Jim ’79 & Carol Driscoll ’77 Kagdis: Flying Higher and Faster
CLAIM TO FAME: During a long career at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Jim Kagdis was recently part of the team that created the world’s fastest helicopter. As Sikorsky’s medical director, Carol Kagdis keeps the company’s 18,000 employees in good health.
BIG GUY IN THE SKY: Even if you’ve never heard of Sikorsky, you certainly would know the name of Black Hawk, the company’s famous workhorse military helicopter. And Marine One, the presidential helicopter — Sikorsky has held that contract since 1957. Jim started his career at Sikorsky 32 years ago. He has served in the areas of research and engineering, government business development, and innovations. A Wagner history major, he says, “I’m proof you can learn by osmosis.”
SUPERFAST: Jim managed the Sikorsky Innovations team that designed the X2 Technology Demonstrator helicopter. On September 15, 2010, the X2 set an unofficial world record speed of 263 knots, or almost 300 miles per hour — twice as fast as traditional single main rotor helicopters. “Seeing the X2 lift off the ground and take flight for the first time is seared in my memory,” he says. After that, it became a matter of “systematically, methodically and safely” expanding the aircraft’s capabilities. The X2 received the National Aeronautics Association’s 2010 Collier Trophy, marking the year’s greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. The X2 technology is now being applied to prototype light tactical helicopters for the US military, and Jim is now leading a team “that is competing to win the right to supply the United States Air Force with a new combat rescue helicopter.”
SMALL STEPS: Carol, a Wagner nursing graduate, joined Sikorsky three years ago as a nurse practitioner focused on health promotion; when the medical director position opened up, she was tapped. Skills she learned at Wagner — “listening intently without judgment, tactfully asking probing question, and relationship building” — have been key throughout her career. To help patients quit smoking, for example, she encourages them to set their own goals, with “modest steps like simply stretching out intervals between cigarettes.” She may have a big title, but she knows that in health care, as in aircraft development, “Small changes on an individual level often result in big impacts to many.”
READ MORE: About the marriage of Jim and Carol Driscoll Kagdis, who were featured along with Carol’s sisters in a New York Times article, “Each Wed in 1980, Three Sisters and Their Spouses Look Back.”