Plastics Pioneers honors Albert Spaak

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ORLANDO, FLA.(April 2, 9:30 a.m. ET) — The Plastics Pioneers Association honored veteran industry activist Albert Spaak and welcomed 13 new PPA members, at its dinner meeting March 31 at the Villas Grand Cypress resort in Orlando.

The group also named a new winner of its Much Traveled Shirt award.

The PPA named Spaak to win its first-ever Distinguished Service Member Award. Spaak, 91, lives in Florida but was unable to attend the dinner for health reasons.

Spaak was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2003. He was very active in PPA, serving as secretary, vice president and president of the pioneers group.

Spaak was one of the four PPA members who donated their own money to start PPA’s education fund, which has given out almost 3,000 scholarships.

Spaak worked at several plastics-related companies, including DeMattia Machine & Tool Co. where he developed some early injection molding machines, toy musical instrument maker Mastro Industries Inc., and resin makers W.R. Grace Co. and Allied Chemical Corp.

At W.R. Grace, Spaak worked with Wolfgang Mack to sell high density polyethylene in Europe. At the dinner in Orlando, Mack told some funny stories. Spaak told the European business executives about a huge application, and he convinced them to sign exclusive contracts to buy polyethylene from Grace—without telling them the actual product. The Europeans were not amused when they finally learned the application—a Hula Hoop—but their frowns turned to smiles when it became a huge international hit.

Also in Orlando, the Plastics Pioneers presented its Much Traveled Shirt to John Michael, former president of Fabri-Kal Corp., a thermoforming company in Kalamazoo, Mich. Michael leads a group that is developing a new strategic plan for PPA.

Past winner Harry Greenwald stripped off the shirt and gave it to Michael, while the crowd applauded.

The annual Much Traveled Shirt tradition began in 1954 when, charter PPA member Gordon Brown came to breakfast at a meeting warning a garish Hawaiian shirt. Fellow pioneers cracked jokes, and Brown took off the shirt and handed it to his loudest critic, A.R. Van Horne, who was to pass it along to another member at the next meeting.

PPA President Dan McGuire said 125 people attended the dinner.

PPA honored 11 or the 13 new members who attended the event: David Bernardi, John Blundy, Richard Bopp, Sal and Erika Monte, Dave Murdock, Gary Oliver, Bob Slawska, Scott Steele, Frederick Steil, John Vandenbergh

Two other new members did not attend: Dan Cykana and Mark Wolverton.