled a lot. He built in extra time with the kids by bringing them into his lab. He also built an extended family with students, staff and alumni.
That sense of closeness is important to Vizzini, who said it’s been hard for him after moving away this summer from Kalamazoo, MI, where he was dean and professor of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Western Michigan University.
He lived close to his brother, who is only 27 months older than him.
“We grew up very close,” Vizzini said. “Living out of state has been difficult. The previous four years with my living in Kalamazoo gave us a lot of opportunities to get together. That was greatly appreciated.”
Despite the recent changes, Vizzini said he’s excited this new opportunity at Wichita State. His top priorities include filling four dean positions, as well as helping guide the university as it adjusts to physical changes to the campus.
Vizzini looks at it as a positive chance to move the university forward.
“In many ways this is a great opportunity to build a team with seasoned veterans and new individuals to advance the strategic plan of WSU,” he said. “It is going to be an exciting time with students, staff and faculty members accomplishing great things and advancing the vision. So change is good even if it momentarily takes us out of our comfort zone. In the end we will all be even prouder to tell folks worldwide that we are Shockers.”