The National Plastics Center and Museum took an unusual step recently when its board named a long-time industry executive — not an educator or someone with museum experience — as its new president.
The move shows the board has big plans for the center, which is in a former schoolhouse in Leominster, Mass.
David P. Hahn officially took charge Jan. 20. He's a former Milacron Inc. manager; his work included a stint as president of Autojectors Inc. Hahn also is well-known for his work as chairman of the NPE 1997 trade show and for his experience on the board of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
He replaces Valerie Wilcox, who has been a shining star on behalf of the plastics industry for more than 10 years. Wilcox had perfect credentials when she was named NPCM's executive director in 1991 — a background in organic and polymer chemistry, plus plenty of museum experience, including a healthy helping of practice working with school-age children.
Along with a board comprising industry all-stars, Wilcox oversaw the museum's transformation from an aging schoolhouse, purchased from the city for just $1, into a modern, renovated facility. She also has been a fixture at schools and industry trade shows, because a big part of the museum's work involves outreach efforts featuring three Plasti-Vans, which visit schools across the United States and Canada. The plastics industry owes Wilcox a debt of gratitude for her work.
Still, Hahn faces a challenging task as he starts his new job. Most important, he will need to get a new generation of industry leaders actively involved in NPCM. He'll also need to redouble the center's efforts to reach far beyond its roots in the Pioneer Plastics City — including fundraising and finding new ways to inform young people about the history, and benefits, of plastics.