Consultants Group Retired: June 12, 1998
Replaced by ThinkTank

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Findings of the 1997 Survey of West Point Graduates


Just prior to Thanksgiving, 1997, West-Point.Org formed a group of graduates into a listserver called "Consultant". This team was lead by Bob Magruder '64, an advisor to and a member of the Communications Committee on the Board of Trustees to the AOG. His survey instrument used by the AOG to survey graduates at the July 1997 President's Conference at West Point, was the start point for this new 1997 USMA Graduate Survey.

Initially about 5 or so grads came on board and Bill Welter '55, also an advisor volunteered to moderate and coordinate the listserver support. Within a few days the "consultant" team grew to include:
Joe Gilbreth '49   Gerhard Schulz '49
Dick Breakiron '51   Lew Casbon '51
Sam Dickens '51   Lou Michael '51
Bob Johnson '55   George Lawton '58
Palmer McGrew '58     Butch Saint '58
As we started making changes to the original survey instrument the team came to know and appreciate the software capabilities and wizzardry of the Webmaster, ditus Bolanos, who for 18 nights in a row, developed a new survey draft, while the others slept. Each morning until about 9pm each evening, the consultants would all take pot shots at the draft with recommended changes and additions/deletions to improve the instrument. Between 9pm and midnight Bob Magruder wrote out the changes to be made and posted them to ditus. Since every morning there appeared a fresh draft, some members of consultant, not exactly computer wizzards in their own rights, thought ditus was the name of a special software package we owned and used to make these niffty new drafts of the survey instrument.

While the drafts were being done on a nightly basis in a strenous schedule and pace, another advisor was brought on board to prepare for the analysis phase. Warren Hearnes '89, a doctoral candidate at Georgia Tech, initiated interface software to begin analysis with a sample to be taken on January 8th, 1998.

After 18 drafts the team could see no more needed improvements and we then moved onto multiple axis of advance. The consultant team Beta tested the survey instrument for 3 days while Bob coordinated with the AOG leadership for comments and suggestions. At the end of this process, Bob Magruder met with Jack Hammack at West Point where both were attending funerals on adjacent days. In two sessions both were in agreement and the survey and forwarding statement from Jack Hammack were finalized and approved for distribution. On December 19th, at midnight, the first message to the graduates was initiated by with Jack Hammack's request for all USMA graduates to support AOG and USMA by taking the survey. On December 22-23 the remainder of email addresses that were at AOG and not at began to receive notification about the survey.

The first survey was received by 0600 on December 20th and the survey Plank Holder was none other than Bill Welter who knew it was coming.

Ditus had prepared some special interface programs so that we could monitor data as the surveys flowed into the database at This was a two edged sword. This data flow got all of us working on data and getting organized for the analysis well before the agreed upon cutoff date for the surveys. We had a few technology with the survey and I can tell you that graduates are not reticent to complain when something they want to do does not work. We had well over 5,000 take the survey and probably heard from a couple of hundred that there were serious problems. But as important, the email only, noninternet capable grads were unable to take the survey and many of them came up on the net requesting fax copies or mailed copies from

This presented a special challenge to ditus and he responded with a new email survey capability within 3 days and he worked a full schedule during the time frame and we had a lot of added traffic with about 13,000 grads being alerted to the survey.

At the beginning we anticipated about 2000 grads would respond if we were lucky. We planned two reminders, one when the new email capability was ready and the other when we figured those on XMAS leave had returned home. Each reminder went to all graduates and that caused a number of other email from those that submitted surveys already and wanted to know why the reminder.

We were overwhelmed when the surveys kept coming and coming and there was little letup before January 8th, the arbitrary date we selected in advance to allow sufficient time for analysis and report preparation to be ready for the February 19-22 Board of Trustees Meeting at West Point.

As the analysis was well underway, a few of the consultants had to depart for prearranged vacations and some subs were called up from the class of '64. Jack Price came in to help the '58 analysis team and Sam Burney came in for a little over a week to help the '49 analysis team. We broke the questions up and did the analysis in team of classmates with a '49, '51, '55, '58, '64 teams. Warren Hearnes provided some technical support to the consultants and ditus worked with Bob to help all of the graduates who were having problems getting the survey to comeup properly. We know we still have a lot of work to do to correct some problems with dealing with Aol using the internet.

Considering that graduates are using every type of computer and browser ever made and every type of internet connection that can probably exist, we did a fairly credible job in getting 5158 surveys completed and that is after all duplicates were removed from the database. Another advisor, Dolf Beil, parent of '98, was drafted to support the slide making capability for a briefing the consultants were preparing. Dolf provided some development work to get the data and slide details all married up in time for Bob Magruder to do final changes and publication the night before the briefing. This has been a "just in time" operation all the way. Good planning in some cases, and a lot of hard work in others to make deadlines.

Six of the consultants met for the first time (ever) at the Brown & Root Conference Room in Washinton, D.C. to brief Harry Griffith, the Vice Chairman of the AOG and Bill Taylor, the Chairman of the Communications Committee for the Board of Trustees.

Meeting the other consultants was a great moment that is only eclipsed by the first meeting of the advisors almost 2 years after being in service. It was at the 3 year mark before all advisors to ditus had met, and that event took place at the Magruders on December 19-21, and started with the release of the survey. Initially was formed with four advisors and that number grew to six after a year plus of operation. Advisors are the board that handle all of the normal board duties with ditus the technician, and the advisors all somewhat technical but each with diverse backgrounds and competencies.

The briefing on January 31st was on the preliminary results of the survey data. It was a great success and this same briefing was given to the AOG Executive Committee two days later. It was decided at that meeting to get this survey briefing to the Board of Trustees on February 19th and that is our next step. We kept the survey capability open until February 3rd and are now cleaning up the new data and developing some summary findings of the survey. At the same time we are building a homepage for graduates to be able to come to and get all of the survey results. We expect to open that to the graduates in the first week of March at the latest. We will Beta Test that capability and hope that more of the AOL users have success with this version. We also promised graduates with an email only capability that we would get the results to them also.

Bob Magruder '64