Navy veteran turned professor loving life in the classroom 16 years later

April 13, 2017
Michael Plumb

Michael Plumb grew weary of being stalled outside the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel en route to Newport News Shipbuilding from Virginia Beach.

The time-wasting commutes forced Plumb to rethink his career path. Now he’s got an easy 20-minute drive and a rewarding position as a program head at Tidewater Community College.

Plumb is head of the mechanical engineering technology (MET) program, which will be introduced as an associate degree this summer.

“I love teaching and the students,” said Plumb from his office at the Advanced Technology Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. “The students here are willing to listen and really want to get their money’s worth of their educational dollar.”

Plumb brings a wealth of expertise to the college dating back to his two decades in the Navy. He advanced from a seaman recruit to an executive officer, serving two tours in Vietnam. After getting commissioned, he was accepted into the Navy’s Deep Sea Diving & Salvage School.

“I towed decommissioned destroyers up and down the East Coast from shipyard to shipyard,” he said.

Retiring from the Navy in 1988, Plumb went to work for the next 12 years as an operations coordinator for a steamship company, moving cargo and containers up and down the East Coast. Later, he spent two years as a senior weights engineering analyst at Newport News Shipbuilding before being worn down by the tunnel traffic. He started at TCC initially as an adjunct professor, teaching onsite at the now-defunct Ford Plant.

By 2001, he was hired full time in TCC’s industrial engineering technology program. Plumb’s firsthand experience working with the Navy served him well in dealing with TCC’s military- and shipyard-related student population.

“I can flex the courses in the classroom as well as online to fit anyone’s needs and schedule,” said Plumb, currently working with a student needing to finish his coursework while being transferred out of state.

Plumb looks forward to TCC’s new Associate in Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology that will begin in summer 2017. Mechanical engineering technologists are the bridge between an engineer’s specifications for any mechanical project or product and the technicians performing the work.

“I get calls often from employers looking to hire my graduates with very similar skills sets we will teach in the MET program,” Plumb said.

Plumb, who resides in Virginia Beach, is a husband to his bride of 43 years and a father to two adult daughters. He dotes on his two rescue dogs, Lola and Sophie.