My 1st Friday Favorite Guru Series: Frank T. Wydra

We begin the First Friday of the month, January 2015, with another of my Favorite Gurus, another from the world of NSPI/ISPI and HPT: Human Performance Technology … the late…

Frank T. Wydra 

May 11, 1939 – August 2, 2008


Frank Wydra at ISPI 2006 in Dallas

I Joined an NSPI Chapter in September 1979 – and Met Frank

I attended my first Chapter meeting the month after starting my new job, post-college in Saginaw Michigan – at MSIT – the Michigan Society for Instructional Technology – back when IT stood for Instructional Technology and today’s IT was MIS – Management Information Systems. It was a 100 mile drive each way to attend the rubber-chicken dinners and hear fabulous speakers from NSPI.

At that first meeting for me – which was also the first meeting after a “summer break” there was a big buzz about that last meeting before the break. Every group I met was talking about the same thing.

Seems some guy named Frank Wydra didn’t like what that last speaker was saying, took a pair of rounded off, kid’s sissors, cut the cord of the Overhead Projector (shocking himself) stood up said this is BS, let’s reconvene in the bar.

I thought: “How Cool Is That!”

No BS.

I was lucky to know Frank. We would meet one evening at the ISPI Conference at the bar – when he returned to ISPI in the early 2000s – to discuss how important sitting at the bar in the evenings use to be as it was when the gurus would get together and publicly debate the issues of the day – and the superiority of THEIR models and methods…. He was a most interesting personality.

NSPI 1979

So I first met Frank in 1979 when I and two others from Wickes Lumber drove from Saginaw to Detroit for my first monthly NSPI Chapter meeting – a chapter Frank was instrumental in building. The strength of what is now the Michigan Chapter still rests on his foundation IMO – and the support of many who worked for and with him, including Kathleen Whiteside, Harry Liebowitz and Eric Keeps is what it takes to build something that has lasted decades since they last served.

They built a legacy – by mentoring others (including me). All at Frank’s behest. Although I am sure that Frank was not know for “behesting” much. He was more direct than that.

I’ve been a “card carrying member” of NSPI – now ISPI – ever since – due to the earlier efforts of Frank and his team at Allied, to build a strong chapter which he then used to conduct employee development for his instructional design staff at Allied Foods back in the mid-1970s.

MSIT – the Michigan Society for Instructional Technology was that chapter – back when IT stood for Instructional Technology for a few years – before the new IT (Information Technology) hijacked the moniker and we settled on ID or ISD – Instructional Design or Instructional Systems Design as our banner label.

Frank was often at the national (International) NSPI then, ISPI now…conferences. That’s when many of us catch up with others whom we see but once a year…at the conference!

In the early 2000s Frank and I re-established a routine of one night out per conference for dinner, drinks and dialogue after he had been absent from the conference for a couple of years. Frank knew his mind. He was refreshing – offering alternative perspectives mostly.

That’s what I miss the most.

Frank’s opinion on all things HPT – and ISPI – and his healthy focus on measured results from “the science” of performance improvement.

Books By Frank T. Wydra

Frank Wydra lived in Detroit until his death last year. He is the author of a previous thriller The Cure (Dell) which had two printings and translations into German and Korean. Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazinehave published several of his stories.

But before fiction – Frank wrote about Instruction …

Learner Controlled Instruction – 1980

wyrda book LCI

The Cure – 1992

The Cure

From the Slopen Agency

Praise for The Cure:

“[A] most original and necessary novel…it has the tension of a great adventure story, the suspense of the detective fiction.”
Richard Condon

“Fast paced and entertaining with an interesting premise.”
Ira Levin

“The dramatic ending is a first rate climax to a lively and believable story.”

“The action is non-stop and the plot curvy. [Readers] will find themselves engrossed.”
Publisher’s Weekly

Virus – 1994 

Wydra Virus

Vírus – by Frank Wydra

Hardcover, 280 pages
Published 1994 by Aktuell
ISBN 808873309

Link for purchase – here.

Frank’s Fiction Writing

A collection of blog posts by novelist Frank T. Wydra, set at the fictional Gonquin Table.

These posts were first published at

Writers Talk PB

I read most of them monthly as Frank was publishing them.

Paperback, 125 Pages

Price: $8.25

Buy this book – here.

Some praise for his writing may be found – here.

My Lessons From Frank

… were at first about “Learner Controlled Instruction” – from discussions, debates – and from this article from 1978: LCI – Wydra

I incorporated many of his thoughts in my ISD efforts – especially as I was doing CADs – Curriculum Architecture Designs – that produced T&D Paths/ Learning Paths – that enabled the modularizing of all content – into the best sized chunk for what needed to be learned – and put the selection and sequencing of modules up to the learner if at all possible.

If not for all, then at least for some.

Other inputs for my learnings from Frank … include Dean Spitzer’s interview with Frank for the March 1979 issue of PIJ:

An Interview with Frank Wydra – by Dean Spitzer

Frank wrote this piece at my invitation during my 2003-2004 ISPI Presidential Initiative to “Clarify HPT” – on Resurrection:

Resurrection – Wydra

My Memories of Frank

I wrote a Blog Post back in 2008 about Frank, who at the time was seriously ill – here.

And then another Post a short time later after his death – here.

Share Your Stories

If the work of Frank Wydra was a valuable influence and/or resource for you – please share your stories about that in the comments section below.

Or simply share a URL there that is relevant.

And – thank you – for sharing!

The My First Friday Favorite Guru Series

We each have many influencers, mentors, both active and passive, knowingly and unknowingly in their respective roles in our development.

This series is my attempt to acknowledge all of them… one by one… in no particular order… as I attempt to consciously reflect on what I have have learned and whom I have learned it from, regarding all things “Performance Improvement” – my first focus.

I have a long list.

Lucky me.

Next month – Donald Clark – of “Big Dog Little Dog” fame/notoriety.

Links to All of the Past Posts in the MFFF Guru Series

Here is a page with links to all of the Past Posts from this series, listed below – here.

  • Frank T. Wydra – January 2015
  • Philip B. Crosby – December 2014
  • Donald L. Dewar – November 2014
  • Joseph M. Juran – October 2014
  • W. Edwards Deming – September 2014
  • Bonnie B. Small – August 2014
  • Walter A. Shewhart – July 2014
  • Carl Binder – June 2014
  • Ruth Clark – May 2014
  • Rob Foshay – April 2014
  • John Carlisle – March 2014
  • Miki Lane – February 2014
  • Harold Stolovitch – January 2014
  • Bill Wiggenhorn – December 2013
  • Will Thalheimer – November 2013
  • Roger Kaufman – October 2013
  • Roger Addison – September 2013
  • Ray Svenson – August 2013
  • Dick (Richard E.) Clark – July 2013
  • Allison Rossett – June 2013
  • Carol Panza – May 2013
  • Jane Bozarth – April 2013
  • Judy Hale – March 2013
  • Margo Murray – February 2013
  • Neil Rackham – January 2013
  • Robert (Bob) F. Mager – December 2012
  • Joe H. Harless – November 2012
  • Thomas F. Gilbert – October 2012
  • Sivasailam Thiagarajan (Thiagi) – September 2012
  • Geary A. Rummler – August 2012
  • Dale Brethower – July 2012

Here is a page with links to all of the above Past Posts in My First Friday Favorite Guru Series – here.

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3 comments on “My 1st Friday Favorite Guru Series: Frank T. Wydra

  1. Pingback: T&D: Reflections on 40 Years in the Biz | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  2. Pingback: L&D/PI: Thankful for My Many Mentors | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  3. Pingback: Review: The My First Friday Favorite Guru Series | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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