Member of the Month

 Joe Wilkins 
Professor Emeritus 
University of Illinois at Springfield 

For our August member of the month the IAES welcomes Professor Joe Wilkins. Professor Wilkins taught various courses in Executive Leadership, Operations Research and International Business in the School of Business and Management at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is a former USAF Captain and a veteran of combat in Vietnam. With fifty-two years as a pilot, he has served as a volunteer Lifeline Pilot flying body organs to transplant patients.  Wilkins is an experienced scuba diver and has made hundreds of parachute jumps.  He has served as a lecturer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a Docent at the National Observatory of the United States.  Professor Wilkins has also been a Volunteer Backcountry Patroller for the National Park Service in the arctic wilderness of northern Alaska.

Why did you become a member of the International Atlantic Economic Society?

I joined the IAES in about 1985 to expand my opportunities for working with colleagues from all over the world who were involved in economic research from a variety of multi-disciplinary perspectives.  The person with whom I worked most closely was the late Professor Emeritus John Virgo. John was a good friend and talented colleague who brought out the best in everyone he encountered. One of my favorite memories of John is when we attended the IAES conference in Athens, Greece in 1994. With his encouragement, I set aside a day in our schedule to “skip a presentation” and run the entire route of the “original marathon” from the little community of Marathon to the stadium in downtown Athens. The next morning, John had more than a little good-natured fun at my expense when I limped a bit as I crossed the stage during our joint presentation!
The professional associations I formed through IAES were very beneficial to my career. Over the years I was invited to give presentations and lectures in the application of the technical tools of my teaching specialties – operations research and international business at numerous universities throughout the world including Oxford, the Sorbonne, Uppsala University and the University of Freiburg.  I taught for more than three decades and retired from the University of Illinois at Springfield as Professor Emeritus in 2003.

What types of projects/research are you currently working on and what inspired/motivated you to pursue these interests?

I absolutely enjoyed every minute I spent in the classroom but I consider myself to be a “poster child” of successful retirement. While I continue to maintain contact with professional colleagues throughout the world, much of my time in retirement has been devoted to a project of deep personal interest. Even though (or perhaps because) I spent my academic career and most of my life working in technical areas of our discipline, I agree with Thoreau when he said “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.” The second largest and farthest north National Park in America is little known, seldom visited and has never had a book written about it. Taking advantage of my experiences in mountain-climbing and backpacking throughout Asia, Europe and North America, together with my academic background, I have completed a book – Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration.  It will be “out” prior to the end of this calendar year. The experiences of researching and writing this book enabled me to apply the disciplines of academic study and research in, what has been for me, a unique and exciting way.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering entering your line of work/field of study?

I strongly encourage everyone who asks these questions to be true to themselves and their dreams. Don’t accept any arbitrary boundaries, silos or restrictions. Don’t be reticent. Be bold. Be creative. Be imaginative. Work hard. If you feel a strong need to follow a new course of research, follow it. If you see the need for a new type of research, do it.  If you find a narrowness in an older discipline of study, expand it. These are the ways the world has always been changed and improved. It is now the responsibility of our young people to continue these traditions and extend our boundaries.

You have a new book in the works. Which topic(s) does it cover? When will it be published?

I began exploring the area of Gates of the Arctic National Park during the early 1970’s – before the park’s creation in 1980. When I retired, I concentrated on visiting, researching, and writing about the flora, fauna, geography and geology of this area of the arctic wilderness. My book is illustrated with photography taken throughout this magnificently beautiful area – some of which was the subject of an art show in Tucson. This research effort also gave me the opportunity to recognize the vital contributions of many members of the National Park Service. All profits from the sale of my book will be devoted to the endowed scholarship for students which I established at the University of Illinois at Springfield. My book should be available prior to Christmas.

Going forward, what other projects/research are you looking to or hoping to pursue? 

Beginning this fall, I will start delivering – throughout this country and possibly in Europe – a variety of presentations, lectures and discussions centered around the subjects covered in my new book. I believe the inspiration for much of the future creativity of the world will be found in it’s wild places.  I try to practice what I preach when it comes to being imaginative and creative in applying new courses of study, research and discipline.


What’s your favorite hobby?

Having completed 31 marathons and 53 half-marathons, I have always enjoyed long-distance running. However, as I get older (and perhaps wiser), I have begun to do more walking. Last year I walked 675 miles on El Camino de Santiago through the Pyrenees mountains from Lourdes, France to the Santiago de Compostella Cathedral in Santiago, Spain.  I find the opportunity to walk and think – especially in remote areas – to be particularly rewarding.















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