Each of TAKING RISKS’. eleven chapters covers a major period in Walt’s life and career, plus a bonus appreciation of his boss and colleague for many years, the legendary CEO of GE, Jack Welch.

  • Chapter 1 – “Taking Risks During My Early Years” is a charming remembrance of Walt’s small town roots and the valuable life lessons he learned in school and the community, whether staging neighborhood variety shows, stocking shelves at the local grocery store, mowing lawns, or various other pursuits.
  • Chapter 2 – “Taking Risks Through College” recounts his remarkable years as an undergraduate at Penn State and his advanced studies at the University of Illinois. Despite his accelerated degree track, Walt still took risks to broaden his social and educational experiences in surprising ways, many that even had major impacts on his later career.
  • Chapter 3 – “Taking Risks as an Individual Contributor” captures Walt’s excitement at taking his first professional position as laboratory scientist with GE. His efforts to broaden his knowledge and effectiveness led to a promotion to the GE Research Lab where his work on permeable membranes earned Walt 12 patents and an appearance in "Life" magazine.
  • Chapter 4 – “Taking Risks as a First-time Manager” describes Walt’s appointment to his first management position–head of the GE Research Lab’s Chemical Engineering unit. In this job, he began to hone his skills in managing employees, developing their skills, and meeting sometimes subjective work challenges.
  • Chapter 5 – “Taking Risks as an R & D Manager” discusses Walt’s first assignment in an actual GE product business. His unique background helped him integrate the R & D function at Silicone Products into the business at an entirely new level, greatly improving his unit’s contributions and making substantial contributions to the bottom line.
  • Chapter 6 – “Taking Risks as a Start-Up Manager” tells how Walt’s growing reputation as an entrepreneur led to his being named to head up a new GE business dedicated to finding and exploiting opportunities the medical industry. His success in developing and commercializing a variety of ventures later led Jack Welch to appoint him a business general manager.
  • Chapter 7 – “Taking Risks as a New General Manager” is the story of Walt’s return to Silicone Products, but this time as the top boss. Though some weren’t convinced he was the right man for the job, the remarkable turnaround he engineered in the culture of the business soon led to unprecedented gains in sales, profits, and morale.
  • Chapter 8 – “Taking Risks Managing a Multi-Business Division” shows how, less than two years later, Walt’s fortunes received another huge boost when, following Jack Welch’s promotion to GE group executive, Walt was named as his successor at the helm of the Chemical and Materials Division. That also put him in line to became a GE vice president.
  • Chapter 9 – “Taking Risks at GE Medical Systems” is a remarkable story. Jack chose Walt for this key position just four months after the previous appointment. Walt proceeded to make the most of this opportunity, introducing GE “fast scan” CT and turning GE’s sleepy little x-ray business into a world leader in high-tech diagnostic imaging technology.
  • Chapter 10 – “Taking Risks as a Chief Technology Officer” relates the final chapter in Walt’s remarkable GE career—the seven years he devoted to strengthening the company’s fabled Research & Development Center, while serving as Jack Welch’s (now the GE chairman and CEO) technology consultant.
  • Chapter 11 – “Observing Jack Welch as a Leader and Risk-taker” is Walt’s very personal look at one of the 20th century's iconic businessmen. During the last 20 years of Walt’s career, he worked closely with Jack in a number of positions and situations. Along the way, he developed some informed opinions about what made Jack so special.
Scroll to Top